Before I get into my review, I want to preface this by saying that I know fundraising is a very personal thing for fundraisers. I applaud anyone who is willing to do the hard work of raising money on behalf of a cause. I’m not writing this post to encourage you to fundraise on behalf of a charity you are not interested in; rather, it’s to share the experience and provide useful information for anyone already interested in or curious about fundraising for the ACS through their endurance events program, DetermiNation.

Post-race

I’ve shared my reasons for fundraising for the ACS many times on this blog. I’ve lost relatives to cancer, and some of my friends have lost parents or siblings to cancer, or have a parent fighting the disease. Both of my mom’s parents and one of her brothers had cancer, so I worry about my mom one day receiving that diagnosis. I’ve fundraised for the ACS before, mostly through Relay For Life, so I’m very familiar with the organization. So my decision to run the Chicago Marathon on their behalf was pretty easy.

Overall, I feel like it is a great program for anyone interested in running an endurance event on their behalf. For the Chicago Marathon, we had to raise a minimum of $950. The runner has to make up the difference if they don’t hit this goal. The ACS is pretty clear about that when you sign-up. For the record, I raised over $1,600. My previous “record” for fundraising for the ACS was $1,100, so I wasn’t worried about not reaching the minimum.

In Charity Village after the race

There are great race day perks for runners. The ACS had a pretty big tent in charity village. Before the race, we had a place to keep warm, they had coffee, water, bagels and other snacks, private gear check, “private” changing areas (those little pop-up tent-stalls), “private” bathrooms (all of Charity Village shared a huge bank of port-o-potties) and a group with which to walk to the start line.

Also, for the 2012 Chicago Marathon, all runners for “recognized” charities were placed in Corral E. (I know there were charity runners for smaller charities without tents in Charity Village who were not placed in Corral E.) So, right after the corrals you had to qualify for (with a faster time than I could run), and before the “open” corrals, which were seeded by expected pace, including paces that were faster than I expected to finish. While I appreciate this perk from the folks organizing the race, I don’t think it’s a good idea to place slower runners in front of faster runners. Even as someone who benefitted from this perk, I think we should have been placed in the corrals like everyone else. Which means I probably would have been in Corral J.

During the race, we had a lot of support. I saw tons of DetermiNation signs on the course, and running through the Charity Block Party around mile 14 was really awesome and inspiring. Somewhere around mile 23, one of the DetermiNation coaches or mentors ran onto the course to run beside me for a litte bit, and see how I was doing. Once he realized I was doing well (he told me “you look like you’ve done this before” and was surprised when I told him it was my first marathon), he took off to find another DetermiNation runner (who probably needed his help more than I did – I was feeling amazing in those last few miles).

Pizza and beer in the tent post-race

After I finished, I had to head back to Charity Village. Unfortunately, it was a mile from the finish line, and I had shed my layers before and during the race, so I was pretty chilly. And when I got back to Charity Village, it was packed, since after the race, your family and friends could join you at your team tent.

Post-race, they had lots of free food for the runners and their spectators – all you can eat pizza, hot dogs, cake, beer (312 – although there was a 2 beer per person limit), and more that I don’t remember. I went straight for pizza and water and sat down to eat. They said they had mini ice baths and massages for us, but I didn’t take advantage of that, since we had to check out of our hotel room by 2pm.

The Friday evening before the marathon was our team pasta dinner at the Palmer House. Because I hit a certain fundraising amount, I was able to attend the dinner for free, as was one guest of mine (in this case, my husband), and I could have purchased additional tickets. Dinner was served buffet-style, and was really good. Salad, pasta, cupcakes, and more. Right before dinner, they set out supplies for sign and singlet decorating. We got there right as dinner was starting, but The Sailor was able to make a quick sign before we went into the dining room. We were also able to pick up a few cowbells at the dinner – always useful for spectating/cheering.

During my training, I also had support. The ACS offered up mentors if you wanted one, which I did, and we emailed back and forth throughout my training. The mentors are veteran DetermiNation athletes, so he could offer up both fundraising and training advice if I needed it. It was nice to have someone check in with me along the way to see how I was doing, someone who has done what I’ve done and could answer my questions.

DetermiNation also scheduled some fun runs during the months leading up to the marathon, but none of them were convenient times or locations for me, so I did not attend.

But most valuable was being able to train with our choice of Chicago Endurance Sports or the Chicago Area Runners Association through one of their summer marathon training programs. (I went with CARA.)

Also, like all fundraising programs, the ACS has a pretty robust online fundraising site. Personally I found it to be pretty easy to use and personalize.

In terms of tangible freebies, my ACS DetermiNation singlet that I wore during the race was “free,” and I will also receive some DetermiNation-branded “prizes” because I hit a certain fundraising amount.

Overall, I recommend the DetermiNation program to anyone who is interested in running an endurance event on behalf of the American Cancer Society. They have been doing this for a long time, so they know how to provide a great experience for their runners, and they provide a lot of really great benefits that are very valuable to runners. (Private port-o-potties, private gear check, and “free” training alone are extremely valuable.) I would consider running for them again in the future. Probably not in 2013, because I like to take a year off between fundraising so I don’t over-ask my friends for donations.

But, if you have another cause or charity that is important to you, I highly encourage you to look into fundraising or volunteering on their behalf at least once in your life, whether through a race or another type of event or activity. Not only is a great way to give back, but there are many family and group-oriented events, so it could be a great activity for your family or a way to meet new people with a shared interest or experience.

Have you ever done a race as part of a charity team? How was it?