KIWL Go-Go run Organizor, Roger Berman writes...
On Saturday 9th November 2019, 30 runners - the largest number ever - and volunteers got together for the 3rd Annual Knights In White Lycra Charity 'Go-Go' Run to support NPO YouMeWe . YouMeWe’s mission is to help children growing up in institutionalized homes obtain essential independent life skills for when they eventually need to leave as young adults.
For the 2019 running event, 7 runners ran the 55km course, 16 the 22km and 7 the 10km. Altogether the 30 runners clocked up a cumulative 807km! Their entry fees, along with corporate sponsorships generated funds of US$6,589.16 - about ¥720,000. The funds were used to give four Macbooks to Saitama Ikujiin, the facility for kids-in-care where the run always officially finishes. In the three years KIWL have put on the Go-Go Run, we have raised a grand total of about ¥2,150,000.
KIWL is hugely grateful to its 2019 running vest sponsors. Intralink as our main sponsor, Eco Marathon, Focus Core Group, and ZenWorks In-kind sponsor, Strava Japan was generous in donating running and cycling merchandise for the pre-run party at the FooTNIK Ebisu pub a few days earlier.
The “Go-Go” (coined by KIWL organizor Roger Berman) was first conceived in early 2017 since Roger was always frustrated at being unable to join the KIWL annual bike ride due to business trip conflicts. As a runner, he thought it would be great to Get Fit & Give Back with a running event, a sport not yet covered by KIWL. So, he contacted co-founder, Rob Williams to suggest a run in the hope that he or someone else would organize it. But in a Starbucks in Shimbashi, Rob soon told me “your idea, your baby!”.
With the inability to organize even a piss up in a brewery, he first thought about putting together a self-supported run going up to a kids’ care home in Tohoku. It would be a long-distance ekiden relay, covering 30km to 40km sections daily, following the route of KIWL premier charity event, its 500km/4 day ride.
However, that idea soon got overtaken by a more feasible suggestion. In 2017, KIWL was supporting NPO Mirai-no-Mori a charity that runs outdoor and back-to-nature programs for kids in care. They worked with Saitama Ikujiin, a kids’ care home in Kawagoe, Saitama. After brainstorming with others, we thought it would be awesome for the home to be the official finish, have the kids there greet the runners and then do a post-run fun event together.
This interaction of meeting the kids we support has become a prime motivation for the KIWL Go-Go Run. Also working with same home every year has helped us develop a continuing bond with the kids - the run is something they can look forward to every year.
Since the home was near the Iruma River in Saitama, we planned out a 55km route that began on the Arakawa River in Tokyo. Also, since the home was near an onsen spa facility, we thought a post-run dip there would be a great end to the day. Thus, the run template was born.
A 55km distance was chosen for a rather selfish reason. Having turned 55 that year, Roger thought it would be a great way to celebrate by completing his first ever 55km ultra-distance run (anything over a 42km full marathon distance is called an ultra). Admittedly non-runners might scratch their heads why anyone would celebrate with a run of that distance! Also 55 can be pronounced “go go” in Japanese and the term worked well as a marketing slogan “Let’s go with the go-go”.
2017 and 2018 KIWL Go-Go Runs
The first Go-Go was held on Saturday 9 December 2017. It was a typical chilly winter day but we had blue sunny skies. To attract more runners, we offered a 21km half-marathon distance option in addition to the 55km. 14 runners ran the 55km and 11 the half; all the 25 runners along with our sponsors raised approximately ¥820,000.
We were thankful for the help from Manfred Froebe and the International Volunteer Group (IVG), who organize the annual Yamathon, in providing the essential volunteer support. Our running vest main sponsor was executive recruitment firm, Pathways with additional sponsors, Four Fox Sake and Sunshine Juice. In-kind sponsorship was provided by Keen Shoes Japan and Hobgoblin Pubs Japan.
The second Go-Go, held on Saturday 10 November 2018, had a smaller turnout of 15 runners with 7 running the 55km and 8 the half, raising a total of ¥610,000. NPO Mirai-no-Mori was our charity once again with Manfred coordinating a volunteer group from Mirai-no-Mori and staff & students from the Tokyo International University (TIU). It was great and a stroke-of-luck that TIU’s campus was walking distance to the kids’ home. Our running bandanna sponsors were RGF Professional Recruitment, music band, 1Eyed Man, and brand licensing consultancy, ZenWorks. Hobgoblin Pubs Japan once again provided in-kind donations for hydration (of the non-alcoholic kind!).
