Post written by Susan Lacke.
There’s an amazing camaraderie among runners that’s unlike what you’ll find almost anywhere else.
Tell someone you’re a runner, and often you’ll get back an excited, “me, too!” If I see someone wearing compression socks at the grocery store, I’ll talk his ear off about the 10-miler I just finished while I escort him to the coconut water.
Does it make me crazy? If I were an outsider, I’d say yes. But I know it just makes me one thing: a proud runner.
Sometimes, though, we get so hung up on our individual goals (PRs, BQs, LTs, and MHRs) that we forget we were once newbies to the sport, asking other runners for help.
Those runners paid it forward. They knew what it really means to be a runner, and it has nothing to do with PRs. It’s about being a role model in health and fitness and a member of this great, supportive community of runners.
So step outside of yourself for a moment and pay it forward — your fellow runners appreciate it, and you’ll build up good running karma. Here are seven great ways to do it:
1. Run for a reason
Running can be a great way to bring awareness to a cause. There are organizations to help runners raise funds for important causes, such as cancer research, suicide prevention, or physical education in schools. Get people to sponsor every mile of your marathon by donating to an organization you are passionate about. As my mom says when she donates to my charity runs: “I ain’t running a marathon, but I will run up my credit card.”
As a very relevant, timely example, Farm Sanctuary president and co-founder, Gene Baur, will be running his first marathon this weekend in DC. He is (of course) raising money for Farm Sanctuary; you can read his post about it here. Even more fun: this also happens to be the same race our No Meat Athlete group is running, and Gene will be joining us for our pre-race dinner at Cafe Green!
2. Coach the next generation
Many schools have cross-country or track and field programs that need supportive adults to mentor running youth. Or, if you’re looking to recruit and motivate brand-new runners, see if your community has a Girls on The Run chapter. This organization works with girls aged 8-13, to build self-esteem by combining 5K training with lessons on positive social, emotional, and physical development.
3. Stoke the fire
Many runners have told me they wish they had started running sooner, but were intimidated and scared to ask for help in getting started. Next time someone tells you they’d like to run “someday,” ask them how you can help make that “someday” come sooner. Offer to take them to your favorite running shoe store, give them a copy of a resource you found helpful, or invite them to join you at your next 5K.
4. Find a four-legged running partner
Animal shelters are always in need of volunteers to help care for rescued dogs, cats, and other critters. Call your local animal shelter today to offer to take some of their dogs on a quick jog once a week. This allows the dogs to become more socialized as well as burn pent-up energy. You’ll be thanked in endless tail wags and wet kisses — what better way to end a run?
5. Host an athlete
Most professional runners and triathletes are not flush with cash. Save for the rare few who have lucrative endorsement deals, many professional runners, cyclists, and triathletes participate in the great tradition of couch-surfing during training and races. Contact the race director and volunteer your spare bedroom for a home stay — it’s a fun way to support a runner, and often results in lasting friendships.
6. Help plan a race
A lot of us take for granted the amount of work which goes into making a race happen. When we show up on race day, we’re experiencing the fruits of someone else’s labor — the committed folks who secure permits, call sponsors, recruit volunteers, and design finisher’s medals — all without expecting a “thank you.” Contact the race director for a local race and ask how you can help make next year’s event the best yet. You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the people who put on races year after year.
7. Volunteer on race day
You think those traffic cones set up themselves?
If you’re not racing, whether by choice or because you’re sidelined with an injury, you can get a front-row seat to the action when you volunteer. Almost every race director will tell you that good volunteers are critical to the success of race day. And yes, if you hand a cup of water to the winner, you can take credit for their success. Kinda.
Love the run
Passion is contagious. If you have an enthusiasm for running, there will be people who can’t wait to follow in your footsteps.
As this great community of runners grows larger, don’t forget to pay it forward.