A Short History of the American Charity Run/Walk
1969: Church World Service organizes the CROP Hunger Walk in Bismarck, North Dakota, considered one of the first walks for charity in the US.
1970: The March for Babies (called WalkAmerica initially) by March of Dimes is the first nationwide walking fundraiser, raising $75,000
1972: The United States sends running stars Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter to the Munich Olympics. Their popularity contributed to the Running Boom of the 1970s when millions of Americans began jogging and participating in road races.
1988: The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society launches their Team in Training program, which sends runners to essential runs in exchange for meeting a fundraising goal. They are the first organization to offer fundraisers transport to a destination race in exchange for their contributions. They also provide fitness training for their runners. Myrtle Street Public School raises $127 in its first walk-a-thon.
2012: According to the Running USA State of the Sports Report, America hits an all-time high of 26,370 running events in 2012. That’s 72 events PER DAY. Not all of these events fundraiser for charity, but the prevalence of these events certainly creates a competitive market for runners and fundraisers. Running USA estimates that road races brought in $1.2 billion in fundraising for nonprofits in 2012.
2017: For the third straight year, the number of road race finishers declined in the United States, as 16,957,100 runners crossed a finish line in 2016, a one percent decrease from the 17,114,800 finishers in 2015.