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NOVID-20: the virtual run to help end COVID-19

NOVID-20 is a virtual challenge created to keep the global running community engaged and motivated while raising money for COVID-19 research

Even though you have to run solo for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be part of a running club. By signing up for the NOVID-20 Virtual Run, you can join a global running community on Strava while supporting a great cause to find a vaccine for COVID-19. The charity, which is “building immunity through global community,” launched in April as a way for runners to stay engaged while training solo, and organizers will continue to promote it for as long as quarantines and social distancing remain necessary.

What is NOVID-20?

The virtual run’s website says “COVID-19 is looking back, NOVID-20 is looking ahead,” and that is exactly why the run has its name—NOVID-20 stands for “No Viral Disease in 2020.” The organizers of this ongoing challenge had three goals in mind when creating it: Goal Number One was to “engage, unite and inspire our global community.” Number Two was to “create unique virtual running challenges to motivate runners to train and test their fitness.” And finally, Goal Number Three was to raise money for COVID-19 vaccine research.

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Blaine Penny, one of the founders of NOVID-20, says so far they have raised over $1,400, and the Strava challenges and communities have attracted close to 1,000 runners from seven countries worldwide.

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Penny is CEO of the MitoCanada Foundation, a charitable organization that is dedicated to helping individuals with mitochondrial disease. Patients living with mitochondrial disease are high risk when it comes to COVID-19, so Penny wanted to do whatever he could to help combat the coronavirus.

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“If we don’t fix this and find a vaccine for COVID-19, then this is a serious risk to our patient population,” he says. “So just from a personal standpoint, this felt like something we could do in the short term to try and make some element of difference.”

Photo: NOVID-20

How to join

Joining the NOVID-20 Virtual Run is simple, and if you have a Strava account, most of the work is already done. Once connected to Strava, join one of the NOVID-20 Virtual Run clubs (there are different clubs for different cities), sign up for some of Strava’s monthly challenges and get running. The final step is optional, although it’s the most important: donate to the cause on the NOVID-20 GoFundMe page.

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“When we started, it was in the early days of COVID-19, so we weren’t sure how long social isolation was going to be in place,” Penny says. “So we kind of rolled it out with the intent for the month of April. But now we’re planning to push out again for May and into June. We’ll just see where the world’s at by then.”

Photo: NOVID-20

Where’s the money going?

Money raised by the NOVID-20 Virtual Run will be split two ways between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Western University for their co-funded project with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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“Given that we’re trying to engage the global running community, it’d be great to show that we’re supporting a global collaborative effort to working toward a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as supporting a Canadian research project,” Penny says. Donations to NOVID-20 can be made here.