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The back of a person running a marathon in a group

Running your first marathon for charity

Learn how it’ll feel to cross that line at 26.2 miles.

Are you considering taking on one of the ultimate challenges and running a marathon to raise money for a charity close to your heart? Discover everything you need to know about running your first marathon, including how different it is running for a charity compared to doing it solo. Read first-hand accounts of how it feels to cross that line and tips for preparing for your first race.

Why do people run marathons for charity?

A marathon is one of the toughest fitness challenges in the world, and something that many people do to push themselves and their bodies. Coming in at a whopping 26.2 miles in total, the marathon originated in Greece, where legend has it that Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to declare that the war against the Persians was won. Since then, it has been a part of major sporting competitions and has become one of the ultimate tests of human fitness.

Being able to say you’ve run a marathon is also a pretty exclusive thing, as it’s predicted that only 0.01% of the global population finish a marathon each year – that’s about 1.1 million runners! So, by achieving this feat of human fitness, you’ll be able to join an exclusive group. And once you’ve crossed that finish line and have completed those 26.2 long miles, no one will ever be able to take that away from you.

Finally, it’s a brilliant way to raise money for charity. If you want to support a Christian charity like World Vision and sponsor children outside of the UK, because of the sheer nature of a marathon and the challenge it presents, it’s a wonderful charity fundraising idea.

A person tying their running shoes outdoors

How is marathon running for a charity different to doing it solo?

When you choose to run a marathon for charity rather than doing it solo, the experience is completely different. There are a whole range of advantages to running a marathon for charity that you may not even realise. They include:

  • extra motivation for your training
  • a network of fellow fundraisers
  • increased support from a wider network.

Marathon training isn’t easy - in fact, many people say that the training is harder than the actual race as that’s where you’ll need to be stronger mentally. By knowing you’re training to help a good cause, you’ll have extra motivation to show up. And, on race day, you’ll be powered by knowing every step you take is closer to that fundraising goal.

There’s a whole range of people who run marathons for charity, and you’ll often be able to create a supportive network of those who are in the same boat as you. This can be through the charity you’re fundraising for, who can connect you with others supporting that same charity (hopefully World Vision UK!), or a wider community of those running their first marathon.

Finally, you’ll often be able to access an extra level of support. Not only will you have a network of fellow runners around you, but the charity you are running for may be able to support you in other ways such as branded sports vests.

How it feels to run your first marathon for charity

It’s hard to fully encapsulate how it feels to cross that finish line on your first marathon. For many people, emotions start to overwhelm and it’s not uncommon to see happy (and tired) tears in finishers’ eyes as they realised their achievement.

In 2021, Andrew Morley, the President and CEO of World Vision International completed his very first marathon in London. With an impressive time of four hours, 32 minutes and 40 seconds, he raised more than £20,000 for our Afghanistan Appeal.

He highlighted that feeling of pride in the money he raised once he’d finished the race: “The reason why I’m happy is not because of the personal satisfaction, it’s because we’ve made so much difference to so many children in Afghanistan who need us now more than ever.”

A person running a marathon

What advice do people have for those running their first marathon

Although it’s an incredibly rewarding experience, running your first marathon will likely not be an easy one and even those who are very fitness-focused might struggle with the demand of training and large mileage. To help, we’ve reached out to some experts to find out their top pieces of advice for those running their very first marathon:

  • don’t worry about your finish time
  • trust your training
  • make sure your name is displayed
  • concentrate on small things.

Don’t worry about your finish time

It may feel as though you can’t run a marathon because you aren’t a fast runner, but it’s not about the time it takes to complete the race that matters, it’s completing it in the first place that’s impressive.

Adem, a recent running convert who now shares his knowledge and experiences on his site, Run For Your Life, explained: “Don’t worry about your finish time. Crossing the finishing line is your ultimate aim, and by focusing on that rather than a finish time you are lowering the pressure on yourself and appreciating that completing a marathon is an amazing achievement that many people will never do.

This is also something that Somayeh recommended after running the TCS London Marathon for World Vision in 2021. “Understand your fitness level and don’t be put off when you see others finishing the marathon in two or three hours. Running is for everyone at any age.

Trust your training

It’s a common thought in distance running that the hard work has already been done when you line up at the start line of your event. The training hours and runs you’ve put in before have primed not only your body but your mind, and the race is just a way to show off all of the hard work you’ve put in.

So, trusting your training is essential. Amanda Mae Renkel is a keen runner and started her long-distance running journey in order to fundraise for a local children’s charity. Now she writes about her running on her site Mae’s Miles and Music, where she has also shared her first-time marathon tips. She says: “My top piece of advice for a first-time marathon runner is to trust in your training on race day. Everyone gets nervous before a race, including those of us who have run several. Rather than buying into your nerves and race day doubts, know that you put in the work you needed to be at the start line and to arrive at the finish line.

“Race day is a celebration of your efforts, and the day should be thoroughly enjoyed.”

Make sure your name is displayed

Crowd support will go a long way on the day to powering your effort, and it’s not something you’ll really experience until you start taking part in organised races. To harness this crowd support in an even more meaningful way, have your name printed onto your top or display it largely on you somewhere so the crowd can cheer for you – trust us, they will!

This is another suggestion from Adem, at Run For Your Life, who says: “Getting your name printed on your running top can provide a real boost as the crowd WILL cheer your name as you run past, not only giving you a mental power-up but also providing some great memories of the race and a reminder of why you’re running.

Concentrate on small things

Running 26.2 miles is not something that can be done quickly and being able to keep your mind occupied on things other than running whilst completing it can be a great way to make the time go quicker.

Adem offered his personal suggestions for tricks he has used: “Running a marathon can be mentally tough, but the funny thing is that our brains can only concentrate on one thing at a time, so find a distraction to shift your focus away from negative thoughts. Try counting to 100, and repeat when the running gets hard, or perhaps even start planning your Christmas dinner and work out the exact timings.”

How to run a marathon for World Vision

If you’d like to run a marathon to support our work, then we’d love to help you in any way that we can. If you’ve got a place in any upcoming marathon (or running event for that matter), you can raise money for World Vision along the way.

Download our fundraising pack which is filled with fundraising ideas and help and advice for your fundraising efforts. Then, get in touch with our fundraising team by email at or call Sandra Mgbada on 01908 24 44 17 to talk about the challenge you’re undertaking.

Learn more