Join a relay like Relay for Life to raise funds for charity while getting fit.

Charity Relays: Fitness and Fun for a Good Cause

Have you heard about friends participating in a charity relay and wondered what’s involved in such an event? Here’s a guide to these fun fitness challenges, many of which are also important fundraisers.

What Is a Relay?

Like the relays you probably participated in when you were in elementary or high school, a relay is a team sport in which team members take turns running sections of a course. Often they are held as team fundraising events with team members raising money ahead of time, then taking turns walking or running around a track or designated path. Many relays take place over long periods, such as a 24-hour day or even over several days. While your childhood relays may have involved a hand-off, such as passing a ball, modern sports relays simply involve stepping in for shifts.

Where are Relays Held?

Some relays are held at tracks, and participants simply run a number of laps. Others follow  carefully mapped routes that may include stops for eating, showering, and sleeping.

What are Some Well-Known Charity Relays?

Many relays are held to raise funds for a cause. The best known charity relay event is the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, held in more than 5000 towns and cities all over America and in 20 other countries. Events are held on different weekends throughout the year, so it’s easy to find a Relay for Life that fits your schedule. Most Relay for Life events are 24 hours long, though they can be shorter, and they are usually held in parks or at tracks or football fields. Teams work together to set fundraising goals and often set up themed campsites at the event where they continue to solicit donations. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Relay for Life of North San Mateo County will take place April 29-30th at San Bruno City Park.

Another prominent charity relay is the American Odyssey Relay held in Washington DC area, also in April. It benefits several local charities serving veterans and cancer patients and their families.

Charity relay events are big in other countries as well. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago the young royals Princes Harry and William and his wife Kate Middleton all raced together in the Mad Dash, a relay to benefit the mental health charity Heads Together.

How Do I Find a Relay Team?

Once you decide to participate in a relay, you can either join an existing team or create your own. If you don’t know people who are already participating, ask a group of friends if they’d like to do it with you, then start spreading the word. The American Cancer Society offers a useful guide for team captains with all sorts of tips for fun and effective fundraising. Note that there’s no need to be an athlete to participate in a relay; all are welcome and you will see all ages. In fact, relays can be fun family events!

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.