Running brings people together, there is no question about this. Being part of a local running community helps novice runners overcome barriers and experienced runners to push further than they had before. This is demonstrated well in my running group based in Wellington, New Zealand. The story which I am about to tell you is about how a simple concept caught on globally and is now a yearly running event, which although still low key, captures the very essence of how running brings people together, no matter who you are or where you come from.
Back in 2011, Ash Walker was deployed on a UN mission to South Sudan. Ash is one of the key members of Wellington Running Meetup (WoRM), and along with Ewa Crazychick (chief WoRM Chop-Chopper) they came up with a simple idea to enable Ash to still feel like he was running with his Wellington running mates. So the WoRM Companion Run/Walk 5km was born. Back then the idea was that all Ash’s WoRM friends in Wellington would run 5 km on the exact same time as he did in Sudan and share a photo with him. Ash was posting photos of himself running in the town of Juba, South Sudan, with children from neighboring villages who accompanied him on a regular basis curious to know why this man was running around their neighborhood.
Then it struck Ash, “Hmm would it not be cool if anyone, anywhere could run at the same time and share their run!”
The rest – as they say – is history, as Ash and his WoRM friends extended the invitation to the global running community and the Worldwide Companion Run/Walk 5 km was born.
According to Ash, back in 2011 there were about 50 runners who were all from New Zealand, and in 2012 they went worldwide and attracted about 130 runners from places such as Poland, Australia and Finland. The Worldwide Companion Run/Walk 5 km expanded its borders significantly in 2013, 2014 and 2015 to over 1,000 runners taking part running or walking at the same time from all over the world.
“There have been people from the start, and people who have completed 2, 3 and 4 years in a row. The time was 4pm GMT on 27 November for the first 3 years, then it was shifted an hour to 5pm GMT for the 4th year. This year we virtually reversed the time, allowing those in the Southern hemisphere to do an afternoon run instead of a dawn one. So this year it was at 6am GMT. Sadly, no matter what time we make it, some people get a sucky time to run. No one wants to get up at 2am to run 5km. But I am firm on the idea that is should be at exactly the same time no matter where on the globe you are.”
The list of countries and locations has included, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Antarctica, Alaska, Ghana, Egypt, Hungary, Finland, Poland, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Spain, East Timor, Belgium, Holland, USA and of course New Zealand and Australia.
One awesome fact about the amount of runners from a single town is that Cromwell – a small town of about 4500 people has had the most number of people participating each year and growing each year.
Some Photos from this year’s event