When Nama Namasivayam crossed the City2Surf finish line yesterday for the twenty-fifth year in a row, he was among a growing troupe of runners who used the race to mobilise funds for charity.
This year, more than $4.1 million was raised by almost 20,000 individual fundraisers – and 620 teams – in the popular 14 km fun run, according to the City2Surf website, adding to the $32m mustered by runners since 2008.
Event organisers say the number of participants opting to raise funds for causes has steadily grown each year, sparked in part by how easy it is to raise funds with the emergence of digital fundraising platforms.
Since partnering with Everydayhero in 2008 to create an online platform which enables City2Surf participants to set up individual fundraising pages, the amount raised has grown from around $1m in 2008 to consistently more than $4m per year, according to a Fairfax Events spokesperson.
Mr Namasivayam said this definitely contributed to his decision to mark his milestone race by raising money for a cause close to his heart – the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters.
“One of my friends recently slipped and fell on a cliff and was injured badly. He had no access to any vehicles. He was picked up by the Rescue Helicopters. He’s not 100 percent, but he’s alive,” he said.
The use of organised running events as a hook to raise charity funds may also be contributing to their phenomenal rise in popularity in Australia, according to Chris Hope, the creator of Australian Running Calendar.
He said last year more than 1900 running events were held across Australia, up from around 1500 two years earlier.
Indeed, yesterday’s City2Surf in Sydney competed with 15 other fun runs around the country, including The Bloody Long Walk in Brisbane, the Women's Run in the Park in Adelaide, the four day Run Larapinta race in the Northern Territory, and the City to Surf in WA’s Busselton.
Mr Namasivayam, who works in technology at Westpac, said after setting an initial goal of $800, he’s collected donations of almost $1800.
“The amount of support I'm getting is amazing – more than I expected. People are supporting my 25-year milestone by donating to my cause, which is a very good feeling,” he said.
“I visited the chopper pilots and after talking to them I realised how much they need. They said even $200 would go a long way. They were highly appreciative of the fundraising. It makes it worthwhile. If it wasn't for the race, I wouldn’t be raising funds.”
In addition to fundraising, Mr Hope said social media was helping to grow the market for running events, especially those with a difference, such as the Colour Run and Obstacle Course Race phenomena.
“As more people share their fun running experiences, others are encouraged to have a go.”
This growing popularity can only be a good thing, according to Mr Namasivayam, who encouraged others to participate in fun runs like the City2Surf.
“I see so many happy people on the day, having so much fun. Everyone helps each other. You don't see that every day.”
Westpac is the presenting partner of The Sun Herald City 2 Surf and Westpac Foundation is the event charity partner.