Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick Fix: Grab a Last Chance Chicago Marathon Spot

Wait a second...didn't the Chicago Marathon fill months ago? Yes. After all, that's why I rushed to the computer to register when an email warned only 5,000 slots remained. But why do I keep getting email reminders that it's my last chance to register for the 2011 race? Because the marathon sold out to general entry way back in February when we were scrambling to register for a race that was more than 7 months away. But the charities affiliated with the marathon still have spaces available for the October 9 race.

Good news if you forgot to register in February, didn't want to think about running when we had the snowpacalypse to deal with, had an injury or race-day conflict or regretted skipping registration ever since. But bad news because you're going to have to decide soon. While race organizers kindly reminded us on National Running Day that charity registration--for the organizations with slots to spare--was still open, they also warned that it would be closing on June 30. So unless you're planning to borrow a bib from a registered runner off Craigslist--it's illegal anyway--this is your final chance to make yourself a 2011 Chicago Marathon runner instead of spectator.

Once you get over the fundraising factor, which can be daunting if you look at the bare bones of how much you have to raise without noticing the assistance you get or the perks you receive in return, it's almost like you have to ask yourself why you rushed to register in the first place. Thousands of runners are already running for one of the 99 (if I counted correctly) affiliated charities, the fundraising commitment is really not as high as you might expect, and you're helping others by committing to run and submit some donations to the cause. And if that's not incentive enough, if you register by June 30, you're entered into a drawing to win prizes like race day VIP packages and race memorabilia.

Need some suggestions for a charity? Here are some of my favorites--recognizable organizations in no particular order, really--among those charities ready to welcome you to their team with their spots to spare.
  • Chicago Run. Kids and running? I was all over this when I learned about their start for an old article I was writing--and I'm still just as enthused about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for Chicago kids.
  • Bright Pink. Ready to enlighten and empower young women with high-risk breast and ovarian cancer outlooks? Now's your chance to get pink, bright pink.
  • Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation. Remember my excitement when Tillman, aka Peanut, can to run at Universal Sole? Here's an organization the Chicago Bear started after his daughter was diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy to help Chicago-area kids and their families who are in need.
  • Bears Care. Run with Bears Care and your funds will help build public athletic fields around the city.
  • Team Hole in the Wall. A pleasant surprise to see this team on the list because I remember swapping stories with my dad about his work involvement with this organization last summer, spending a week at a South Dakota camp for kids with life-threatening illnesses. To help send a child to camp, I'd take it.
  • Back on My Feet. Maybe you can't run with BOMF early in the morning. Show your support instead by marathon running with the organization that uses running to promote self-sufficiency for homeless populations.
  • A Running Start Foundation. In registering for the 2010 race, I managed to accidentally sign myself up under this charity. Talk about feeling awful--I didn't know until I picked up my packet. It's a cool organization too, using sports to improve the lives of East Africans. Who knows? Maybe there's another Sammy Wanjiru or Moses Mosop out there.
  • Salute, Inc. Remember running the Soldier Field race in May? That 10-miler also supported this organization which helps meet the financial, emotional and physical needs of military service members while raising awareness of their sacrifices.
  • The MGR Foundation's Team M3. The name stuck: I learned about this student mentor running program that connects Chicago Public High School students with adult mentor a few years back for a community focused article (I'd share the link but it's no longer available online). 
  • Imerman Angels. If you were fighting cancer, wouldn't you want a mentor who had been there and beaten that--and could almost act as a sixth sense? Here's a community that provides one-on-one support for cancer fighters, survivors and caretakers.
  • Friends of Prentice. By running for the women's hospital at Northwestern Memorial, your efforts go toward the Prentice Ambulatory Care Clinic, which provides care to uninsured and under-insured women who walk through Prentice and NMH.
  • Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. They protect us and now it's our time to give back to the Chicago police officers who put themselves in the line of duty and were killed or injured.
  • Best Buddies Illinois. Ready to run on behalf of friendship? That's the goal of Best Buddies Illinois, which wants to establish friendships, leadership opportunities and more for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
  • Children's Memorial Hospital Foundation. OK, so I've known about these spare spots for months yet have kept mum (sorry!), same as last year. But wouldn't you want to run for the kids?
  • Girls on the Run SoleMates. Grab your tiara and your girl power for this organization which empowers elementary school aged girls to run and feel good about themselves.
  • Team World Vision. Bart Yasso, Ed Norton, Josh Cox, Dr. Andy Baldwin. All these famous names, and a few others, have run for this group which works to provide clean water for Africa and Haiti.
  • Cellmates on the Run. Not to be confused with jails, prisons and convicts, this is an arm of the Chicago Diabetes Project which helps advance diabetes research. 
And that's just a sampling--even more are listed in the charity section of the event's website and none that are less worthy of getting support. But be sure to read about each charity carefully if you're blindly choosing--the fundraising amounts and perks for you the runner vary by charity. Anyone out there who's run with a charity before? Why'd you do it and why'd you like it?

If there's one good thing that comes out of having a 45,000-participant race, it's having a second chance at registering with entries to still be had. You just have to look among the charities. But you have to act fast because the countdown is on. June 30 will be here all too quickly and then you'll be SOL til next year.

Photo courtesy of Children's Memorial Hospital's team.  

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