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A charity running challenge raises $6 million for the NHS

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Olivia Strong started Run for Heroes which has now raised over £5 million for U.K. health-care workers.

Run for Heroes

A 27-year-old started a charity running challenge on social media with the aim of raising £5,000 ($6,212), but it quickly went viral and has now raised over £5 million for U.K. health-care workers fighting Covid-19. 

Olivia Strong, a documentary producer from Scotland, came up with the idea for “Run for Heroes” after returning home to Edinburgh from London, where she works. 

Her work on a documentary project had been cut from five to two days a week due to the coronavirus and related restrictions which have been imposed to prevent its spread. Like many countries around the world, the U.K. has enforced lockdown measures which include the closure of many non-essential businesses, forcing some firms to cut jobs, put staff on furlough or scale back their hours. 

The U.K. has nearly 153,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, and has reported over 20,700 deaths. 

Strong initially wanted to spend some of her spare time volunteering for the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) the government put a call out for volunteers to help the NHS on March 24. However, because Scotland didn’t open applications immediately, she came up with another idea. 

It was after noticing the number of runners while jogging near Edinburgh’s famous natural landmark Arthur’s Seat that she decided to launch charity running challenge. 

Under the U.K.’s lockdown measures, people have been allowed outside once a day for exercise, in addition to leaving the house for essential work or doing grocery shopping. 

“(I) thought surely there’s something in this, if we combine our one form of exercise a day that we’re currently getting, because everyone’s out running anyway, then maybe we can make a difference,” said Strong. 

She settled on a distance of 5km (3.2 miles), which she felt was long enough to “feel a sense of achievement,” and encouraged people to run, walk or cycle the distance, donate £5 ($6.22) and to nominate another five people to do the same. 

“Everybody wants to help because people like myself feel helpless,” said Strong. 

The initial aim was to raise £5,000 — to “run 5k to make £5k,” as Strong put it — but the campaign’s tagline “run, donate, nominate” soon gained traction on social media. 

Runners who had completed the challenge took to social media, sharing a photo of their hand and tagging five nominees — it’s an image which has come to be associated with the campaign. 

The Run for Heroes Instagram page now has more than 64,000 followers and more than 800,000 people have taken part. It hit its initial fundraising target within four days.

 The combined distance that has currently been run by participants now equals to a trip to the moon and back and the total raised was £5.1 million as of Monday afternoon.

The proceeds have been donated to NHS Charities Together, a group of charities which is raising money for British health-care workers battling the virus. 

Royal endorsement

And some celebrities — such as British singer Ellie Goulding — have also completed the challenge. 

“People are all in the same situation; Princess Eugenie did it, for example. So no matter if you’re royalty or you’re just an ‘average Joe’ person like me, you still want to do your bit,” said Strong. 

While the goal of the campaign was to raise money for NHS workers, Strong said another positive to come out of Run for Heroes has been to hear people’s stories about how it has encouraged and motivated them to go running. 

“I think that’s a really important message, that as long as we’re social distancing … on these runs, it’s really, really good for our mental health to get out during lockdown,” she said.



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