I toyed with the idea of doing the London Marathon for years before I took the plunge. I became particularly keen after I surprised myself by completing the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Action on Hearing Loss significantly faster than I imagined I could have done it. Realising I could push myself harder physically than I’d given myself credit for, I’d watch the London Marathon broadcast jealously, wondering if I’d ever get to do it.
I entered the ballot four or five times – always unsuccessfully – and while I always had the option of getting a charity place with Action on Hearing Loss, I was intimidated by the amount I had to raise. I don’t have a wealthy network or family, I’m not a baker, I worried about friends getting tired of tedious pleads for donations on Facebook, and I couldn’t bear it if I failed to fundraise the amount required and I let anyone down. It was one thing to raise £350 for the Royal Parks, but a minimum of almost two grand seemed unattainable.
Despite the fundraising jitters, completing the London Marathon was something I wanted to tick off before I was 30. After I turned 28, I bit the bullet and applied for a place with Action on Hearing Loss. My colleagues in fundraising kindly confirmed I had a spot – and that was that. No looking back.
I’m writing this because I know full well how would-be marathon runners, with a sincere link to the cause and desire to do their bit, might be put off taking part by the fundraising target. All I can do is assure you that, with planning and the kindness of friends, you can reach the amount. At the time of writing my fundraising total is in excess of £2,700 – an amount I never thought I’d ever reach.
How did I do this? I’ll attempt a helpful breakdown now:
- I planned ahead. I treated it like I did any other training I did for races and had what I needed to do when laid out. I printed off blank calendars for each month leading up to the race and looked at what was feasible by when, and how I could space it out between activity at work and help from friends to avoid begging-fatigue from friends and family.
- With the help of the lovely fundraising team here and my friends I came up with a list of activities that I could do, from bake sales to pub quizzes – to literally how often it’s reasonable to remind people on different social channels that you really could do with that fiver they vaguely said they’d donate.
- I plotted these activities strategically. Bake sales in work are an easy win – better still if you have friends who love doing it and can help, and if you can theme them for Christmas and Halloween. Top tip here – if you do a bake sale, include some savoury, gluten free and vegan goodies.
- I contacted a local pub to ask if they’d kindly give me the space to do a pub quiz. Pubs are happy to do this – it’s not only nice to help a charity night, you have a captive audience – the bulk of which will be paying for drinks all night. Win win. A lovely local pub agreed to give me an upstairs space that seats 40 people, with its own little bar and microphones. Two friends of mine agreed to write and host the quiz, which I timed for November before everyone was inevitably busy over the Christmas period. I charged £7 per person, but many donated more, and those that couldn’t come felt so guilty they gave me a tenner anyway. All in all I raised well in excess of £400 in one night. It was so successful I hosted a second quiz in March, exactly a month before the marathon, raising hundreds more.
- There were also much less labour intensive ways I raised more money than I thought. I left a collection tin in the kitchen at work, hoping people would drop in loose coppers. When I opened it, there were notes and pound coins - a significant contribution that built over time.
- As I’ve mentioned, I was probably more concerned about being annoying on social media than I needed to be. The handful of posts I did on social media – always strategically around payday period – paid off. People don’t want to be bombarded, but if you post with a tangible update (I’ve now raised X amount; I’ve run X miles) people might feel more obligated to help you get to the next step.
- This might seem a little extreme to some – but I decided to forego Christmas gifts from family and ask for donations in-kind instead. This is a once in a life time (for me, anyway) thing this meant more to me than gifts.
- Lastly – and this really helped me – do everything you can to reach £1000 by Christmas. If you just do a Christmas bake sale and quiz you’ll be nearly there. More people will donate closer to, or following the marathon so get a good bulk out of the way before Christmas. After then, the training you’ve been doing to gradually increase your stamina and muscular endurance will become much harder, much more time consuming, and you don’t want to anxiety of fundraising looming over you. Use the ubiquitous joviality and generosity felt by most people in late November and December to your advantage and plan your activities for then.
Nothing about running the London Marathon is easy – and nor should it be. Even experienced runners are truly tested by it, and many underestimate the toll even the amount of training requires has on you. You’ll be truly amazed how generous people are when you undertake something like this, and once you’ve hit your target, and when you’re there on race day, “overwhelmed” is too meagre a word to explain what you’ll feel.
Having worked at Action on Hearing Loss for years now I’m in a good position to say just how much runners’ fundraising and awareness raising means to us and the 11 million people in the UK living with some form of hearing loss. Your hard work will be appreciated more than you can know – and take it from me, there’s no feeling in the world like crossing the finish line having finished the race and having been part of helping so many people.
Join team Action on Hearing Loss for the Virgin Money London Marathon – register now for your place!