You have all said it succinctly; I agree with your principles, passion, and reasoning.
A marathon is a 26.2 mile distance; it is not one inch, one foot, or one mile more or less. You either cover the entire distance or you don't. If you don't--then you haven't completed a marathon. There is no wiggle room on this issue.
What came first was the marathon. What came later were the participants who VOLUNTARILY enter the race to try an conquer the distance--all 26.2 miles--it is not a multiple choice option. It is accomplished on your own will, determination, and drive. This basic issue applies to everyone--whether you're a world-class runner, a weekend warrior, or a participant running on behalf of a charitable cause.
The races are staged for personal satisfaction, some to achieve PRs, others to BQ, others to conquer the distance at least once in their lifetime. But never is it meant to give anyone a free ride or special treatment--no matter the passion or charitable cause.
Charitable organizations are blessed to have had millions of dollars raised by marathoners. If fundraiser entrants cannot complete the race or have to have standards compromised, well then it IS time for the charities themselves to stage their own events and pick any distance they choose.
As others have said, any runner should know upfront the rigors of the training involved, and that completing all 26.2 miles are up to the individual--there are no shortcuts, no special circumstances, etc.
Because there are so many runners from these charitable groups, I gently implore them to always include info about race etiquette somewhere in the process. Running 6 abreast, walking en masse, headphones that make them unaware of others, stopping in the middle of the street, etc. make for some challenging moments. Everyone can participate--no matter the skill level--when everyone knows the ins and outs of racing conditions. I believe that any seasoned runner wants to embrace ALL runners and welcome them to the running community--no matter their ability--they just want them to follow the same rules, standards, and etiquette that is to be expected.
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