Istanbul Marathon has extra perspective with charity runs
Esra Karaosmanoğlu ISTANBUL
The 35th edition of the Istanbul Marathon will be held this weekend. This year, the organizers decided to change the race name from Eurasia Marathon, a title which was emphasizing the event’s intercontinental character.Magali Adam, mother of Martin, a 14-year-old boy affected by muscular dystrophy who can no longer walk or move his arms, said that when her son saw people crossing the Bosphorus Bridge in wheelchairs, surrounded by their running friends, he deeply wanted to be part of it.
There began a correspondence between France and Turkey, in which Magali tried to find out how she could attend the Istanbul Marathon and run the full 42 kilometers with her son Martin in a wheelchair.
She found out that a small group of Turkish amateur runners, united under the name “Adım Adım” (Step by Step), regularly participate in races with people in wheelchairs. Overcoming many logistical difficulties, Magali Adam, Martin and runners from Adım Adım finally ran the race and finished the Istanbul Marathon in 2012, realizing one of Martin’s dreams. Funds raised by the Adım Adım team in the race were given to the Turkey Spinal Cord Paralytics Association.
Compared to other countries, charity runs are quite new in Turkey. It all started in 2008 with a couple of volunteers gathered under the name “Adım Adım.” This non-profit initiative has since raised a considerable amount of funds, mainly for education and ecology projects, and for the purchase of wheelchairs.
Following the example of Adım Adım, Istanbul Municipality has put in place a charity registration category at the Istanbul Marathon for the first time this year. For those who missed the registration deadline, the municipality allows late registrations provided that a fixed donation fee of 30 liras is paid to “Damlaya Damlaya” (Drop By Drop), an umbrella initiative for several nongovernmental organizations whereby runners can pick the charity organization to which they will donate their marathon registration fee.
The participation of corporate teams in the Istanbul Marathon is also a recent practice. While companies abroad strongly encourage their staff to participate in corporate social responsibility projects like charity runs, few Turkish companies are present on the marathon scene. However, companies here are now realizing that corporate teams are a demonstration of the company’s commitment to the community. It not only shows customers that the company is sensitive to community issues, but also enhances its corporate image. In the near future, organizers of the Istanbul Marathon are likely to encourage the participation of companies through corporate teams and allow them to set up their own fundraising campaigns.
On Nov. 17, Istanbul will host the 35th marathon, a unique run spanning two continents. Thousands will cross the Bosphorus Bridge, some of them running in the name of a charity. Runners now not only meet where the continents meet, but also within a new running model in which donations reach those in need.
Although interest in the Istanbul Marathon is increasing every year, registered participants still number only around 15,000, far from levels seen in the New York, Tokyo or Berlin marathons, which have anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 runners. To reach the level of these mega-races, more incentives and encouragement are needed from the organizers of the Istanbul Marathon.
Nonetheless, while they may not see a huge, supportive and noisy crowd all the way along the course, participants will trace an exceptional journey through the historical sites of Istanbul, which will surely be its own reward.