Running to Give Back

Looking for a way to marry your love of running with your desire to help others and give back to your community?

Get inspired by National Volunteer Week this April and try one of these 7 ideas:

Running to Give Back

Go Plogging

The Swedish craze of picking up litter as you jog has made its way across the pond and is picking up steam in North America. Derived from the Swedish phrase “plocka upp”, which means “pick up,” and the word jogging, plogging is fairly simple (and fun!). Take a trash bag and gloves on your next run, and pick up litter you see along your running path or trail. Make a day of it with friends and help beautify your community!

Lead a Youth Running Group

Share your affinity for running with young people by mentoring, coaching, or advising a group of young runners. National organizations like Girls on the Run, Kids Run the Nation, and Healthy Kids Running are always looking for experienced and willing volunteers to help lead local chapters and mentor young runners. Share your race experiences, encourage kids to be active, and lay a foundation for a lifelong love of running.

Download the Charity Miles App

Install the free Charity Miles app on your smartphone and take it with you when you go running. For every mile it logs you traversing, money from a pool of corporate sponsors will be donated to a charity of your choosing. Using your phone’s GPS, motion sensor, and accelerometer, the app can follow your activity and distance and measure the number of miles you cover. Each mile adds up to real dollars for a cause or nonprofit near to your heart.

Run for A Good Cause

Running a charity race is a great way to funnel your incredible energy and passion for competitive running into a way to raise money for a cause you care about. There are tons of charity races every year, from the Wounded Warrior Carry Forward 5K to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the Run for Water race in Austin, TX. Find a charity race or other athletic event near you at and spread the word to help raise even more money from your friends and family.


Have you ever spent time on the other side of the marathon registration table? Volunteering at a large race can give you a behind-the-scenes view that helps you appreciate all the work that goes into putting on a large race. From registration to course marshaling to cheering, handing out food and water, providing first aid like ice packs and bandages, and more, the vast amount of volunteers needed to successfully pull off a race is truly magnificent. Sign up to pitch in at an upcoming race and you might even be able to score free running swag or discounts on registration fees for future races.

Donate Your Shoes and Gear

Experts may recommend you switch out your running shoes every 500 miles or so but they are not so great about telling you what you should do with them once they are used up. Luckily, it’s become easier than ever to donate or recycle used running shoes. If they are in relatively good shape still (not just good for your running), simply donate them to a re-store like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Groups like Soles 4 Souls also make it easy to donate your gently-used shoes to children and adults around the world. You can also “recycle” any brand of shoes by dropping them off at a participating Nike or Asics store.

Guide Runners With Disabilities

You know that training and running a marathon is one of the most incredible feats you can complete in your life. Now imagine achieving that goal all while managing a disability. As a runner, you can sign up to help guide these incredible athletes who need assistance during a race. For example, United in Stride is a program that connects runners who have a visual impairment with sighted guides who can help them safely complete a race. Or you can become a “Wingman” by volunteering with Athletes Serving Athletes.

-By James Flemming

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