No fun running

By now we’re well used to charity volunteers offering to pack your bags at supermarket checkouts in return for donations. But yesterday I saw a perfect example of a scam whereby a mixture of vanity and opportunism can be passed off as “charity”.

The volunteer in this case was – in theory – raising funds for a cancer charity. Except she wasn’t.

On closer investigation, what she was actually trying to raise was the entrance fee to run a marathon in which, ostensibly, she would be a charitable “fun-runner”. As cancer charities rarely do what it says on the tin, and I don’t see why I should subsidise somebody’s hobby, I was never going to take up her kind offer.

Because, in case you haven’t come across it, the way the whole thing works is as follows……

The major marathons are (on paper) run by charitable foundations – which make gazillions that overpay their executives but never reach a good cause. Runners are divided into two groups – fun runners (who pay to enter) and professional athletes (who get appearance fees and prize money from the entrance fees and broadcasting rights).

Now you would think that is simple and fair enough, so at least anyone who pays can enter for fun and raise a few quid for a charity. Except they can’t.

What actually happens is that the organisers (as mentioned, theoretically charitable foundations) auction the entrance spots to major charities. If you were thinking of running the London Marathon dressed up as a banana in return for donations to some club your kid goes to – forget it. The auction is only open to the kind of charity which can shell out £100K to buy up a block of spots.

The charity then sells on the spots to “fun runners”, who, in theory, are running to raise money for that charity. Except they’re not. The money they raise is paid up front to the charity before they ever run, and the sum is so vast that they are unlikely to rise more.

Because where it gets really deceptive is that most of these folk are not “fun runners” – as in the good-natured bods prepared to wear a silly costume while running 26 miles and risk heart failure for a good cause. No, these are the type of competitive, middle class, sporty sad acts we know so well locally.

They are the ones who did well in a tiny island event, dream of winning a UK national championship or even an international event, but probably at best ran once in a UK regional event and came home with a minor medal. Such mirth-free morons would never do anything “for fun”. Ooh no! Their aim is to beat last year’s time, and a relative or workmate, and…..well, that’s it really.

It really pains them that they are (let’s say this good and loud) NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO EVER BE INVITED TO RUN and also TOO TIGHT-ARSED TO PAY THE ENTRANCE FEE. So, they get round this by pretending to be doing it for charity and bumming the money off others.

After the event, they will happily tell you their time and which locals they beat. They may even put round an e-mail, tweet or Facebook to say they raised £462.99. They won’t tell you that the entrance spot actually cost them £500 so they had to shell out the rest.

If any of this meant that money went to a good cause and, let’s say, helped cure cancer this scam might be excusable at some level. But it won’t. It just pays two classes of parasites, and feeds the ego of pathetic narcissists we’d be better laughing at.

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