Attend any large marathon, century ride, or triathlon and you'll see large numbers of participants raising money for charity. The largest of these charity endurance sports organizations is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training (TNT).
TNT made its first appearance at the 1988 New York City Marathon when Bruce Cleland of Rye, NY, and 37 other runners formed a team that combined its training with fundraising. The team ran in honor of Cleland's daughter, Georgia, a leukemia survivor, and raised $322,000 of the LLS's Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter. Runner's World magazine honored Cleland as a "Hero of Running" in 2004 for his role in establishing TNT. Since 1988, the over 265,000 TNT participants have raised more that $595 million dollars for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research and patient services.
The way TNT works, from a participant's standpoint, is fairly simple. The participant signs up for an event, usually paying a registration fee of about $100, and agrees to raise a certain amount of money for the LLS. In exchange TNT provides the participant with a training plan, coaching, some equipment (race singlets, wetsuits, etc.), race registration, and transportation and housing for the race itself. TNT runs three training seasons a year, which run about four months in length. About halfway into a training season, there is a date known as recommitment, at which point the participant make the final decision about participation. Once recommitment passes, the participant is on the hook for the fundraising goal to which s/he agreed.
TNT training plans are week by week plans, divided into three tiers from complete beginner (A) to semi-experienced athlete (C). TNT coaches say that if a participant follows the level A training plan faithfully, s/he will be able to cross the finish line.
TNT participants are drawn from all walks of life. I am currently a member of the Massachusetts Chapter team preparing for the Boston Triathlon. I was drawn to participate in TNT because I've wanted to try my hand at a triathlon for a while but was intimidated by terminology like "brick" and "transition," plus I had some serious qualms about my biking ability. Others on my team have family or friends who are undergoing treatment for blood-related cancers. Some are new to the area and figured joining TNT would be a good way to meet new people.
TNT provides a broad support network for training and fundraising. There are coaches, mentors, team captains, and alumni who participate in group training sessions. The TNT office takes care of tracking your fundraising progress as well as taking care of event registration, transportation, and housing. For fundraising, each participant gets a secure website (through Active.com) for accepting credit card donations, and check donations are processed through a company called Paycor.
Each team also has an "honored hero," a person who is undergoing or who has completed treatment for a blood-related cancer. This helps to put a personal face on the cause for the participants who are lucky enough not to have personal experience with these cancers. Recently one of the honored heros for the Massachusetts Boston Marathon Team relapsed after 38 months of remission and is currently undergoing agressive chemotherapy at Children's Hospital in Boston. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, the entire Massachusetts TNT community can follow her progress via her CarePage. Let me tell you, that little girl is way tougher than anything a coach can throw at me in my triathlon training, which helps keep me motivated to get out there and train and fundraise, even when the weather sucks.
TNT's national sponsors are Runner's World, Finish Line, Nike, P. F. Chang's, Seagate, PowerBar, and American Airlines. The national spokespeople are Marty Liquori and John "the Penguin" Bingham. The TNT website is http://www.teamintraining.org. If you want to sponsor me, see my homenode for info.