Coach Mike Mead

Run For A Cause - December 2003

As I was heading out the door on the morning of November 15 to run in the 5th Annual Run for the Rainbow, I came up with my idea for this month’s column. I asked myself, “What cause do I run for?” I thought back to what first motivated me to run and why I still do it. After my college days of competing, I’d be out in lousy weather running a torturous workout only to ask myself halfway through the physically challenging session, “Why am I out here doing this to myself?”

I first began running for the thrills and challenges of pure competition. As I matured as a runner, I got more into the physical and mental challenges running provided to me. That is, not only competing against other runners, but also against myself.

Now that I’ve settled into the role of coach and am now into the twilight years of my running, my motivation for running has changed. I’m tending to run more for my health, but long for the days to still be able to train and compete on a serious level.

As I was stumbling out the door on November 15, I realized that my motivation to run was very self-centered. I was running for myself. I was coming off a just completed collegiate cross country season and it was time for a little self-indulgence. Heck, I hadn’t raced in a year!

I realized I should be running for a cause that was meaningful for others. There are many charitable organizations like Rainbow House that put on road races in the hopes to benefit their causes. But do we runners actually know the impact we make when we support such an event? Are we mindful of the people benefiting by our participation or just mindless?

In my competitive days, I was more mindful of what a race provided to me for my entry fee that was basically a fast course, worthy awards, a nice T-shirt, a decent post-race meal and maybe a few freebies. I didn’t fathom a thought to how my entry fee was benefiting the organization putting on the event and the people they served, nor if the organizers took in enough entry fees to help their cause!

It has probably helped me get a better handle on this by also serving as a race director a few times in the past (and present) helping groups put on a race to benefit their charity. It is a rewarding experience helping out a group raise funds to support their cause. However, every charitable group out in our communities does not have the resources to put on a running event with all the “bells and whistles” many of us veteran road races have come to expect. But if we keep in mind that group’s cause, we should overlook some of the event’s shortcomings.

Maybe I’m being taken by the fast approaching holiday season? Or is it a change in my values system? Running has provided me with abundant direct and indirect opportunities over the years. Maybe it’s time to run for more important reasons then that umpteenth trophy or T-shirt.

I admire the folks who run for a cause, whether it is for something like Rainbow House, which is a shelter for child victims of abuse, neglect and abandonment, or a local food pantry. No cause is too small or too big. As you pick out that next road race, try finding one that benefits a cause you believe in. Maybe even include the $5 or $10 extra you’d save during pre-registration.

And while you’re out there cruising along during the race, remember to “give ‘til it hurts!” Happy Holidays!