Shape staffers teamed up to participate in SpinOdyssey 2010! The event helped raise funds for breast cancer research.
More and more, charitable organizations are partnering up with road races--including major events like the Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon--motivating thousands of people to join a running training program  and raise money for worthwhile causes. So even if you've never run a marathon before (or even thought about it), count yourself in. Here's how to get started.
Pick a Charity
Training for a race--much less one that's 26.2 miles--is a big commitment. But lacing up your sneakers for those early-morning runs is a lot easier if you're doing it for a cause that has meaning to you. There are tons of local, national and international charities to choose from, including:
- Team in Training (TeamInTraining.org ) More than 390,000 people have competed in marathons, half-marathons, triathlons and other endurance events to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Each Team in Training participant competes in honor of someone fighting blood cancer.
- Team LIVESTRONG (LiveStrong.org ) Follow in the footsteps of Lance Armstrong and compete with Team LIVESTRONG in one of 12 major endurance events in 2010 to raise money for cancer and increase awareness of the disease.
- Joints in Motion (Arthritis.org ) Walk or run to help the Arthritis Foundation, which aims to help victims of the number-one cause of disability in the U.S. Participants train in groups, but if you live too far away, there's a "Virtual Joints in Motion" option with an online coach.
- Run for Autism (ResearchAutism.org ) People running for the Organization for Autism Research help the non-profit reach it's goal of raising $1 million each year--money that goes toward autism research and education.
- The Reeve Foundation (ChristopherReeve.org ) Named after the late Christopher and Dana Reeve, this charity's team races to help victims of paralysis. Their son, Matthew Reeve, ran the New York City Marathon this year--one of five major races the foundation’s involved with going into 2010.
- Team Hole in the Wall (TeamHoleInTheWall.org ) Compete in running, biking or triathlon events to raise money for camps for kids with life-threatening diseases. Races are in the U.S. and Europe, so you can get some traveling in while you're at it.
- Team Hope for the Warriors (HopeForTheWarriors.org ) Support wounded war veterans, their families and the families of fallen heroes by competing in marathons, triathlons and biking competitions.
Next Page: How to Get Started 
[header = Join a running training program and raise money for worthwhile causes.] Make a Training Plan
Once you sign up, many organizations will provide you with a running training program , a schedule of group runs and even a coach. Once you've contacted your coach, get fit for running shoes at a specialty store. Then create a training calendar so your workouts are mapped out beforehand. Remember: It's important to work your way up an endurance event, so get moving...but start slowly, so you don't wind up injured.
Major foundations, including Team in Training and LIVESTRONG, will provide you with everything from an online fundraising page to sample letters that you can send out to friends, family, coworkers and more. Team in Training recommends personalizing your webpage with photos and your race story--why you joined the team, who you're racing for and what the cause means to you. Include the link in all of your e-mail signatures as a subtle way of letting people know what you’re up to. You can also post training updates on Facebook and Twitter along with the link. Many groups also have staff resources available to help you brainstorm fundraising strategies.
Stay on Track
Post your running training program  on the fridge and at your office so you're always reminded of your next run. Not a morning person? Place your running clothes and sneakers next to your bed before going to sleep at night so they're staring you in the face (literally) when you wake up. Another tip: Partner with a running buddy to keep you motivated, and attend team training runs to get to know the group you’ll be racing with.
Share Your Story
When the race is over, don't be afraid to do a little bragging! Telling others about your amazing experience might inspire them to do the same, so update your web page with race photos and thank everyone who donated.