As the pandemic gathered pace, the likelihood of going ahead with the 4th Annual KIWL Go-Go charity run in 2020 as an in-person event become more remote. While we missed the highlight of meeting the kids at the children’s care facility, it was more important to prioritize COVID-19 safety protocols.
Camaraderie and high-fives could wait but raising funds for KIWL’s designated charity YouMeWe couldn’t.
We quickly took a decision to pivot to an online event where participants were challenged to run and walk a minimum of fifty-five kilometres on their own throughout November 2020. We set entry fees to US$55 or ¥5,500 in keeping with the theme of the Go-Go, the Japanese word for fifty-five. Prizes went to the top five longest distance male and female participants. All participants received a hand-drawn participation certificate from kids supported by YouMeWe.
76 Lubricants “oiled” the challenge as our generous main sponsor and BMW Japan - with special thanks to Yumiko Kato - provided the Grand Prize of a car driving experience. Other prizes were supplied by 76 Lubricants and Jaguar Land Rover.
News of the event went out on all online and social media channels including the various running groups in Japan. Ecomarathon and Samurai Sports were generous in promoting the event to their channels.
Honestly speaking, I had no idea how many people would sign up to a virtual challenge as these were now commonplace with the many cancellations of in-person events. However, we signed up ninety participants, our most ever and three-times that of 2019! We also became “international” with people taking part from the UK and Cambodia - all awesome stuff!
Thirty-four female and fifty-six male runners ran 5,985.97km - that’s 14.9% of the earth’s circumference raising ¥538,000 for YouMeWe. Over the four years of the event, the Go-Go has raised ¥2,688,000 for helping kids in care. Here’s the full stats over the lifetime of the event:
The 2020 results were recorded in Strava using a dedicated club leaderboard and we announced the winners during an online meetup on 14 December:
The grand prize went to Mark Feeley who ran a stunning 671.2km. Second place went to Ayako Yokoyama-Nichols who ran 293.39km.
The Go-Go has to date mostly attracted English-speaking runners. For 2020, we strived to increase participation from non-English speakers by making all communications bilingual. Evidence of the success of this outreach was being featured in the popular Japanese running magazine, Courir. The February 2021 edition of Courir which went on sale 22 December 2020, carried a three-page feature on KIWL, the Go-Go run and interviews with three of our participants. It was particularly rewarding to see the KIWL ethos - Get Fit and Give Back ~ 体を鍛えて社会貢献を ~ highlighted as part of the feature title. I hope to share a translation of the article in due course, subject to permission from the publisher. KIWL would like to thank Yuko Kotani, one of our participants and a writer for the magazine, for making this possible.
KIWL GoGo 2021
Given the success of the virtual event, for 2021, we are planning to do both an in-person one day event and repeat the one-month challenge. This brings the best of both types of events together. Obviously, we will need to consider how the pandemic is nearer the time, but in a worst-case scenario, the online event is a can-do.
As of now, mark your diaries for the month of November 2021 for the virtual challenge and Saturday 13 November - a tentative date - for an in-person event. More details in due course for what will be our fifth year!!
Finally, I would like to thank my fellow organizing committee members - Manfred Froebe, Juergen Wittstock of Ecomarathon, Rob Williams, chair of KIWL and Michael Clemons of YouMeWe. Most importantly, YOU our runners and walkers for making the KIWL Go-Go the success it has become to support the lives of kids in Japanese care homes.
Cheers and happy running and walking!