KIWL Go-Go 2019
With two years experience already under our belts, for this year’s run we added a new 10km distance option to attract even more runners. A further exciting development was teaming up with Dr. David Sweet’s 7 Days 7 Marathons initiative whose fundraising also supported YouMeWe. We were proud to have David do Day 1 of his run with us.
Manfred and Roger did some course reconnaissance in late summer and after a typhoon, did a further recon a week before the run to check the Arakawa River. A few weeks had passed since the typhoon and while many of the sporting facilities on the rivers were still a mess, luckily the main paths were runnable.
We had a strong volunteer setup this year coordinated by Manfred. It was made up of a large team of students from TIU, ably led by Kelly Nelson and Laura Dzieciolowski, as well as helpers from YouMeWe and KIWL. We also welcomed the expertise of Juergen Wittstock, the organizer of Eco Marathon, who turned up on the day with his minivan full of race venue stuff such as podiums and a computerized timing system. Looking at all of Juergen’s equipment, Roger knew the Go-Go had gone “pro”! We also had mobile support from three cyclists - Hide Yatabe of YouMeWe (who acted as de-facto photographer), Jos Paques and Francesco Frova, both representing KIWL.
So Saturday 9 November came around and the forecast was looking like perfect running weather. We’ve always been lucky weather-wise though do remain cognizant that the Arakawa River can be unpleasant with wind and rain as it is unsheltered. We continue to respect nature!
The Go-Go course itself is simple, Starting on the Arakawa River on Tokyo’s northern outskirts, it heads upriver and merges onto the Iruma River where it reaches the interim finish area at Aina Water Park in Kawagoe, Saitama. On a clear day it is possible to see Mt. Fuji from the upper banks of the Arakawa. With the exception of a switch of riverbanks for the last 5km of the course, runners shouldn’t get lost if they remember the ditty, “River on your right and you’ll be alright”.
The 55km runners started at Kanegufuchi Station on the Tobu Skytree Line at around 7 a.m., hitting the river soon after. Volunteer shortages meant we were unable to provide a send-off to these brave souls but in retrospect, not having anyone there meant flexible starting times for the runners. Our only request was that these hardened ultra runners arrive at the interim finish area between 2 to 3 p.m.
We gave the 22km runners an organized send off with a not-too-early 11 a.m. start from Minami Furuya Station on the JR Kawagoe Line. The enthusiastic volunteers from TIU staffed the registration desk, took the runners bags (for delivery at the interim finish) and guided runners to the river 3km away where checkpoint 1 was located.
The 10km runners had a 5km out-and-back course from the interim finish at Aina Water Park. With a leisurely 12 noon start, this was the most relaxed of the three routes. With checkpoint 2 managed by Manfred and a friend, being 5km out from the finish, it served as the U-turn for these runners and as the marker for the 55km and 22km runners to indicate that they were now on the home stretch.
Other than a couple of hiccups (including conducting a search-and-rescue for one lost runner - that’s another story!), all 30 runners arrived at the interim finish well before 3 p.m. Everyone was tired but in good shape. Volunteers from TIU provided enthusiastic welcomes, hot soups, rice balls and snacks. While the Go-Go is not a race of any sort, a nice touch was the podium ceremony put on for the first-to-finish runners by Juergen.
As for Roger, he ran the 22km coming in last but being back-of-the-pack has its merits, including getting the most cheers!!
Welcome By The Kids
The coolest thing was the welcome from the kids from Saitama Ikujiin who came to the interim finish with bundles of energy to recharge the batteries of the runners and volunteers. The kids were so excited to re-connect with runners and volunteers from previous years who they recognized, and to make new friends with first-time Go-Go participants.
The kids, their carers and everyone walked back to the home together, to be greeting by an official finish line tape and an enormous beautifully handmade banner with personal messages from the kids written on it. At the home, runners were presented with personalized cards by the kids and Finisher Certificates by Michael Perry Clemons, the founder of YouMeWe. Very heart-warming were the speeches by the kids including one in English.
