Mile 21 of any marathon can be an emotional place. Believe me. You’re tired, you’re hungry, your legs are hurting, and you’re wondering what on earth you were ever thinking when you signed up for this kind of pain. Sometimes you don’t know if you’re actually going to finish. Five more miles seems like a tall order. Or is it five miles? At that point, you’re not sure. Even simple math can be too much to handle.
And then someone catches your eye and cheers you on. For me, during my first marathon the Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska it was a lady holding a sign thanking the runners for their efforts and identifying herself as a leukemia survivor. I had trained for the race with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and had spent hours and hours running and raising money that would benefit victims of blood cancers like leukemia. That little glimpse into what my contribution could mean to someone was almost too much. As I passed that woman with her sign, I welled up with tears and resolved to run faster and finish strong. Her support helped carry me through the last 5 miles of the race.
Team in Training is just one of many charities that link strengthening your body to nourishing your soul as mine was throughout my training and racing. These charities offer the chance to reach out to others, become a part of a loving and supportive community, work towards a worthy cause, set and achieve goals, and improve your own health while you’re at it. And believe me, if you end up in tears as you cross the finish line, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. You’ll be in good company.
10 Charities That Are Good For Your Body And Soul 1 of 11
You'll get back more than you give when you train for others.
Off The Mat 2 of 11
Backstory: Off the Mat, Into the World is a charity dedicated to bridging yoga and activism. Funds from this charity go to support yoga programs in developing countries and to support local organizations here in the US in an effort to encourage community and global service projects.
Get Involved: Actually, you don't even have to get on the mat to get involved in this charity! Just tweet or Instagram a photo of your passion or anything, really with the hashtag #ToyotaGiving and Toyota will donate $3 to Off The Mat, Into the World. You can also donate directly via their website, or find opportunities to volunteer and get involved in local service projects.
Leukemia And Lymphoma Society Team in Training 3 of 11
Backstory: Team in Training has raised a lot of money to help research and find cures for blood cancers and help support victims of cancer and their families.
Get Involved: Sign up on their website to be matched with a local team. You'll work with coaches to get you ready for your chosen race marathon, half-marathon, triathlon and you'll work with mentors to raise money for LLS.
Achilles International 4 of 11
Backstory: Achilles International has the goal of enabling people with all types of disabilities to participate in mainstream athletic events like marathons. They match disabled athletes be they blind, Down syndrome, amputees with guides and mentors who help them complete their chosen race.
Get Involved: Want to volunteer as a guide or mentor? Find a chapter near you at their website. Or you can donate to help purchase supplies for disabled athletes who want to participate in mainstream events.
Race For The Cure 5 of 11
Backstory: The Susan G. Komen Foundation helps research, screen, and support victims of breast cancer. In fact, 75% of the profits from Race for the Cure events stay in the community to do just that.
Get Involved: Sign up for a local Race for the Cure Run or Walk, donate directly, fundraise.
image via istockphoto.com
American Cancer Society Relay for Life 6 of 11
Backstory: The American Cancer Society promises an unforgettable experience with their Relay for Life events, which generally take place on a track, where participants camp overnight and take turns walking or running around the track. The community feeling is fueled by games, activities, and entertainment. And proceeds go toward researching cures and treatments for all kinds of cancer, and to supporting cancer victims.
Get Involved: You can sign up via their website to fundraise and then walk the track at your local ACS event, or volunteer to help during the event. And, of course, direct donations are always welcome.
image via istockphoto.com
Alex’s Lemonade Stand 7 of 11
Backstory: Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, an organization founded by Alexandra Scott, who had a goal to raise $1 million through her lemonade stand before she died at age 8 of neuroblastoma, is going the distance to find a cure for childhood cancers one million miles, to be exact. The organization is recruiting individuals and teams to run or walk 100 miles this September, and to get pledges for each mile they run.
Get Involved: Sign up at the Alex's Lemonade Stand website for the million mile run, or find other opportunities to get involved. Help your kids do their own lemonade stand, join Team Lemon to fundraise as you train for a specific race, or volunteer at events to benefit the cause. And be sure to check out their YouTube channel for videos like this one about the organization and their events.
image from Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation
Bike MS 8 of 11
Backstory: Bike MS started as a challenge between a father, Will Munger, and his 10-year-old son to bike 150 miles in one day. The two had to stop overnight, but once they reached their destination, they decided that a 150-mile bike ride would be a good way to raise money for multiple sclerosis research and support. The National MS Society, with the help of Bike MS and researchers around the world, has been able to move MS from an untreatable disease to one in which there are nearly a dozen therapies to help those with the most common form of the disease.
Get Involved: Go to the Bike MS website to find a ride near you. You can also find training plans, nutrition and hydration advice, and tips about what to wear and how to care for your bike.
image via Bike MS
Jump Rope For The Heart 9 of 11
Backstory: If the kids want an opportunity to give back, Jump Rope for the Heart is a great option. The American Heart Association's organization collects funds to research heart diseases, educate the public about making healthy decisions, and provide care for those in need.
Get Involved: Sign your child up on the American Heart Association website (not into jump roping? There's also Hoops for the Heart). They'll set up a donation page and collect pledges based on how much they jump. While you're there, check out their tips for raising a healthy family or look for other ways to give back.
image via istockphoto.com
Walk To Cure Diabetes 10 of 11
Backstory: Walk To Cure Diabetes offers participants a chance to get creative with fundraising as they prepare for The Walk. Funds are used to research, treat, and eventually (we hope!) cure Type 1 or juvenile onset diabetes.
Get Involved: Go to The Walk's website to register for an event, set a fundraising goal, and get tips for how to be a successful fundraiser.
March For Babies 11 of 11
Backstory: The March For Babies, part of the March of Dimes organization, is all for healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. Money from the march goes toward research to prevent premature birth and birth defects, and to help babies start their lives strong and healthy.
Get Involved: Sign up at MarchForBabies.org. You can register as a team or an individual for one of the many walk events all over the country. Then start raising funds for those babies in need!