Run a marathon for charity

Whether it's your first or fifth marathon, entering a 26.2-mile race on behalf of a charity will elevate your experience and add meaning to the hard miles in training! This guide will help you find a charity place and understand what it means to run a marathon for charity.

TCS London Marathon

Running a marathon is a cornerstone challenge in the running world, with thousands of people taking part in marathon races across the UK each year. Completing a marathon and earning your medal is almost a rite of passage into the endurance running community, making it an experience that sits high on most runners' bucket lists. To help you reach the finish line and make the most of your experience, consider running a marathon for charity.

Marathon running and charity fundraising go hand-in-hand these days. Head to a major event like the TCS London Marathon and you'll be hard-pressed to avoid someone wearing a charity t-shirt or in full fancy dress, dedicating their 26.2 miles to a good cause. In fact, the London Marathon raises millions of pounds for charity each year, with the total fundraising over the past decade reaching nearly £250 million. While these events are clearly a huge benefit to charities, committing to fundraising also gives you as a runner some huge advantages, too.

If you're looking for a new challenge and want to run a marathon, whether you're a beginner runner or seasoned vet, committing to run for charity will elevate your event experience. Here, we outline the reasons why you should run for charity, how it will benefit you as a runner and list some of the best marathons in the UK and abroad with charity places available in 2023. Let's get to it!

Why run for charity?

Committing to raise money for charity changes your marathon experience from a solo venture to a community project, with you supporting a worthy cause and the charity supporting your effort in return. While some people prefer to focus solely on their own performance, joining a charity team can give you access to some superb training advice and resources to help you prepare for your marathon.

Clearly, a charity will benefit from your fundraising - that's kind of the point of them providing places in marathons, after all. It can be useful, though, to know exactly how the money you raise will support that organisation. Many charities rely completely on volunteers, donations and fundraising to provide their services, including major charities like Macmillan Cancer Support, who are 98% funded by voluntary donations.

In practical terms, that means the money you raise will help them to provide services like the Macmillan Support Line, support care workers in looking after cancer patients, research cancer care and campaign for better policies for people affected by cancer. Knowing the tangible effects of your fundraising can help to motivate your training for your marathon!

Run for charity in the London Marathon
TCS LONDON MARATHON
Major events like the London Marathon have a wide range of charity places available.

How do you get a charity place?

While marathons and charities clearly have a very close relationship, many people are unsure how to go about getting a charity place in an event. While getting a place is not guaranteed, finding and applying to a charity is simple.

Charities are awarded places in a marathon by the race organiser, with the size of the event and the size of the charity determining how many places they are given. In a major marathon like the adidas Manchester Marathon, for example, a wide range of local and national charities are awarded places. You can apply to a charity place as soon as the date for the event has been announced and, in events where there is a ballot for general entries, charity places become the only way to join in once the ballot has closed.

The process is getting one is pretty simple! You make an application to the charity, usually committing to paying an entry fee and raising a minimum amount of fundraising. The charity may also ask if you have any particular reason for wanting to support them - many people who raise money for mental health charities, for instance, have experienced poor mental health themselves.

Once the charity accepts your application (there's no absolute guarantee that they will but unless places are severely limited, you should be fine) it will be up to you to start fundraising! The minimum fundraising requirement will depend on the size of the event. At the TCS London Marathon, for example, charities can ask for a minimum of £2,000; at the Edinburgh Marathon, it's more likely to be around £450. In return for those funds, you will gain access to a range of services and benefits to help you complete your marathon.

Benefits of running for charity

Beyond the motivational boost to your training and the feel-good factor of supporting a good cause, you can expect a number of different benefits from committing to raise funds for a charity in your marathon, including:

  • Fundraising support - charities know that raising money can be difficult, which is why they usually provide advice and branded materials to help generate sponsorship, particularly when the minimum requirement is high. Think videos for social media, branded imagery and testimonials from previous runners. 

  • Training support - whether this is your first marathon or your fifth, you'll need to train for it! Charities have access to expert coaches and elite runners, who can provide exclusive tips for your race preparation. Running for Dreams Come True, for example, gets you access to advice from five-time Olympian Jo Pavey!

  • Branded running kit - when you show up on the day, people need to be able to see clearly that you're supporting a charity. Most will give you a branded and personalised t-shirt or vest to run in, as well as the option of buying a training top to prepare in.

  • Support on the day - when you're partway through a marathon and your energy is flagging, what you need is a boost from cheering spectators to keep you moving. Most charities will set-up a cheer station along the route of major marathons, keeping an eye out for you to send up a huge cheer as you run past!

  • Post-race recovery - many charities will provide refreshments and a post-race sports massage for their runners, particularly at larger events. This is the perfect way to recover alongside other people who have run for that cause.