The day finished off with a shuttle bus trip to Kachofugetsu Onsen Spa for a rejuvenating bath and a celebratory dinner party. Free transport to JR Kawagoe station was laid on afterwards and everyone was back in Tokyo by 10 p.m.
KIWL Go-Go 2020
If you’ve read this far, thank you! The good news is that the Go-Go will be on again in 2020. We’ve got a great set up now, having built expertise and improved the event over the past three years. Our organizational and volunteer teams are in place, as is the route and the relationship with Saitama Ikujiin.
The run is gaining awareness amongst the Tokyo running community. While the date (not yet set) always conflicts with at least one major marathon, it still appeals. The 55km run is good for a strong runner who has multiple full marathon experience and now wants to step up a notch. The 22km is a popular distance for experienced runners or those tapering towards a full marathon and the 10km is a distance that can be run or walked. So, we offer something for all levels of fitness. Most importantly, we connect with the kids we care about.
We hope this rather long post has encouraged you to think about joining us on the KIWL Go-Go 2020. Dates will be announced later in the year. In the meantime, learn more about KIWL at its website. And, if you want to stay informed, send your email address to email@example.com to be added to the mailing list. Drop Roger a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for any direct feedback or comments you’d like to give.
Encore! Blogs from other runners
Thirsty for more reading? We have had some very encouraging recaps from other runners. Read on.
Article written by Roger Berman on behalf of the KIWL Go-Go Charity Run
The 42 Knights and Knightesses of the 2019 peloton successfully and safely crossed the finishing line after nearly 500kms of grueling riding from Takasaki, through Yuzawa, Niigata and Aizu Wakamatsu, ending in Fukushima on June 16th where they met the kids in the care home for whom they were raising funds. Not a dry in the house as the kids greeted them waving the flags of each of the 14 countries represented in the peloton.
After two hot, cloudless days from Takasaki to Niigata city, the riders were greeted by leaden skies on the morning of Day 3 as they rose from their slumber at the ANA Crowne Plaza in Niigata city. Already knowing they faced an uphill 150km ride (after having done 262kms the previous two days!), the forecast was for gale force winds straight into their faces as they headed east inland. Having negotiated the city limits, they were soon encountering 50 km/h head and cross winds, resulting in three riders being blown off their bikes. It was just too dangerous to continue so the day's ride was abandoned and the cyclists boarded the train for Aizu Wakamatsu. Some brave riders got off early and continued their journeys by bike, thankfully without incident. It was one of those days when our already important support car drivers became indispensable. The onsen and early happy hour did not come too soon! The karaoke room also took its biggest beating for a number of years, showcasing some extreme and not so extreme singing talent! And shameless exhibitionists.
Rain once again greeted the riders on the last morning but mercifully, the winds had abated. Only 100kms to go so a bit of H2O was not going to deter them as they left the hotel and went almost immediately into a long climb onto a plateau beside the beautiful Lake Inawashiro. Well we think it was beautiful, we could not see it!!! Coming down off the plateau, the riders were greeted by sunny weather which further buoyed the spirits as the riders congregated in a waiting area near the children's home, before their grand entrance.
Many months ago, Michael Clemons, the Founder of the YouMeWe NPO, warned us while desperately trying to conceal a giggle, that there was a 'small' hill to encounter just before the home. He was telling porkies. After 500 kms, a massively steep and long climb just before we were supposed to be all smiles for the kids as we arrived, was almost a bridge too far! No wonder we found it hard to find Michael when we arrived! Eventually we all rolled in as the kids waved their flags and gave us all lovely big smiles. That alone made the pain of the previous 4 days all worth it, and put everything into perspective.
The hour or so spent at the kids home was for many, the highlight of the ride. The chance to really connect with the whole reason for it in the first place. A smile can paint a thousand words, and there were tears when the kids gave each rider a certificate of achievement and a personalized 'thank you' note for their efforts. The elation of a huge personal achievement coupled with the emotion of receiving love and appreciation from children who have barely received it themselves embodies KIWL's message; get fit and give back.
And then there were beers. Many many beers. And what goes on in Fukushima, stays in Fukushima!
