Race for Life entries are down, and it seems Cancer Research is not alone in this predicament. Niki May Young ponders why running events are losing out this year...
I ran around 10k this Sunday, although I wasn't entered into an event. Instead I was helping to organise the annual Heroes Run on Brighton sea front and spent most of the day chasing marshals, lugging signs, moving barriers, racing to the finish line with some cordon tape to add to the ceremony of our first genuine runner to cross the line.
This year we had around 1,000 runners which is not to be sniffed at. But I have to admit, despite the attraction of a themed run, where everyone dresses as their favourite superhero...or as Jesus or the Flintstones as the case may be, attendance dropped by a few hundred from last year to this.
It's worrying. The Heroes Run is our main fundraising event and we are committed to raising funds for three school projects in Africa this year. But selfishly, at least we're not alone.
The highly-publicised and usually highly-popular Race for Life event series launched an emergency appeal for runners this month, following the cancellation of two events and merging of 19 due to low sign-ups. Cancer Research was also forced to cancel its Run 10k series late last year, stating that it had come to a “natural conclusion”.
It all begs the question, why the drop in interest? There's certainly not a shortage of runners - you need only look at Clapham Common on an average evening to see the number of fanatics proudly displaying their chisselled thighs to the less athletic amongst us. But I wonder if sponsored runs are suffering from sponsorship fatigue... after all, there are only so many times you can be asked to sponsor people for the same thing before it becomes less of an impressive challenge and more of a common annoyance.
Increasingly people are forced to 'think big' and be creative about their fundraising activities, with many looking to extreme events to get the sponsorship juices going.
With this in mind, I look to Passing It On, the charity organising the Heroes Run of which I am a trustee, to see where we can improve and build on the prior success of our race, which at its best has seen 1,500 superheroes pile to the seafront.
We have a theme that is easily transferred to other amusing and challenging events. A strong-man competition perhaps, a tug of war, an endurance challenge, a spiderman climb... all of which can be added to the Heroes Run to create a Superhero festival.
Having witnessed the downturn in interest for sponsored runs this year it's time to reflect, adapt and improve to secure the future of our charity. And this is what all charities must do in these particularly challenging times.
Niki May Young is website editor at Civil Society Media.
It struck me that you may want to see some of the frivolity of 1,000 people dressed as superheroes. So click the thumbnails below to see full size...