Virtual Run Planned to Support Australian Wildfire Relief Efforts


  • As wildfires tear through Australia, local runners have created a virtual half marathon and 5K through a Strava Challenge to raise money for relief efforts.
  • The wildfires started in July and have gotten worse as the dry season began.
  • The Relief Run can be completed at anytime and anyplace on January 18 and 19.

Australian runners are calling on the global running community to step up as the country continues to face devastating wildfires.

The fires began as far back as July and have worsened as the dry season has exacerbated conditions, particularly in New South Wales, which has been hit the worst with more than 2,000 homes destroyed or damaged. Throughout the entire country, more than 20 people have been killed and millions of animals have been affected or died in the fires.

In response, endurance athlete Samantha Gash, 35, of Australia, wanted to do something as the world watched her homeland burn.

“Over the New Year, I was just glued to the TV, watching it all unfold,” Gash told Runner’s World. “I kept thinking, ‘What are my options?’ I could donate to existing organisations, but maybe I could also connect with the running community to get people to directly contribute to help those most in need.”

That’s when she and her friend Nic Davidson came up with the idea for the Relief Run, a virtual run taking place on January 18 and 19 that donates 100 percent of proceeds to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. The initial plan was to host just a half marathon, which could be done solo or in two-person teams, but Gash also added a 5K option.

Strava Challenge has been created for people to join. Runners must register for the run on the Relief Run site to participate. The cost of the virtual run is $50, all of which will go directly to the Australian Red Cross’s disaster relief efforts and to people who have been affected by the fire to help them rebuild their lives.

The Strava Challenge link is now live and can be found here. Gash is working with the fitness app directly to set up a page that can handle a large amount of participants.

“It was two people who started his, and it really shows the power of grassroots and small movements,” Gash said. “The power of runners is our footsteps, and with them, we can make a difference and make it count. That’s why people all over the world have already reached out wanting to contribute.”

Within 48 hours hours of launching the website on Sunday evening, the page has reached as far as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kindgom, Germany, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and Canada. Other individuals and groups have planned group runs in their communities across the globe over the January 18 and 19 weekend. Even pro runners from road, track, and trail have reached out in support.

Because of outreach so far, the event has raised more than $200,000 for the Australian Red Cross as of Tuesday evening. The initial goal was to raise $20,000.


Gash encourages any persons, groups, crews, or teams who wants to partake, whether by donating, running, or planning a run in their community over the event’s weekend, to go to the site and reach out to her via the contact page so that they can be added to the growing list of participating cities around the globe.

“We have heard from so many people so far, including people directly affected by the fires,” Gash said. “Those people have told us about the catastrophic toll that the fires have had on them mentally and seeing the human spirit play out is encouraging and gives them hope about rebuilding.”

Runs are planned in Australia as well, including areas affected by the fires. Pro Australian ultrarunner Lucy Bartholomew is organising a run in the Alpine Region of the country where bushfires have cancelled a race that was supposed to take place that weekend. This way, the runners can still participate in a running event despite the cancellation, similar to what the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run did this summer when historic snowfall cancelled that race.

Other runners are also stepping up in the midst of the wildfires. Australian pros Gen LaCaze and David McNeill have pledged to donate $1 for every kilometer they run this week to the Australian Red Cross. They are asking all runners to consider joining them.


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