Pass the Baton is a virtual global relay which was set up in April by a small group of friends in Nottingham to raise money for UNICEF.
Over the last three months the event has grown exponentially and now attracts 1,200 runners from across the globe and has just had runners join from its seventh continent – Antarctica. The runners who have taken part in the weekly relay are looking for both fitness and a sense of community during these difficult times.
Pass the Baton is one of the many positive initiatives created to alleviate the physical and mental challenges of the Covid-19 lockdown. It began when the group of friends decided to create a virtual marathon relay to replace the cancelled London Marathon which they’d been training for.
The first week was simple – participants ran an equal section of a 26.2 miles marathon route and passed the baton after each leg over a dedicated WhatsApp group. One week later the concept matured – 48 runners from across the globe, all completing 5.2km in 30 min slots, over a 24-hour period – this is when Pass the Baton came to life.
The initiative is now 12 weeks old and the Pass the Baton global community relay occurs every Sunday, with three groups of 48 runners completing 250km over 24 hours. During the week an online group of hundreds of runners between the ages of 6 and 55, from 31 countries, choose a 30-minute slot to run, then the relay starts on Saturday evening.
The event has become more sophisticated since its creation with runners creating Pass the Baton films and soundtracks – with the aim of creating the same sense of fun and community runners experience during real marathons.
UNICEF was chosen as the benefitting charity as it is working globally to improve the lives of children affected by Covid-19.
One of the founding members of Pass the Baton and finance director at Nottingham-based 200 Degrees Coffee, Stephen Fern, said: “We have created a community of runners of all ages and abilities that encourage each other to do their best whilst sharing pictures, stories and encouragement online. The engagement never ceases to amaze us and every Sunday we watch how Pass the Baton provides a space for people to connect –cultivating happiness, joy and a sense of community and belonging.
“When we reached our 1,000th runner and had participants join us from the only continent where we didn’t have any coverage – Antarctica – we were all so excited. As a business we supply 200 Degrees coffee to the British Antarctica Survey (BAS) and through that connection, we managed to have runners in all seven continents. It really is a global community that has grown in only a matter of weeks.
“Participants love the motivation they receive to get fit, push themselves and ultimately improve their mental and physical wellbeing, as part of a global community. It is a big effort to organise every week, but our whole team absolutely love doing it. Our reward is the ever-growing pot of money for UNICEF, seeing people strive to achieve personal bests in their running and the fact that we have created a community with purpose and passion.”
Feedback from runners has included; “Amazing to feel part of such a great community – I feel fitter and am happy to support kids through UNICEF”, “Absolutely love connecting with new friends around the world” and “My PB is down thanks to everyone on this group – thanks!”.
Robert Fern, Stephen’s cousin and fellow founding member, said: “We have been blown away by the response we have had for Pass the Baton and the speed at which it has grown. I think that shows that many people are benefiting from the social interaction and the physical activity of ‘getting out there’, especially during the pandemic.
“The sense of satisfaction in seeing how much people are enjoying taking part, and raising £6,000 and counting for UNICEF is really wonderful. I can’t wait to see where this goes and encourage anyone who’d like to get involved – no matter what level of runner they are – to get in touch and become part of this global community.”
Organisers hope more runners will sign up and be part of the global running initiative and that Pass the Baton continues to grow and inspire others.
If you’d like to donate to UNICEF as part of Pass the Baton, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pass-the-baton. If you’d like to take part as a runner, please email [email protected]