While all for the huge chunk of charitable cash this weekend’s annual City 2 Surf will raise, Nicola Ranger questions the industry around running for charity.


Sydney’s celebrated fun run, City 2 Surf, is fast approaching.

City 2 Surf is a great challenge and a whole lot of fun…until you try to get home from Bondi on the same bus as everyone else.

Last year 80,000 people ran in the City 2 Surf and approximately $4,000,000 was raised for charity.

Now, that’s a great big chunk of cash but if you do the maths, it’s an average of $50 per runner, indicating, at least on the surface that most runners are simply not that interested in fundraising.

This raises the question of why do most of us run, if not for charity?

I have a theory.

In your first year, it’s for a personal challenge.

In subsequent years, it’s for your ego – I need to prove I can still do this, I need to do it faster, I need to prove that my age/lifestyle/liking for cake won’t stop me.

Last year 80,000 people ran in the City 2 Surf and approximately $4,000,000 was raised for charity.

As running increases in popularity, so does the number of events taking place, as does, inevitably, the commercial interest built into many events, including:

Registration up-sells – While you’ve got your credit card handy, are you sure you wouldn’t like to buy a t-shirt, hoodie, shoe laces, hat, water bottle?

Mandatory “expo” attendance – In order to run, you need to wear your numbered bib. Inexplicably, the event organisers can’t pop your bib in the post. You need to collect your bib from the event expo. The expo is nothing more than a marketplace, desperate to sell you shorts, shirts, shoes, protein balls, energy gels, personal training, magazine subscriptions and specialist sportsperson underwear.

Photos – The event photo company takes pics of you puffing and sweating, identifies you by race number then offers to sell you prints in a range of sizes. Your photos are also available online for the whole world to find, so you can be assured a kindly workmate will email the link around your department by 8.30am Monday.

 Most runners are simply not that interested in fundraising.

Fundraising doesn’t even feature in some running events at all now. Do participants realise this, or do many assume there is some charitable element in all events? There are several runs now that involve throwing coloured paint around, but only one is affiliated to a charity, the rest are purely commercial events.

That bastion of commercialised sporting endeavour, Nike, organises a women’s 10km run each spring. I like the event format; it’s in the evening and in a beautiful location.

But something stops me entering – the ridiculous notion of paying $70 to a shoe company for the privilege of running around my local park.


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