Running for charity can be a hugely rewarding experience. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or whether it’s a new and daunting challenge, running to raise funds for a cause close to your heart is a big motivator.
Every year Autistica gets places for organised running events around the country, but also supports runners that wish to go solo with their own challenges. Our running star Jeff came to us as a parent who wanted to take part in a marathon for Autistica, he has since become not only our top ever fundraiser, but also now sits on our Board of Trustees.
We ask Jeff for his top tips to running over twenty miles and raising over £20,000!
Jeff, when did you start running?
I started at the end of January 2011 to start training for my first 10k race (for Autistica) in May 2011.
So, how many runs have you now completed for Autistica?
I’ve now done a 10k, 2 half marathons, and 4 marathons.
What is your motivation?
I run for my elder son who was diagnosed with autism when he was about 2.5 years old. I think we need to better understand autism first and foremost to enable us to help those dealing with it and society in general to change appropriately, and Autistica strives to do exactly that.
You hold Autistica’s record for most funds raised from a single challenge event – £31,500 in the 2016 Boston Marathon! What are your top 5 tips for fundraising?
I think the main thing that’s helped is that I’ve been lucky to know a big group of very generous people, and to work at a company that very much encourages a culture of charitable giving (as well as matching donations!), but aside from that:
- Tell people your story . Give your reasons for raising money for this particular charity. No one is inspired to give if you just send them the generic write-up from the fundraising site.
- Share the journey. Make people feel a part of your quest. This will not only make people more likely to donate, but if they’re with you in spirit on the day, it’ll help drive you on in the race.
- Train hard. My first race was a novelty where people doubted I could complete it. Now that it’s no longer about that, I think people are only drawn to it because I push myself as hard as I can.
- Cast a wide net. You might feel embarrassed when sending out a fundraising e-mail so you might only include people you know really well, as if you’re asking people to give you money. You’re not. You’re asking them to give money to a very worthy charity, and you’re just providing the impetus. Therefore just send it out broadly. You never know who might have a connection to your cause. Besides, the worst that could happen is someone doesn’t donate, and perhaps asks you to leave them off future fundraising emails.
- Remind people. I send out an initial e-mail when I set up my page, then remind people with a month to go, and then again just before the race. Many people do want to donate but don’t get around to it, so a little reminder goes a long way.
Thanks for the tips Jeff! Boston was your biggest fundriaser but what has been your favourite run to date and why?
It’s tough to compare, but I think it would have to be the London marathon in 2012. It was my first marathon, and the crowds and atmosphere in general were absolutely amazing. I went in with a fairly aggressive goal, and I was able to come in just ahead of it. The run over Tower Bridge and the turn onto the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace are still very fresh in my memory.
That sounds like an amazing experience. What is it you enjoy most about running?
Initially I got hooked on being able to improve each and every time I set out. I was in pretty bad shape when I started, so it was almost guaranteed that I would be able to go a bit farther or a bit faster than previous runs. Now that’s no longer the case, but occasionally I still surprise myself, and that’s one thing I really enjoy: seeing what your body is capable of that maybe you didn’t expect. It’s also a huge outlet for stress and a time to let my mind wander. I mostly realise that when I can’t run for a little while due to injury!
It’s been said that long-distance running is 10% physical and 90% mental. How do you prepare psychologically for a long run?
These days my long runs involve quite a bit of running at marathon pace, so I often feel a bit nervous ahead of them. But when I head out for a long run without worrying about pace, I try to focus on having 3 hours (or more) of just being outside and enjoying what I love about running!
That sounds like a great way to focus your mind. How long do you train in the build up to a Marathon? What other activities do you do alongside running to get you marathon-fit?
For the last few marathons I’ve done, I’ve followed a 20-week training plan, but have also done a 16-week plan. With any training plan you need to do a bit of “pre-training” to make sure you’re in good enough shape to withstand the training load even in the early weeks. I don’t cross-train during training unless I’m injured and therefore can’t run, but I make sure I stretch, do some running-specific body-weight strength and core stability training, and some mobility exercises.
What is your fastest Marathon time?
3:07:13 (but who’s counting!)
What food do you eat pre- and post-run that keeps your energy levels up?
My pre-run breakfast is porridge with a bit of maple syrup (you can take the boy out of Canada…). Post-run I have a SiS Rego shake, but before I was so specific about it I used to just have a couple of pieces of toast with peanut butter, and maybe a banana.
What’s next, Jeff?
I definitely want to run London again, but unfortunately in Boston I didn’t achieve my goal of a good-for-age time. So it looks like a spring marathon in 2017 to try to qualify for London in 2018. As always, I’ll be raising money for Autistica and running in an Autistica vest, wherever it is.
If you’re interested in running for Autistica like Jeff, you can find all our fantastic events here. Have a hankering to do your own thing instead? Let us know, we’ll be keen to support you all the way from the gym to the finish line.
Contact Charlotte: email@example.com or on 0203 857 4343