Lastly, we want to thank all our sponsors, supporters and donors for the tremendous support we have received. As we were watching the YouMeWe video at the kids home, a page popped up announcing we had raised just over Y10 million for the children. What a moment that was. But its not how much we raise, it is what is done with it. YouMeWe will invest it in IT education, namely coding and programming and with those attained skills, the kids go to their communities and educate the elderly in the use of modern day devices. The circle completes. With those skills come better prospects for their future employment, breaking the cycle of the children following similar poor choices their parents made, and their own kids also ending in care. Education is power, we aim to empower them through YouMeWe for a better future. It's got nothing to do with us cycling long distances, its everything to do with the great work YouMeWe does with marginalized children who deserve much better. We just help them facilitate it.
KIWL Chair & Co-Founder
We are really excited at KIWL Towers about the year ahead!
From 3pm on on Friday April 5th, we kick off our 2019 fundraising events by hosting our annual Imperial Palace Walk. Choose one hour from 24 to walk around the Palace perimeter as an individual or in a group of friends or colleagues. Anyone from babies in strollers to grandparents on scooters can enter this low-barrier family event. Y5,000 entry fee includes a much-coveted KIWL t-shirt. Just email telling us which hour you would like to start and how many will participate.
On Saturday April 20th we host our 2nd KIWL Futsal Cup at the Adidas Futsal Park in Kawasaki. A strictly 'for fun' event, 12 teams will battle for supremacy with at least one lady player in the team. Invitations are open to teams, just contact us for more details, email@example.com
In May, we host our annual pub quiz, an ever-popular night for the trivially-minded! No need to get fit, just give back! Watch the website for a date announcement.
Between June 13-16, 45 intrepid cyclists of all ages and abilities will pedal 500kms to raise funds for our chosen charity. The peloton is fully subscribed this year but we still welcome supporters and sponsors to help the riders along.
At some point in September we will host our second rooftop party with live DJ playing relaxing lounge tunes, accompanied by a lovely buffet. For the active and sedentary alike!
On Saturday November 9th, we shall host our third annual Go-Go marathon. This year, we offer 55kms, 21kms, and a 10km fun run along the Arakawa river free of traffic, arriving in Kawagoe at a nearby children's home. If that is not enough, join our crazy KIWL member David Sweet who is attempting '7 Marathons in 7 Days', the first day of which will be the Arakawa leg. Are you game enough to join him?!
Also in November we shall host our 3rd annual Golf Day, date and venue to be confirmed.
To round off the year, join us for our annual Santa cycle ride from Tokyo to Mitake, about 65kms. Dress as Santa, and give presents to kids in a local care home. All abilities welcome but with some cycling experience.
As always, feel free to drop us a line if you want to participate or would like further details.
Rob Williams, Chair & co-Founder of KIWL, reflects on the last 3 years of partnering with local NPO Mirai no Mori. In 2019, KIWL will partner with a new NPO also working with fragile children in institutional care but for now, KIWL celebrates it successful association with a wonderful and growing local charity in Japan. Read all about it in Mirai no Mori's latest newsletter, here.
ROOFTOP FULL MOON PARTY: Not into sport? No worries! Eat and drink t a top quality rooftop residence in Hiroo on Saturday October 27th, 5-10pm. Buffet supplied by Kiwi Kitchen, wine & beer from the Hobgoblin, Ikon Europubs and Japan Wine Challenge. Celebrity DJ Guy Perryman MBE will spin some cool background tunes. E mail firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a place. Tickets: Adults ¥5,000/Kids ¥1,500 in advance. ¥6,000/¥2,000 on the door. Includes donation & first two drinks. ¥500 drinks at the bar.
ULTRA/HALF MARATHON: Saturday November 10th. Challenge yourself to our 21km half marathon. Or, if you are an experienced ultra-marathon runner, try 55kms! Click here for more details.
GOLF DAY: Sunday November 11th. Held at one of Japan's top courses in Tochigi. Sign up here; www.kkwids.com/
PUB QUIZ: Exercise your grey matter at our next Quiz Night at the Hobgoblin in Roppongi, Wednesday November 21st. Not a stitch of spandex in sight! Send us a mail to enter a team email@example.com Maximum 4 per team, ¥3,000 includes two drinks and a donation.
KIWL SANTA RIDE: Cycle 70kms to a children's home on Saturday December 15th dress as Santa, and give presents provided by Mirai no Mori. Then, ride home or pay an optional visit to a local sake brewery!