The Power Of Giving

Posted: January 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

Training for a marathon can be all-consuming and cause us to neglect other extremely important aspects of our lives.  I have given considerable thought recently to how my running has evolved since I began running marathons in 1978.  The evolution has taken me from focusing exclusively on myself and running fast times to coaching charity runners and thinking of others.

The Seminole moment for me was the last conversation I had with my mother in the Mayo Clinic before she passed from leukemia.  During that conversation I promised her that I would do something significant with my life; something that would make her proud.  I didn’t have much of an idea of what that effort would involve because I was consumed by the grief of losing her.  After offering the eulogy at her funeral, I returned to New England and decided to run the Ocean State Marathon in her memory.  It was an opportunity to reflect on my life with her and to also deal with all the emotions that were circulating throughout my body.  Serendipitously I noticed Leukemia Society of America signs throughout the course.

I spent 12 incredible years with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America.  I cultivated friendships there that will last my lifetime.  It is there that I learned the power of giving from the example of all the charity runners that Lori and I coached.  After deciding to leave the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society three years ago, I created a new coaching initiative with Mike Wasserman from Bottom Line that we refer to as The Marathon Coalition.  Our current TEAM is composed of 7 education-based charities:  Access, Boston Debate League, Bottom Line, Jumpstart, Mass Mentoring Partnership, Museum of Science and Summer Search.  I continue to learn and appreciate the power of giving from the efforts of The Marathon Coalition Runners.

Whether it’s the gift of life for someone suffering from a blood cancer or the gift of learning from someone being provided an opportunity to further their education, nothing is more powerful that empowering others through giving.  Charity runners rule the Kingdom of Giving!

That is why I find it completely annoying when I read an article in the Boston Globe or New England Runner accusing charity runners of depriving qualified runners the opportunity to run Boston.  The Boston Globe article ran in the aftermath of entries closing within 9 hours for the 2011 Boston Marathon.  Their position was that too many numbers were being allocated for charity runners and the implication was that charity runners are somehow less of a runner because they have not officially qualified to run the race.  I would argue that the critics should speak to the friends, families, or to the recipients benefitting from the millions of dollars raised by charity runners.  I’ve also had the honor of coaching qualified runners that step up, despite earning their way into the marathon on their running performance, and continue to raise money for charities.  They are Paul McCarron, Emily Schwartz, Maureen Fillipine, Mark Stavesky, Stephen Silveri, to name a few.

I would trade every marathon that I’ve run for the knowledge that I have made just a small difference in the life of someone.  This is the ideal that charity runners can stand proud on.  I have been at both ends of the spectrum…I have run Boston in 2:38 and have qualified for Boston in every marathon that I’ve run spanning five decades and I have coached charity runners for the past 15 years.  I don’t think any of the critics can say I feel I am eminently qualified to cast my vote in this argument…there is no argument…Charity Runners Rule because they understand the power of giving as well as anyone!

  1. Rick. you have touched SO many lives you will never know…mine included. Thank you for everything you do.

    Jill Hallisey TNT Boston 2003,2004.2007 and 2008

  2. Jill,

    I will be eternally grateful to you and all the others that provided me the opportunity to coach the greatest group of runners that I’ve ever known. It’s been nothing short of an absolute honor!


  3. John says:

    Awesome stuff…some people are very self centered and that’s fine but you are so right “giving” is very powerfull. you are an inspiration to a lot of people…keep up the great work!!!

  4. Rich Greif says:

    Rick, on behalf of Mass Mentoring, I want to thank you for the tremendous work you are doing. As a mentor to two boys myself, including one who just graduated high school and got a scholarship to UNH, I can tell you that the money raised helps us get more caring adults matched with youth all around the state. Mentoring not only helps children academically and socially, but it makes a real difference in the lives of the mentors and families too. So thank you for helping make work like this possible.

    • Hello Rich,

      Thank you for sharing your perspective and for the work that you do to help others. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has!”

      You are undoubtedly part of that group!



  5. Fran says:

    Wow Rick -That is powerful writing. Do you mind if I send that to the reporter that ran my story about running the for Summer Search?
    Thank you for all that you do for me and everyone else.
    Sincerly – Fran

    • Hello Fran,

      You are always welcome to share my thoughts and comments with anyone that you like.

      I hope you know how much I appreciate and respect the energy and commitment that you bring to the Marathon Coalition TEAM!

      Your Coach,


  6. Paula says:

    Excellently put Coach!

  7. Chris says:

    Thank you for writing this! I run into some people who are excited when they hear I am running Boston, but when they find out I’m running with a charity, they roll their eyes and say — Oh, you’re a *charity* runner, as if that is somehow inferior. I also overheard someone complaining that the charity runners get the same medal as the “real” runners. I am proud to be a charity runner, and very proud to be part of the Coalition Team.

  8. Chris,

    It’s simply outrageous to hear someone imply a charity runner is less worthy than a qualified runner and should receive a different medal. The arrogance that some runners have towards those that happen to run a slower time is astonishing. Having been on the qualified side of things for so many years I completely understand their mindset….I obviously disagree with it however.

    I would agrue that marathons are far more challenging and diffiuclt when you’re running for 4+ hours!

    Most importantly, my heart smiles that you’re proud of being a charity runner and part of the Marathon Coalition TEAM!

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