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Evolution of ...

Evolution of charity involvement in the Boston Marathon

For great causes, there are a million reasons to run

April 16, 2010

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The tradition of pounding the pavement on Patriots Day for a good cause formally began in 1989 with one organization — the American Liver Foundation — and raised $6,600. Since then the Boston Marathon’s charity program has dozens of beneficiaries who will have received more than $100 million when this year’s figures are tallied.

While almost all of the 26,700 entries in Monday’s race had to qualify, the Boston Athletic Association set aside 1,350 bibs for runners who’ll raise more than $10 million for causes ranging from the Perkins School for the Blind to the Bay State Games Foundation, and sponsor John Hancock is distributing another 800 to 68 Greater Boston nonprofits to raise nearly $4 million more.

“It broadens the sport because a lot of people who support me don’t run,’’ said Dan Sweet, who runs for the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center in Hopkinton. “It gives them a connection.’’

Six of the BAA’s 24 charities are legacies — the Liver Foundation, Children’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Lisnow Center and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The rest — like Boston Partners in Education, the Boston Living Center and the Museum of Science — rotate every three years.

Many of the charity runners participate annually.

“I’m going to do it until I can’t any more,’’ said Tom Campbell, a former Children’s Hospital patient who’ll run for the Miles for Miracles program for the eighth year.

In return for a bib, runners not only have to raise a specified amount of cash for their charities but also have to participate in a training program during the months leading up to the race. Jack Fultz, the 1976 victor, advises Dana-Farber’s 500 entrants.

“A lot of runners who begin running through charity entries decide: I want to run faster, I want to qualify,’’ said BAA executive director Guy Morse. “That’s a great additional benefit.’’

JOHN POWERS

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