If you were designing the perfect half marathon, what would you include? You’d probably skip the hills, for a start. You’d also throw in some sights to marvel at so you don’t notice your aching legs for a bit. The weather would firmly sit in the not-too-hot-not-too-cold Goldilocks zone. You might even throw in a chance of spotting some rare and impressive wildlife.
The Royal Parks Half Marathon offers all of those things (there are pelicans in St. James’ Park, and they count as rare and impressive in our book). Naturally, a half marathon in central London with so much going for it is bound to be popular, so places are allocated by ballot. This year’s ballot has already taken place, but you can make the start line on 14th October if you run for charity. In many ways, it’s like a karmic ballot, where you do your bit for a good cause and the universe – well, the charity – rewards your efforts with a place in the race.
Friday 24th August is the deadline for registering to run for a charity. You’ll find a lot of participating organisations on the Royal Parks Half’s charities list page, broken into bands by the number of places each one is offering. From there you’ll have to contact each charity separately to find out if it still has places available and what the fundraising expectations are.
Ah yes, fundraising. If you’ve never fundraised before, the idea of rustling up several hundred pounds from friends, family and colleagues can seem a bit daunting, especially as the Royal Parks Half is less than ten weeks away. Is it even possible to raise that sort of money in that time?
Yes, says Will Scambler, a senior fundraising executive at Cancer Research UK (CRUK), which asks for £400 in return for a place on its team. It takes commitment and planning on your part, but CRUK (and other charities) provide support and materials – like collection tins, posters, banners and balloons – to help you hit the target.
“The people that raise the most are the ones that are in touch with the charity,” says Scambler. “We’ve had the most pessimistic people saying ‘all of my friends have already donated and I can’t possibly raise any more’, but the moment that you get them to think in a different way, suddenly you can raise a lot more money.”
To raise £400 in ten weeks, Scambler recommends doing small, offline events once a week for the duration of the ten weeks. “Bake sales are really easy. Just bake loads of cake and go into the office. Someone like me – I’ll eat them,” says Scambler. Other suggestions are to host a barbecue, hold a Come Dine With Me experience, or run a pub quiz.
If that sounds like a lot of work considering you’ve also got a half marathon to train for, well… it is, but know that if you’re willing to put in the effort, it will ultimately be a highly rewarding experience. Here’s what Rebecca McKeown, who ran for CRUK in 2017, said.
“I ran for CRUK in support of my best friend and her family who have been hugely affected by cancer. I managed to raise over £700 by sharing my Just Giving page as soon as I signed up. I frequently re-posted it alongside updates on my running progress, and my friends and family were really supportive and generous. Persistence and determination helped me raise the money. I really enjoyed the challenge of both the running and the fundraising target. My advice to others thinking about signing up is this: be inspired by the challenge and you will surprise yourself like I did!”
Coach is a media partner of the Royal Parks Half Marathon