Guest Article - Charity or Farce? ...By David O’DwyerRunning and marathon running in particular have long been associated with raising money for charity. The Dublin Marathon has raised hundreds of millions of Punts and Euros since 1980 and the London Marathon has raised some £450 million since 1981. Simply completing a marathon however is no longer deemed enough of a challenge for some fund raisers in their stated aim to raise money for their chosen charity. Some sort of edge is required in order to make their marathon challenge stand out among the other participants. This has usually meant some sort of gimmick in order to give their effort some additional novelty. The imagination is the only limiting factor in choosing something from wheelbarrow pushing to running backwards. I can recall an old news clip from one of the early Dublin marathons, possibly from “Reeling in the Years” where someone ran with a ladder on their shoulder! I’m not sure how they fared.
Consider for a moment the issue of falling standards despite the increase in numbers participating. Is it a stretch to say that all of this pageantry is a contributing factor to the overall fall in standards? It would be crazy to suggest that running in a superhero costume is somehow causing the overall standard to fall however it is not crazy to suggest that David Stone could run even faster without his cape flailing in the wind behind him in the London marathon. Yes the aim of the individual is to raise money for charity and not necessarily to run a fast time but is the quality of the event somehow compromised? Or is it a perfect marrying of the two extremes? On the one hand you have elite athletes clocking 2.05 for the marathon and on the other you have Krusty the Clown cartwheeling around the course.
This is no doubt an emotive subject and the knee jerk reaction will be where is the harm in it? There is nothing wrong with using marathon running as a method for raising money for charity and if anything it can be argued that it has helped to raise the profile of marathon running. However when you compare it with other sports there is no argument. There is no other sport that combines the sublime with the ridiculous. Would a Connemara Pony be allowed run in the Grand National, or how about completing the Tour de France on a BMX?
One idea that has not caught on is aiming to run the marathon in as fast a time as possible and getting the appropriate sponsorship money for that. Has anyone ever raised money by saying that they’ll run the marathon in a particular time and as a sponsor you give extra money if they beat that time? Now that sounds it would be harder to do than complete the marathon dressed in a Batman suit and cape.
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