Race for a Cause… but for What or for Whom?

29 08 2007

This Saturday (and Sunday) I am participating in the 24 Hours of Triathlon in the Solo division.  I am motivated by testing my own limits, enjoying competition with other racers, inspiring others, and on this particular occasion by raising a few thousand dollars to help feed the hungry in Denver through the efforts of  the non-profit SAME Cafe.

In a previous post, I discussed at length my inner struggle to find the motivation to reach the finish line of Ironman Coeur d’ Alene despite several misfortunes on the bike.  In the end I failed to do so as my emotional tank ran dry long before my physical supply, and I’ve since concluded that sometimes racing has to be about something more, something bigger than just one guy out on the road.

Some, including friend and Boulder pro triathlete Brad Seng, have felt strong enough to make “racing for a cause” part of the essence of their involvement in the sport.  As he prepares to be at his best in the Hawaii Ironman this October, Brad is also raising funds and awareness for Mother & Unborn Baby Care (MAUBC), and has coached youth-at-risk this summer leading to their first triathlon.

While Brad’s unselfish efforts are obviously “cause” related, others are doing so in more subtle ways.  Many FastForward athletes train diligently for months for a very worthy cause… themselves!  Whether it is to lose weight, find a path toward better physical and mental health, or even to serve as a better example for their children, friends, and co-workers, these athletes are finding the motivation to dig deep, overcome challenges, and strive to reach their potential… what a wonderful cause.

Most of us have participated at some point in a cause-related race or event.  Perhaps it was the Race/Tri for the Cure or Danskin Triathlon, which help fight breast cancer, the Boulder Peak and the fight against ALS, the Earth Day 5K, the Canine Classic that helps raise funds for MESA, or even a small 5K which helps provide uniforms and shoes for your local High School track team.  This is what comes to mind for most when we think of ‘racing for a cause’, but I am concerned that we have placed too much emphasis on this ‘turn key’ approach, and have in turn slighted the equally important individual efforts such as those mentioned above.

I personally feel that Danskin and Race for the Cure do a fairly lousy job producing the basic elements of a quality race and have taken advantage of the good will of their supporters.    Over the past several years, as both a participant and spectator at many large ’cause’ races, I’ve observed unacceptable parking issues, poor course layout and signage, insufficient aid stations, inaccurate and untimely results, and major safety concerns.  The excuse from the organizers AND more alarmingly from the loyal participants is that “the race is for a good cause, so we don’t worry so much about those things… that money is going to XYZ charity…”.  WRONG.  These nationally based organizations hire local race race organizers and pay them quite handsomely to put on a quality event, and by failing to address the above issues they are disrespecting the cause, the sport, and the unsuspecting participant.  We should expect the same or better from a  ’cause’ race when compared with events such as the Bolder Boulder and most major marathons, who are often blasted for not doing enough for charity, yet easily provide a rewarding race day experience that easily outweighs the price of entry.  I am in no way advocating avoiding these events, but rather suggest that we hold them to a higher standard, especially given the net proceeds that go to directly to the charity will still be the same regardless.

So, as you continue to enjoy this sometimes ‘selfish’ lifestyle of training and racing, consider also finding a cause(s) that will compliment your efforts… whether it be a large/ national or local event with a cause you feel strongly about, an individual fund-raising effort, or even just to motivate and inspire others through your achievements.  You have my support!

As I’ve created this Blog in order to stimulate thought and conversation on a range of health and fitness related issues, please feel free to post your ‘comment’ that may agree/ disagree, provide personal insight on the subject, or perhaps share ideas for ’cause’ racing that we may all choose to benefit from as we continue down this road for many years to come.

Enjoy your Fitness,


PS- Check back this weekend for ‘real-time’ updates from the 24 Hours of Triathlon provided by my ‘team’ manager JJ Johnson, and then for a complete follow up including the total $ raised for SAME Cafe and the date we plan to visit for a meal and present our contributions.




3 responses

29 08 2007

Well put! Wouldn’t better supported races = more participation/by-in = money?

I am often wrangled into being ‘team captain’ for fund raising events sponsored by the grocery store where I work…I don’t mind this, I love being a leader…however usually my team is in it for the day off/and or just the social aspect of it never putting in efforts to ‘raise’ fund for the cause.

That is why I choose last year to do individual fund raising. Picking a charity that I believe strongly in and raising money for that held me a little more accountable. The drive was stronger, I felt less ‘selfish’.

Thanks for the blog, Fliegs! I look forward to being apart of your efforts this weekend in what ever way I can! ROCK ‘EM!

29 08 2007

i’ve heard similar things about Danskin. but, it never seems to be along the lines of ‘we did this on the cheap’ as opposed to ‘we just fell to our knees on the logistics’… maybe, race events need a ‘logistics’ oversight committee of actual participants just as much as an aid station set of volunteers? a good role for F4 volunteers…

good luck at 24HOT — you’re my pony Fliegs!

31 08 2007

I had an argument w/ a co-race director about this very subject several years ago. Out of the blue he inserted a “proceeds will go to” statement into the race materials. I felt like he’d done it merely to pick up good will. He was unwilling to make any kind of statement to the race committee (5 including himself), of how he intended to determine the amount of “proceeds.”

I can be pretty cynical on a normal day, but when it comes to big “cause” events, the needle on my skepticism meter pegs. If I want to donate to a cause, I’ll avoid the middleman and write a check.

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