Early on Sunday morning approximately 10,000 people will set out to run 26 miles in a bid to complete the London Marathon. Since the first race was held in 1981, some 676,743 people have completed the course.
The marathon is not simply a feat of endurance, it is also said to be the biggest fundraising event in the world. In 2006 alone £4.5 million pounds was raised, with over 78% of those who participated doing so in support of a charity.
In an effort to increase the level of fundraising charities are allotted a certain number of guaranteed places, which they then offer to runners in return for raising an agreed amount of money. Usually somewhere between £1500 and £2000. Over the years a grand total of £315 million has been raised, providing essential assistance for numerous charities, both domestic and international, and across a whole array of causes.
The London Marathon reflects the way in which fundraising has become synonymous with personal sacrifice. It is almost unheard of for someone to individually raise money for a charity without undertaking a challenge of their own, whether that be running, skydiving, biking or canoeing the Amazon.
Perhaps it is to demonstrate that it is a worthy cause, or perhaps it is a way of “earning” donations. It certainly holds true that the bigger the challenge the larger the donations you can expect. A read-a-thon might gain you a few pounds, but a trek up Kilimanjaro or a sky-dive can prove very lucrative.
On the flip side, there is also an expectation among those doing the fundraising that they’ll "gain" something for themselves. There is no doubt, for instance, that a large number of those who run the marathon do so first and foremost for the challenge rather than the cause.
But does it really matter?
In some cases, some would argue that it does.
In her post Should I volunteer abroad Claire raised questions along this line in regards to people tramping over to developing countries for voluntourism. Wouldn't it be better to save the CO2 emissions and simply hand over the money you would have spent on your flight to the people who know what they're doing? It is certainly something worth thinking about.
On a domestic level however, the implications are different. Afterall, whether a person running for charity does so for the cause or for themselves, the net effect is the same. It is certainly the case that combining personal feats with making a difference has become a feature of fundraising, and it is an effective way to motivate people to get involved and to convince others to part with their hard earned money. For that reason I think it's set to continue.