When you think about it, it’s kind of mind blowing just how many reasons we each have for racing. From triathlons to marathons to local fun runs and walks, we have to have something to believe in — and in our experience of tracking and working with thousands of athletes, racing for a cause is the best way to achieve our goals.

No matter what level you currently compete on, sometimes setting personal fitness goals aside and focusing on something bigger is better. According to Outside magazine, 9.6 million walkers and runners raised more $1.2 billion in 2013, across more than 43,000 events. So what is it about racing for a cause that is so rewarding on every level?

Here are eight things we’ve learned about why running your next race for charity may boost your performance in more ways than you could imagine.

  1. Motivation: There’s no better way to get motivated than to personalize your goal by racing for the cause that is closest to your heart. Some of us have lost friends, some have lost moms, fathers, daughters, much too early to curable diseases, and we won’t stop running until we’ve done something to help. Focusing on something beyond the ego is the best motivator.
  2. Accountability: Knowing you are letting down your favorite charity or a loved one can be a powerful motivator. You have set a goal to raise a certain amount of money, and that will fuel your motivation on those cold, dark mornings to claw your way out of bed and onto the treadmill. Racing for a charity, you’re now accountable to something bigger than yourself.
  3. Jumpstart Your Training: Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, right? Signing up for a charitable event gives you an automatic deadline. No better time than the present, and once you’ve signed up, there’s no excuses.
  4. Endorphins, baby: The idea that you’re actually helping others through your actions releases powerful endorphins in the brain, inspiring you to keep going. We’re wired to repeat actions that make us feel good, so if your race training is accomplishing that goal, keep doing it! These positively charged endorphins will also help you push out negative thoughts that we all experience during training, allowing you to go longer and harder.
  5. Personalize The Mission: It’s so much easier to focus on something that has personal meaning to you. Through immersing yourself in a charity, you’ll get to know your fellow runners and those who are passionate about the same things you are on a whole new level. Maybe you’ll even meet and be impacted by some of those for whom you are racing, whether it’s at a children’s hospital, or another pre-race event.save-the-children-race-for-cause-web2
  6. Train Together: Along with getting personal with the cause, you’ll be supported by others who feel the way you do. Maybe you’ll see the passion for a cause in someone else who will truly inspire you. Many charity races offer group training programs, both in your area and online, so take advantage of that opportunity, because just like the people you are trying to help, you don’t have to do it alone.
  7. Results Driven: Getting fit and seeing actual results through your training will push you even harder. Wait, you mean I’ll be more inherently motivated and get fitter in the process, all while supporting my cause? We have found that those with a motivating factor like racing for a cause are more likely to achieve their goals, and that means every race afterwards will only get easier.
  8. Race Day Support: Come race day, you’ll find special support and a whole crowd of fans you never knew you had. Sometimes race and charity volunteers will help take some of your race-day hassles out of the picture, so you can focus on the task at hand. We all know the effect a friendly cheerleader has on our performance, so how about a whole pack of them, there to cheer you on because they believe in you. And these people really do appreciate your efforts. Let their appreciation be your reason for digging deep; you don’t want to let them down!

Watch as Doug Nash Taps into Save the Children to Raise Money Through His IRONMAN Texas Win:

 

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