Last Sunday, I turned my normal weekend long run into a powerful fundraising mission by running a race for a cause — a paws cause. I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon as a member of Team ASPCA, raising much needed dollars to support homeless, abused and injured animals across the United States.

How did I get involved in such an undertaking? It all started last spring when — with heavy hearts — my family said goodbye to our beloved 14-year-old lab, Otis (pictured here). That dog was one of a kind, and his Otis, our blogger's beloved dogpassing left a hole in my heart that still aches to this day. My daughters were devastated at the loss of their best friend and after he was gone, I made a promise to them that I would do something special to honor our sweet boy. That opportunity came a few months later when I stumbled across the website for Team ASPCA while researching races.  

As an avid runner (not fast, mind you, but definitely enthusiastic!), I am always daydreaming about running various races, particularly when there is meaning behind the miles. Last year, I ran four marathons in a year to commemorate my 40th birthday. So a running race seemed like a good fit for my plan to honor Otis. When I found Team ASPCA, I knew I had found my race.

The team was headed to Disney World, which meant that I could bring my girls along and make this race a family affair — unlike most of my marathons where I sneak out at 4 a.m. and return around lunchtime with a medal and sore feet.

So I joined the team, set up a fundraising page, and asked friends and family if they could spare a few bucks. It felt great to be running for a cause and knowing that all of my hard-earned miles were going to help other pets in honor of Otis.  

Jenn's ASPCA race Tshirt honoring Otis the dogTeam ASPCA is just one of the many charities that you can support while running. Last fall, a friend who had been recently diagnosed with lupus asked me if I could help her raise some money for the Lupus Foundation by running for the cause. No one had ever asked me to run for them before, and I was honored to be able to do something so simple to help a friend. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon as a member of the Lupus Foundation for Elizabeth and everyone else who suffers from this beguiling disease.  

The best part about running for charity is that running times and PR (personal record) goals suddenly take a back seat to a greater cause. Running for charity helps you realize that the beauty is in helping others with your miles — not how fast you run them.

Want to get involved in running for charity? Your best bet is to pick a race and then see which charities are sending a team there. Or, if you have a specific charity in mind, you can contact them directly to find out how to set up a fundraising page.  

Whether you're a runner or a walker or just someone who wants to raise money for a good cause, running for charity is a great way to get involved.  

If you could run any race for charity, which one would you choose?  

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Running for a paws cause
MNN's family blogger turns the loss of a beloved family pet into a purpose — raising money for charity.