Keep your runner heart warm with these pay-it-forward ideas that don’t cost a dime.
Time and effort often mean more than dollars ever could. Plus, you get the bonus of a feel-good boost from witnessing the fruits of your labors. Give the gift of confidence to a young girl or boy by becoming a coach or mentor. Animal lovers can contact their local shelter to offer to take dogs for a bit of exercise. Or help people experiencing homelessness make a positive change by attending group runs with Back on My Feet (backonmyfeet.org).
According to the National Sporting Goods Association, 46.25 million running shoes were sold in the U.S. in 2014—how many of them do you think ended up in the trash? Decrease your carbon footprint (wink) and do something positive with your old kicks. Nonprofits like Soles4Souls (soles4souls.org) and One World Running (oneworldrunning.com) match your gently used pair with feet that need them. Check websites for drop-off locations. If your shoes are more worn out, try Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program, which transforms any brand into tracks, playgrounds and basketball courts. Simply bring them to a retail store or mail them to: Nike Grind Processing, 3552 Avenue of Commerce, Memphis, TN 38125. Make your race medal mean more than a sweaty memory by donating it to Medals4Mettle (medals4mettle.org). This charity sends your hardware to patients (mostly children) who are fighting for their lives to send a message of strength and solidarity.
OPEN YOUR HOME
Elite runners are not exactly paid like NFL running backs. The average professional runner makes about $15,000 a year while chasing his or her dreams. This modest income means traveling for a major race can break the bank. If there is a local marathon or track meet near you and you have a spare room, contact the race director to offer a bed for an athlete. You’ll be supporting our sport—and you might make a new friend.
Sometimes the best way to pay it forward is with a high five. Text your running buddy right now and tell him or her how fun it was to work out with them this morning. Set a reminder to send your co-worker a good-luck email the Friday before their big race. Little acts of kindness mean a lot—and help spread the joy of running.
If you want an in-person boost, head to a race near your home. You get extra life points for volunteering—events need everything from water-stop support to bib handouts. But you’ll still be doing something good if you simply cheer. I bet you can think of one time in a race when a spectator helped you through a tough moment—why not be that girl or guy?