  • Exclusive social media groups - you won't be the only person running for that charity, so it's well worth meeting other runners through the charity's invite-only social media pages! You can organise to meet up for training runs, chat with the charity's expert coaches and share tips and stories with each other to keep the motivation levels running high.

virtual tcs london marathon
VIRTUAL TCS LONDON MARATHON
Plenty of marathons have charity places available, including virtual ones!

Marathons with charity places

You may have a particular marathon in mind or a specific charity that you would like to raise money for, but if you're looking generally for a charity place in a 2023 marathon, this is where to start!

The second-largest marathon on the planet over a flat course in one of the world's most iconic cities, the Paris Marathon boasts an incomparable backdrop. Charity places now available for 2024.
  • Sun 7 Apr
  • FREE-£62.50
  • Entries closed
Paris, France

Schneider Electric Paris Marathon

The second-largest marathon on the planet over a flat course in one of the world's most iconic cities, the Paris Marathon boasts an incomparable backdrop. Charity places now available for 2024.

  • Entries closed
  • 26.2 miles road running
One of the UK's most popular marathons, boasting a new and beautiful seaside course with superb local support, making it a truly sensational running experience. Charity places now available for 2024.
  • Sun 7 Apr
  • FREE-£69.99
  • 10 charities
Brighton, East Sussex, UK

Brighton Marathon

One of the UK's most popular marathons, boasting a new and beautiful seaside course with superb local support, making it a truly sensational running experience. Charity places now available for 2024.

  • 26.2 miles road running
Experience the UK’s friendliest and flattest major marathon with huge crowd support on a route with PB potential plus chunky medals and relay options.
  • Sun 14 Apr
  • FREE-£30
  • Entries closed
Manchester, Greater Manchester, UK

adidas Manchester Marathon

Experience the UK’s friendliest and flattest major marathon with huge crowd support on a route with PB potential plus chunky medals and relay options.

  • Entries closed
  • 26.2 miles road running
Experience the renowned atmosphere of the TCS London Marathon, the most popular marathon in the world, with its grand finale on The Mall itself!
  • Sun 21 Apr
  • £100
  • Entries closed
London, UK

TCS London Marathon

Experience the renowned atmosphere of the TCS London Marathon, the most popular marathon in the world, with its grand finale on The Mall itself!

  • Entries closed
  • 26.2 miles road running
  • Sun 21 Apr
  • FREE-£1
Anywhere

Virtual TCS London Marathon

Be part of the world’s biggest marathon and earn the coveted finisher’s medal and New Balance T-shirt by taking on the Virtual TCS London Marathon your way. Charity places now available for 2024.

  • 26.2 miles road running
Fast, flat and beautifully scenic with Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop, this marathon route takes you along the coastline and sells out every year so go for it and enter!
  • Sun 26 May
  • £68
  • Entries closed
Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Edinburgh Marathon

Fast, flat and beautifully scenic with Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop, this marathon route takes you along the coastline and sells out every year so go for it and enter!

  • Entries closed
  • 26.2 miles road running
A world record-breaking road race around a historic city on a route featuring the Brandenburg Gate and iconic sights. Celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2024, this is going to be a race to remember!
  • Sun 29 Sep
  • €205
  • Entries closed
Berlin, Germany

BMW Berlin Marathon

A world record-breaking road race around a historic city on a route featuring the Brandenburg Gate and iconic sights. Celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2024, this is going to be a race to remember!

  • Entries closed
  • 26.2 miles road running
Starting and finishing in the historic Olympic Stadium, this is the fourth fastest marathon in the world and known for its flat, fast, historic course. Charity places now available for 2024.
  • Sun 20 Oct
  • FREE-£95
  • 7 charities
Amsterdam, Netherlands

TCS Amsterdam Marathon

Starting and finishing in the historic Olympic Stadium, this is the fourth fastest marathon in the world and known for its flat, fast, historic course. Charity places now available for 2024.

  • 26.2 miles road running
Thousands of runners (and walkers) of all abilities will tackle the flat, traffic-free course past the city's historic sites to a cracking Yorkshire atmosphere! Relay team challenge available too.
  • Sun 20 Oct
  • £65-£67
  • 2 charities
York, North Yorkshire, UK

Yorkshire Marathon

Thousands of runners (and walkers) of all abilities will tackle the flat, traffic-free course past the city's historic sites to a cracking Yorkshire atmosphere! Relay team challenge available too.

  • 26.2 miles road running
Europe's 5th largest marathon follows a city centre lap perfect for marathon running. Much-loved and always oversubscribed, it's super-friendly and unmissable.
  • Sun 27 Oct
  • €110
Dublin, Ireland

Irish Life Dublin Marathon

Europe's 5th largest marathon follows a city centre lap perfect for marathon running. Much-loved and always oversubscribed, it's super-friendly and unmissable.

  • 26.2 miles road running