Published on April 15, 2016
Impact Marathon Series
The Impact Marathon Series is a unique combination of global running challenges combined with a noble philanthropic ethos that aims to change the way we thing about ‘destination racing’. RunningMonkey talked to Impact Marathon Series founder Nick Kershaw to find out more…
RunningMonkey: The Impact Marathon Series is somewhat unusual in its philosophy – in a nutshell what’s it all about?
Nick Kershaw: We’re looking to harness the power of running and unleash it on the social issues facing communities around the world by bringing running together with travel, adventure and volunteering. We’ve teamed up with the UN Global Goals to create an experience where you, along with 200 other participants, will set about driving and seeing massive social impact, whilst also living and racing in the most stunning settings you can imagine.
RunningMonkey: What’s your own background and how did the Impact Marathon Series come about?
Nick Kershaw: I’ve actually come from four years working in finance in London. I very much enjoyed it, but running, travel and philanthropy are my passion, so I was always working on a number of side-projects over the last 10 years that culminated in founding the Uganda Marathon last year. The race was a fantastic proof of concept – people really wanted more from their running events, using running for social good and, crucially, seeing the impact of their work. So I set about scaling the concept from a hobby project into a professional, sustainable and global vision to tackle more of the problems facing the world and introducing people to new cultures and social issues. We’re creating massive social impact.
RunningMonkey: Tell us more about the Impact Marathon Series Team…
Nick Kershaw: It’s getting to be a pretty large team now! We have specialist people in each country putting together the operations of the campsite. We then have our impact team, who work on creating the legacy of each event; these people are amazing community leaders who tell us their needs and how to solve them, not the other way round! Our race directors are different in each country but our main guys are the two behind Running the Rift in Uganda – Ellie Lucas (read the RunningMonkey interview with Ellie here) and Paul Lacey – incredibly talented people who can create unique, and sometimes insane race routes!
Nick Kershaw: We had already focused in on Nepal even prior to the earthquake. Afterwards we thought it is the perfect chance to tell the story of what happens 18 months after a disaster, when the money has dried up and there’s no more media attention. It’s an untold story but terribly important. On top of that Nepal is a magical country, and it’s not until you arrive here that you really grasp just how special it is. It’s the perfect place to kick off the Series and showcase to the running world what we are about.
RunningMonkey: What can runners expect from the Nepal International Marathon race?
Nick Kershaw: We’ve actually just finished our route planning here… and I can confirm, there are some hills! Okay, a lot of hills! It’s not a course that is going to bring out a personal best, it’s the beautiful trails of the Shivapuri National Park, it has stunning views of both the Kathmandu Valley along the southern side of the route and also great panoramas of the entire Himalayan mountain range on the north. The route undulates from 1600m to 2250m in altitude so just enough to make it a real challenge for any level of runner but still accessible. Consider it the next step up from your usual road, or even trail marathon, a new goal! One that will make your running fraternity pretty envious…
RunningMonkey: There will be shorter races on offer too in Nepal?
Nick Kershaw: Yes we have the half marathon distance and 10km available here in Nepal.
RunningMonkey: What does the wider itinerary look like for the event?
Nick Kershaw: Lots of volunteering, camping and fun. The area was massively affected by the earthquake last April and, due to a combination of bureaucracy and the political blockade of the Indian border, very little work has actually gone ahead to rebuild. It’s an untold story. The Nepali people are so resilient.
So we will be doing project visits of all the charities that the race is fundraising for, working there with the very people whose lives you are changing – again, everything is about empowering our runners to see the difference that they can make in the world. Nothing does this better than meeting and seeing the impact of the hard work. The work will be varied – from actually rebuilding in the community to cleaning up, improving the water and sanitation in the area.
RunningMonkey: So the local community is going to be involved too?
Nick Kershaw: The local community is the key to the whole event – it’s what sets us apart from other running races. We will be working with them all week in the run up to the race and then running beside them on race day. This is not about personal bests; this is about running with each other, for each other.
RunningMonkey: What’s the balance going to be between the actual race event and the local volunteering? Are these social enterprises with a race involved or a race with an element of social enterprise?
Nick Kershaw: It’s really bringing together everything. If we do our jobs right throughout the week then by the time you are tying your laces you won’t care about running a marathon, on undulating trails, at altitude! The hard work will already have happened, the race is designed to be a celebration not only of running but of the work we have done that week.
Nick Kershaw: Yes! Colombia is next up in February 2017, the country is coming to the end of 55 year’s of war, so we have the chance to be helping charities right on the frontline of the post-conflict development. We have partnered with the biggest star in the country, the singer Carlos Vives. It’s funny because any Latin friends of mine just get insanely excited when you mention his name, whilst our British friends have never heard of him. Trust me, after this race, in his hometown of Santa Marta, you will know who he is, not only a superstar but a truly amazing man and a pleasure to work with. It’s also an outstanding running route.
After that Malawi has possibly my favourite campsite – right on the banks of Lake Malawi itself. The sunset’s are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. We’ll be focusing on UN Global Goals 1, 2 and 3 there – it’s very much an international development race.
Then Guatemala is our conservation race. Tough course, as it’ll involve a fair amount of beach running and it’s not cold there either! We’ll be working with the turtle conservation program, working in the mangroves and also with the whales, helping to create a hub for eco-tourism and research there. It’s been hard to find environmental NGOs working in the country despite it’s extraordinary biosphere – making it a huge opportunity to really build a lasting legacy in the nation.
RunningMonkey: There must be very different sets of challenges in setting up events in such diverse places – how does the Impact Marathon Series manage everything?
Nick Kershaw: It’s crazy! All the different place names and languages alone are…um…fun to keep on top of. It’s all about having great partners who you can rely on in each country. And that is all about dedicating the time to learning about the community and building trust, both ways. It’s time consuming to say the least, but this is not a job for me it’s a lifestyle and utterly fulfilling.
RunningMonkey: Any of these first four countries proving particularly problematic with logistics?
Nick Kershaw: Each one has it’s own problems for sure. They are ambitious projects. None more than any other though. For instance, the Colombian operations side is harder work because the tourism industry there is still very much geared towards backpackers, and we are a unique proposition for operators at the best of times. But we have made amazing progress there recently.
Nick Kershaw: There are 17 UN Global Goals that we are looking to tackle across all our races… we are currently working on 12. The UN has stated that these goals will run until 2030, so all our races are designed to be 15 year projects, then we will see. It’ll be amazing to look back in 15 years with a full impact report that says the IMS races have done x, y and z for each Global Goal. How many lives can we touch in that time?
RunningMonkey: Any specific countries you’d like to see added to the roster of races?
Nick Kershaw: We have two more that we are quietly beavering away on – but it’s secret squirrel for now, you’ll have to keep your eye open for those announcements. It’s set to be a very exciting year ahead of us and all our runners…
Details of the UN Global Goals at globalgoals.org