Racing for a Cause: Getting Stronger Together

Racing for a Cause: Getting Stronger Together

It’s 40 degrees at 7 a.m. on October 13, 2018, and I’m at the mouth of the Canyon de Chelly National Monument with 150 other intrepid trail runners. I had traveled almost 650 miles – a drop in the pan compared to some of the folks there – to this place to be part of something that words can’t properly memorialize, nor would pictures do justice.

But the beauty and the brotherhood felt among the runners was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg for this event. The root cause – the reason we had all descended upon this sacred canyon – was because of the stories of young runners and athletes on the Navajo reservation there. Created by Shaun Martin, a high school athletic director and former cross country coach at the local school, the Canyon de Chelly Ultra’s raises funds so young athletes can work toward attaining greatness. There is also special awareness put on the environment – of preserving and protecting what we have for future generations. The 34.2 miles were mentally and physically challenging, as were the training runs leading up to that point. But the canyon was spectacular and the ethos behind what we were doing kept pushing us forward. Having completed the race, I reached my goal. I had trained, raced and was part of raising money for something special.

“Cause marketing” has become a buzzword – whether it’s shopping for a cause or running/hiking/biking for a cause – and that’s exciting. Even Headsweats has a way for you to give back on certain purchases of special collections (check out Headsweat’s charitable partners here). As the world gets smaller, and we are more acutely aware of issues facing our neighbors and environment, and finding simple and convenient ways to help is a win-win. Racing for a cause allows you to go one step further – train, become more physical fit, and blast through a goal while helping the planet or the people in it.

You don’t have to be an elite athlete (I am far from it), or be into long distances in order to get involved – anyone can do it, whether it’s a 1 mile fun run or a 100 mile mountain bike race. Part of the human condition is balancing our drive toward selfishness AND selflessness. Racing for the cause allows us to (literally) walk that line – challenging our personal physical and mental limits, while rising to the occasion of raising funds and awareness for causes that are bigger than ourselves.

Here are some great ways to find a cause-related race to support.

  • Search here on , and you’ll find many races for charity in your area.
  • Many local 5ks and 10ks go toward charity, check your local calendar sections and newspapers.
  • If you’re into trail work, check in with your local trail foundation and see if they are involved with any races  – sometimes events require you to complete trail maintenance to qualify.

Below are some other race experiences on the radar, as well as some tips for fundraising.

The Cystic Fibrosis “Extreme Hike”  Four years ago, I was involved in this amazing event and highly recommend. As a first-time fundraiser, they provide great support – from group training hikes, fundraising check-ins/challenges and more. Over the course of my training, I was able to raise thousands of dollars for the organization. This event now has hikes all over the country, and there are usually two distances so you can commit to the level right for you.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Team in Training There are a number of ways to get involved with LLS Team in Training’s events. You can bike, hike, run, swim, etc. This is a great way to get involved at a multitude of levels. They are also a partner of Headsweats!

Vacation Races series – Charity Bibs: Raise a minimum of $1000 for the parks, and get to run through some of the most spectacular scenery in the West.

Leadville Race Series – Charity Entries: Registering with one of the partner charities for this super intense mountain bike or running race in Leadville can allow you to skip the lottery sign-up.

Tips for fundraising:

  • Emails: Send periodic email campaigns out to family and friends. Get over the funny feeling asking for money – this isn’t for your personal wardrobe or for your rent. This is for a great cause. Tell them why you’re passionate.
  • Social Media: Call your network to action. Social media is a great way to make donating simple, and people will be inspired by you. Post pictures of your training, tell stories of the people and places you’re training for, and provide those easy donation links. It’s also a great way to put things in perspective (i.e. “skip your morning cup at the coffee shop and donate $5 to the cause – every dollar counts). Encourage people to skip happy hour or give half of their Friday night dinner bill. This way they feel good about their own mini-challenges.
  • Offer something: Big, small, silly or serious.
    • For $5 extra donations, I offered to tell stupid jokes on social media. It was a silly way to get people’s attention. And it got donations.
    • If you offer a service or are a crafter/businessperson/artist, consider gifting for donations. When I was a dog-sitter, I offered clients free nights of dog-sitting for every $75 they donated. This can often encourage larger denominations to come in.

To celebrate Giving Tuesday and the holiday season of giving, Headsweats is having a “Give 20, Get 20” promotion. Now through Nov 27 at 11:59 PST, click on each of the collections below and shop using code GIVINGTUESDAY20 today to get 20% off your purchase while giving back!

National Park Foundation
Team Red, White & Blue
Diabetes Sports Project 
Team In Training
National Down Syndrome Society
International Mountain Biking Association


“Never respect men merely for their riches, but rather for their philanthropy; we do not value the sun for its height, but for its use.” -Gamaliel Bailey

Amanda Pennington,2018 Headsweats Ambassador



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