‘At first I thought we could try running to the moon,’ says Harry Hanscomb, the man behind local charity challenge Run the World in 80 Days. ‘I was thinking about coming up with a challenge and tying it in with Ramadan. But then I realised the moon might be a bit far,’ he laughs.
Still, Hanscomb’s final solution isn’t exactly unambitious. He’s asking that the people of Dubai collectively run 50,000km – the distance around the world – in 80 days. The event kicked off on May 31 and, one month in, Hanscomb admits he’s not sure how far participants have run to date, adding: ‘There’s a very real chance we won’t make our target.’ That’s why the challenge needs you. There’s less then two months to go and plenty of kilometres left to clock up.
So how does it work? Well, it turns out it’s surprisingly simple to run around the world. These are the rules: everyone who takes part must run a minimum of 10km, and be sponsored at least Dhs10 per kilometre. However, you can run your 10km in three separate slots if you don’t want to do it all at once. All running is done on the treadmills at Fitness First health clubs and, to that end, everyone who signs up for the challenge receives three free day passes to any Fitness First gym in Dubai. Fitness First staff will verify your distance and add it to the total. And voila – you’ve run part of the way around the world.
The aim is to raise money for Sharjah-based special needs school Manzil, which provides full-time education and training for students aged five to 30. Hanscomb, who is chief operating officer at financial services firm Zurich in DIFC – which has partnered with Manzil in the past – says that every dirham raised via running the world will go to the school.
‘There are no overheads. Every corporate sponsor has put its own money in,’ he says. ‘All funds raised will go to the upkeep of the school, from paying teachers’ salaries to sponsoring students from low-income families.’ The school is principally focused on integrating students into the community at large. For example, regular work placements organised by Manzil have resulted in 75 per cent of students who take part going on to find full-time employment. If the people of Dubai do manage to run around the world within 80 days, that’s Dhs500,000 straight to Manzil.
For Hanscomb, an opportunity to contribute to the UAE’s special needs community and get fit during the hot summer is a win, win. And talking of winning, some participants are taking things a step further
and introducing some friendly competition. Wayne Jones, a partner at law firm Clyde & Co, has challenged the company’s different departments to form teams and battle it out. ‘Lawyers tend to be competitive people,’ he observes, ‘so introducing some internal competition has certainly helped interest.’
However, Jones points out that the competition is to raise the most money, not to run the most kilometres. ‘If you saw some of the lawyers here, you’d understand that the challenge for them will be to run any distance,’ he deadpans. ‘People are really putting themselves out there for this. Running is not something that a lot of them would normally do!’
So far, the record for running the 10km in the fastest time belongs to Peter Englund, an underwriting manager also at Zurich. Englund is one of the fitter candidates taking part – he completed his first triathlon earlier this year – but he tells Time Out: ‘My time was 35 minutes and eight seconds, and I can do better than that! If anyone wants to try to beat it, I’ll be happy to turn up to defend it.’ Anyone fancy taking him on? Tell Time Out and we’ll arrange it.
Help the teams run around the world!
• To sign up for the run, see www.runtheworld.ae or ask for a registration form at any Fitness First gym in the city.
• Want to outrun Peter Englund? Email email@example.com – but don’t forget to sign up and get sponsored first!