Coming into 2020, Danny Bent had planned on organizing a worldwide running relay that would have taken place in October and passed through 33 countries around the globe. Then COVID-19 came along and dashed those plans, but Bent and his partners didn’t let the pandemic cancel their event altogether. Instead, they came up with the idea for what is now One Run, an even bigger event (albeit a virtual one) that they hope will reach runners in the world’s 195 countries. The run was created to raise awareness and funds to fight discrimination everywhere, and it is set to take place on December 10 at 7 p.m. local time wherever runners are in the world.
So far, more than 4,300 runners have signed up for One Run, and 182 countries are set to be represented on December 10, which is internationally recognized as Human Rights Day. While there are more than 195 states in the world, Bent and the One Run team are basing their numbers on the United Nations (UN). The UN has 193 member states and two “observer states” (Holy See and Palestine). Bent says he and his team originally wanted to organize an event that could touch all 195 UN states, but it was just too big, so they settled on the 33-country world relay.
“When COVID came along, we were able to scratch the itch that was the 195 countries,” he says. “We’re pretty good at taking any situation and finding the positive out of it.” Bent’s first experience organizing a mass participation running event came after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.
“I was living in Devon and sitting in a kitchen with a friend,” he says. “We were listening to the radio and we heard that two bombs had gone off at the marathon.” Running has been a massive part of Bent’s life for years, and when he heard about the tragedy in Boston, he says he knew in that moment that he had to do something about it.
“To see that community attacked, it just touched something inside me,” he says. Diving into the project, the pair organized a cross-country relay from Los Angeles to Boston. The 5,300K run was broken into 10-mile segments, and runners from across the U.S. participated. “Within seven weeks after the marathon, we’d managed to raise just under $600,000 for people affected by the bombings.”
Bent says this experience taught him a valuable lesson, and it has fuelled his drive to run more fundraisers since. “No matter what your idea is and no matter how crazy it sounds, if you put a little energy into it, it can turn into something far greater than you’d ever thought,” he says. With the knowledge that a simple idea can become an enormous event, Bent knew he could reach runners worldwide for One Run and the fight against discrimination.
“As soon as that run across America happened, I was like, ‘This has to go across the world,'” Bent says. Beside raising money for five charities that are working to end discrimination (which can be viewed here), Bent says he also wants One Run to “break down barriers” between people of different nations, races and religions. “Yes, governments do have issues with each other, but I hope this opens people’s minds to the fact that, when we all put on our running shoes, we’re pretty similar. As soon as we start realizing that, we can relate to each other.”
While he has high hopes for this event, Bent is far from naïve, and he notes, “I know this isn’t going to fix all the problems around the world, but it can help a bit.” The concept of the run is simple enough: there are no set distances, and participants can run or walk as short or as far as they please. The event starts at 7 p.m. on December 10 in every timezone and runs until 8 p.m.
The first country to hit 7 p.m. will be Kiribati, a small collection of islands in the Pacific Ocean where two runners have signed up for One Run so far. “They’re going to start and go for one hour,” Bent says. “By 8 p.m. their time, the next timezone is at 7 p.m., so they’ll be running. So it’s still like a relay, but not a physical one.”
While the One Run team doesn’t have a set fundraising goal, Bent says they’d be happy to get somewhere close to $150,000. “We’ve never done a virtual event before, so it’s hard to know what to expect,” he says. “But $150,000, that’d be a lovely amount to raise for a virtual run.” In addition to the $15 entry fee, participants can purchase sweatshirts and t-shirts on the event website, and 100 per cent of the money raised from these sales will go to the One Run charities. Bent notes that the registration page also gives runners the option to sign up for the run for free if they can’t afford to pay for the event. In this case, runners won’t receive a medal after the run, but they’ll still be able to join the “24-hour festival of running” with other athletes around the world.
To register and learn more about One Run and the team’s work to end discrimination, click here.