• "Relief Run" Virtual Run To Support Australian Bushfire Relief Efforts


Written By: Katie Purcell



There's always a lot going on in the OCR world, and right now is no different: between speculation about what the heck is going on with Tough Mudder and how you might stack up to run the Elite Wave at a Spartan Race now that there is a qualification process, the 2020 Race Season (or off-season, depending on your race schedule!) is off to an exciting start. But today I want to focus on something outside the immediate scope of OCR: a devastating situation that needs our attention, along with an awesome way to help that we can all get on board with.

To put it simply: Australia is on fire, literally...and endurance athlete/Australian native Samantha Gash has stepped up to help.

This weekend runners from around the globe will unite in solidarity of Australia's efforts to tame the deadly blaze by participating in the "Relief Run," a virtual run with 100% of proceeds donated to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.

Read on to learn more about what's going on, why it's such a MASSIVE deal (one that you should care about), and how you can get involved in helping the relief efforts...via a combination of the power of grassroots action and the training you're probably already doing!



What's Going On In Australia, Anyway?

To be clear, Australia always has a "fire season" during their summertime when the weather is particularly hot and dry...that part isn't new. But a multitude of factors have made this the worst one on record in decades, and the resulting damage -- to homes, people, animals, and the environment -- has been horrific.

Some Factors Thought To Be Causes For The Extreme Severity Include:
🔥 A recent drought, declared to be the "driest on record" by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology
🔥 A heatwave in December 2019 that broke the record for the highest nationwide average temperature
🔥 Incredibly strong winds have contributed to the rapid spread of the fires and smoke
🔥On a more macro level, climate change over the past several years is thought to be responsible for the more extreme weather conditions, making the impact of natural disasters like wildfires worse

The fires have been all different sizes: some smaller and more easily contained, while others have engulfed entire neighborhoods. As of January 13, over 100 fires were still burning in New South Wales alone (image below).

An estimated 100,000 square kilometers has been affected since the fires started in late July 2019. To put how massive that is into perspective, check out the image below from BBC News, which overlays the affected area onto a map of the United States:



What Does This Mean/Why Should I Care?

You should care. Bigtime. The fire season typically peaks in January or February, and the damage has already been tremendous. If the situation is not improved soon, there's no way to estimate the number of homes - and lives - that could be at risk. Here are a few quick stats of the effects (and implications) so far:

🐨 Ecologists at the University of Sydney estimate that the total number of animals killed or injured so far could be as high as 1 billion nationwide.
🐨 Approximately half of Kangaroo Island, home to multiple endangered species (including the dunnart, black glossy cockatoo and the Ligurian honey bee), has been destroyed...killing many and leaving those remaining to starve to death. One ominous estimate states that at least 20 species are now much closer to extinction.
🐨 Over 25,000 koalas have died in the flames, while the injured fight for their lives.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 At least 28 have died nationwide, including volunteer firefighters who gave their lives protecting others.
👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Over 3,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.
👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Thousands have even been told to evacuate as the uncontrolled flames approached their homes...some were advised that they were already too late to evacuate and should seek shelter inside.

🌏 The smoke from the bushfires, which has already circumnavigated the globe, has caused severe air quality issues in other parts of the world. (In Australia itself, the air quality was so bad that one tennis player at the Australian Open collapsed on the court.) 
🌏 The fires have produced a plume of smoke estimated to be the size of the continental United States, adding hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions into Earth's atmosphere.
🌏 Endangered species going extinct would be really sad for everyone.



Okay I Get It...This Is Bad. What Is The Relief Run? How Is That Going To Help?

Melbourne-based ultramarathon runner Samantha Gash and her friend/fellow entrepreneur and fitness "junkie" Nic Davidson came up with the idea for a virtual run, to make it easier than ever for anyone to help the relief efforts. Having had extensive experience in fundraising for amazing causes Gash wanted to help but felt torn on the best way to do so. In an interview with Runner's World she said,

"...I could donate to existing organizations, but maybe I could also connect with the running community to get people to directly contribute to help those most in need."

Enter the Relief Run. Anytime between January 17-19, participants (whether running or walking) will complete either a 21.1 km (half marathon) or a 5k. Runners/walkers of all abilities are encouraged to participate in this awesome cause, with 100% of the $50 AUD fee going directly to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.

Strava has also gotten on board and created a challenge exclusively for those who have registered for the Relief Run: so you can record your run, check out the Leaderboard, and earn yourself a sweet Finisher's Badge.

However you want to complete the run is up to you! Teams of 2 can register together, and split the distance between them. Treadmill runs count...as well as outdoor runs...and hikes...and long leisurely strolls along the beach...you get the idea :)

Many are completing the Relief Run solo but there are also hundreds...(maybe even thousands...?) meeting up to run together! Check out the "Community Runs" page here to see a sample of some of the groups participating - and how spread out all over the world we are!


I'm 100% In. How Do I Register, And How Can I Spread The Word About This Awesome Cause?

...Glad to have you on board!! Check it out:

🏃  Enter online at www.reliefrun.com.au & pay the $50 AUD fee
🏃  Join the Strava Challenge "Relief Run: Bushfire Fundraiser" (**right now, over 63,000 people have joined the challenge!!)
🏃  Run, Hop, Skip, Jump, Crawl, or Boogie your way through at least 5k between January 17th-19th!



AND DON'T FORGET: to share, share share!!

A main reason why grassroots efforts succeed is because of the people like YOU who see the message, and believe in it, and pass it on to encourage others to get involved too! So many of us are constantly scrolling/liking/sharing on social media anyway...why not take the opportunity to share something positive that could truly change the world??

And who knows, you might just be surprised by who sees it and decides to join in!




What it really comes down to is this: we are all citizens of the world. It's easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives...and our training...and to focus on the things that are right in front of us. For those of us in the USA, the idea of the crisis in Australia can seem so remote and out of our "scope" that it doesn't even seem 100% real. Or, it feels so far away that we feel helpless or that it's out of our hands: after all, what can we really do from the other side of the globe?

But that's the power of social change. From a few passionate individuals with a great idea, to thousands of people mobilizing across the world for one common cause...we might not have much of an impact as individuals but together we are strong and we can make a difference. The Relief Run may have started as an idea to unite the global Running Community, but I think its message extends even beyond that: whether you are an OCR athlete, or a runner, or a general fitness enthusiast: we are all committed to living a healthy lifestyle in the pursuit of becoming our best selves...and that includes looking out for our fellow man.

So tighten up those laces, and let's all step up for Australia.

See You On The Trail!




"Let’s focus on what we can do - our connection & care for our community; personal actions and environment. Let’s contribute to positive change & put aside outrage and blame.

I’m proud of how we are stepping up & choosing to show up. Using what we have - to make it count!!!" - Samantha Gash



100% Of The Relief Run Proceeds Will Be Donated To The Australian Red Cross: Disaster Relief And Recovery Fund. And While This Is An AMAZING Organization Doing Invaluable Work, There Are Many Other Ways You Can Also Aid In The Bushfires Relief Efforts.

Here Are Links To A Few Additional Ways To Help...All Collected From Reputable Sources:




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