This weekend sees the 2019 London marathon take place from Greenwich to the Mall. The marathon is one of the UK’s biggest single fundraising events, this year will see the amounts raised for charities since its inception in 1981 break the £1billion mark. In celebration of this fact this year’s campaign message is #ThanksaBillion.
In addition to all the money raised by individual runners, the profits of the marathon are gifted to the London Marathon Charitable Trust. Since 1981, the Trust has awarded grants totalling in excess of £77million to more than 1,300 projects in London, Surrey and other areas where London Marathon Events Ltd has organised events.
Running for a cause
The start on Sunday will see many charity runners setting out along the course to raise money for their respective charities. May I congratulate all those who are taking part in raising funds for charity this year? It’s a very heart-warming sight to see so many people willing to put themselves through the rigorous training to be able to complete a marathon set off in support of a cause that means something to them. After all, we tend to donate to charities that connect with us on an emotional level, that may be through our own experience of loss or misfortune or through our ability to empathise with pain or disadvantage and our willingness to go the extra mile to create a fairer society.
It is very true that it feels better to give than to receive and for the runners coping with the length of the course, often for the first time, the thought that a charity is benefiting from their efforts is an additional motivation.
Supporting without running
For those who for one reason or another can’t take part in direct fundraising there are many ways to support the event. London marathon itself relies on the support of around 6,000 volunteers. Volunteers are currently taken from a diverse range of groups from across London and the south of England, from running clubs, sports clubs, schools and universities, to community organisations, scout groups, police cadets, the London Fire Brigade, the parkrun community and volunteering partners. All groups recruit volunteers from within their own membership and a full list of groups who support the event will be added to the marathon’s pages in time for the 2020 event.
In addition you can also help individual runners by coming down to watch the event. The marathon is notorious for its crowd support and from someone who has run the course, the sheer energy and enthusiasm from the crown makes those very long miles seem to pass much quicker. Many spectators support runners by handing out sweets and fruit by the side of the road – again a very welcome treat when the sugar levels are dropping!
Challenging inactivity and improving health
One of the aims of the marathon and the Charitable Trust is to increase activity and to find ways to challenge the inactivity encouraged by our western lifestyles. Even if you can’t support the marathon why not try a brand new activity. Physical activity has been scientifically proven to help our physical halt and well being as well as help us manage mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Rather than set a rigorous demanding schedule why not just try a bite sized approach to picking up a new sporting activity, for example why not join a local running group to complete the couch to 5k programme, join a local cycling club or take up a regular Zumba class with friends? None of these activities take much time or money but their impact on your wellbeing can be considerable.
Whatever you decide to do this Sunday I hope the marathon will have a positive impact on your life, whether you participate or volunteer yourself, take up a new hobby or come down and cheer, it’s a great celebration of what we can all achieve as an individual and as a community.
Gillian McKay is ICAEW's Head of Charity & Voluntary Sector and a Trustee of the London Marathon Charitable Trust.
Image credit: Virgin Money London Marathon