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Boston Marathon Course section

Just in it for the money - for charities

By Gregg Krupa, Globe Staff, 4/14/2000

hen nearly 18,000 runners take off in Hopkinton Monday, the back of the pack will include some important athletes.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America is just one of many charities that use the Boston Marathon to raise funds - and awareness - for noble causes. Other charities currently involved are:

The American Liver Foundation
The American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay
Children's Hospital
The Arthritis Foundation
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Friends of CASA (the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program in the Suf folk Juvenile Court)
Judge Baker Children's Center
The Massachusetts Association for the Blind
The Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center
The Muscular Dystrophy Association
The National Kidney Foundation
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society
The National Spinal Cord Injury Association
Special Olympics of Massachusetts


The Boston Athletic Association sets aside entry numbers for runners raising money for charity during the nation's oldest marathon. This year, 1,065 charity runners will trail the field, starting behind those who have qualified.

''We began this program in a small way in 1990, and then took it to the form you see it in today in 1995,'' said race director Guy Morse. ''For the first five years of the program, there were just two or three charities.

''We raised about $2 million in total in the first five years. Beginning in 1995, we really increased the charity program in advance of the 100th running of the Marathon. Every year since then, we have 15 charities, and we've raised a total of $14 million since 1995. This year, we ought to raise just under $4 million for the BAA charities. The total is growing by several hundred thousands of dollars a year.''

The charities benefit not only from the money that is raised, but also the free advertising. Runners are allowed to wear clothing promoting the charity, and signs are in prominent display throughout the greeting areas at the end of the race.

''It has been quite a positive thing for the charities, of course, but also for the race to be a major contributor in the community to this sort of thing,'' said Morse.

Despite the enobling causes of fund-raising for groups like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America, the American Liver Foundation, the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay, and Children's Hospital, the charity runners are greeted with some criticism on Web sites and in other forums.

Because the Boston Marathon is the only marathon in the country (excluding the Olympic trials) in which participants must qualify, holding additional entry spots open for non-qualifiers is seen, by some, as an issue.

As one runner put it, during a recent multi-participant discussion on the site: ''I think you are a great person, running for charity. As long as it is not a race that regular runners have to qualify for. Many charity runners get in and fill the field limit, [and] runners with qualifying times don't get in because of those charity runners. Sorry to all of you I am offended.''

But the issue appears much less controversial in Boston than at other marathons around the country.

''At Boston, because for 20 years you've had to qualify, there are a few people out there who are disturbed,'' said Amby Burfoot, the 1968 Marathon winner and the editor of Runner's World. ''But, the way it is set up in Boston, charity runners are actually less of an issue than they are in other marathons around the country. Boston has said it will accept 20,000 runners, and they still have slots open, even today, despite the fact that they take a small amount of charity bandits.''

Other races around the country allow for 50 percent or more of the runners to be charity runners.

''I don't even think that is such a horrible thing, though,'' Burfoot said. ''My view remains that the sport and the roads are big enough to essentially make room for all of us. I understand the disappointment of some, especially in those other marathons, who can't enter a race. But there's lots of races out there.''

In Boston, all of the charity runners start at the rear of the field, eliminating any possibility of interfering with more competitive racers.

''It is one of the things that makes the start so efficient,'' said Morse.

The Marathon is so popular among charities that there is continual pressure to increase their access to the race.

''As a priority, we certainly will not turn this into a charity race as some of the other marathons are doing,'' said Morse.

Many of the charities view their fund-raising efforts in the Marathon as a marketing vehicle. Some, including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America, use the Marathon as the focus of year-round programs.

''We provide comprehensive training for the athletes, and we ask them to raise funds for fighting leukemia, lymphoma, Hogkin's disease, and myeloma, and to help improve the quality of life for our patients and their families,'' said Kate Giblin, the senior campaign director for the group.

''The Leukemia Team in Training is a lot of people who come to us as first-time athletes, and we take the approach that they are in training for an endurance event like this.''

The society arranges for nutritional and shoe clinics, and they provide each runner assistance with fund-raising.

''We started in Boston eight years ago with five bandits and they raised $13,000,'' Giblin said. ''This year, the BAA has given us 135 numbers, and we expect to raise $400,000.

''We're really grateful to them for the opportunity.''

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