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Walkathon history and origin (13 interesting facts about walkathons)


We reckon you’ve probably heard of marathons, triathlons, and danceathons. But, what about another ‘athon’, a walkathon? Whether you’ve heard of it or not, you can easily guess what it is. A walkathon is an event where you walk a certain distance in a specific time period. 

Often, walkathons are hosted in aid of a charity. The charity serves as a motivating factor for event organizers and people to take part in a walkathon.

The First Ever Walkathon

The term walkathon was derived from the danceathon and marathon. It first officially came into existence around 1953, by a Peurto Rican comedian and actor known as Ramon Ortiz Del Rivero, Rallybound. Rivero held the first ever walkathon in San Juan, walking for 80 miles! His motive behind thisfar was to raise as much money as he could for the Peurto Rican League Against Cancer. 

Due to his hard work and commitment, he managed to raise $85,000 in just four days. Riveros’ success paid off inspiring local Peurto Ricans. Following this, walkathons in Peurto Rico became the new normal. 

Walkathons Across Multiple Distances

Next up was the U.S.A. following from the Peurto Rican example ten years later. While there are some rumors walkathons were first held in the U.S.A. before Peurto Rico, the first official walkathon was recorded in 1968. The event was sponsored by an organization founded by John F Kennedy. This organization was the American Freedom From Hunger Foundation.

Already having a high profile sponsor, it also involved a high profile promoter Johnny Carson, a famous comedian at the time. Due to its publicity, the event attracted a whopping 3,000 walkers. In Minneapolis, they walked a 33-mile route to raise awareness and funds to fight famine. The majority of the walkers in this event were children. 

After this successful walkathon, it was only a few years later one of America’s largest walkathons was held. This involved 150,000 American walkers who walked over 2.2 million miles raising $1.2 million to fight famine in total.

First Single Distance Walkathon Event

It wasn’t until 1985 when the first single distance walkathon event was held. Over $1.5 million was raised at A Walk for Hunger in Boston. The participants of this walkathon were employees of workplaces. 

Likewise, during the AIDS epidemic, many walkathons were held in the U.S.A., raising millions of dollars to fight it.

After that, many other countries followed suit, and walkathons took the world by storm.

13 Interesting Facts About Walkathons

It gets better. Today walkathons are held all over the world. Infact, no two walkathons are ever the same. To prove this, here are 13 interesting facts about walkathons:

1. The World’s Largest Walkathon had 1.5 million Participants

During 2018, a gigantic walkathon was held in the capital of the Philippines, Manilla. It was run by a religious organization known as Iglesia Ni Cristo, an independent Christian church in the Philippines. The purpose of this walkathon was to raise enough funds to fight poverty. On this day, four Guinness World Records were broken, and 1.5 million participated.

The Iglesia Ni Cristo also set the previous Guinness World Record as in 2014; they held the world’s largest walkathon of around 175,000 participants. This was in aid of helping people affected by Typhoon Yolanda. 

2. There is No Specific Length for a Typical Walkathon

Unlike a marathon, walkathons don’t have a specific length. You’ll find walkathon events with distances of 3km up to a 100km! Walkathons are genuinely for all abilities.

3. You Can Participate in Walkathon Events in Teams

You can take part in walkathons with groups of friends or family. This often involves larger distances to be completed, such as 50km-100km. Most of the time, the distance is split equally between the team, and each member has to walk a certain length. It’s similar to a relay, allowing a significant distance to be completed for charity.

4. India’s Biggest Fundraising Event is a Walkathon

India’s biggest fundraising event is held each year by Oxfam on the outskirts of Mumbai and Bangalore. The funds raised go towards funding education, health, gender, forest rights, and discrimination in India’s poorest states. Deccan Chronicle state that in 2018 1600 people participated from all across India and 500,00,000 rupees were raised. Because of this mass participation, Oxfam Trailwalker is now in France, Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Spain, and the U.K.

5. There’s a Walkathon Where You Have to Wear Kilts! 

Are you familiar with the Scotlands native dress, the kilt? The tartan based skirt is a requirement for a popular walkathon in Scotland known as the kilt walk. It’s organised by The Royal Bank of Scotland and takes place in Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen. All the funds of this walkathon go towards The Hunter Foundation. This is a non-profit which goes towards funding self-sustaining investments.

6. You Can Complete a Walkathon From Anywhere

You don’t have to follow a specific course for a walkathon. There are many virtual walkathons online you can do on your own. 

7. Africa Hosts a Walkathon for The Whole Continent

Walk4Africa is a walkathon that is going to cover across a coastal distance of 38 countries on the African continent! It is launching in September 2020 and aims to be the largest and longest one in the world. The organizers aim to educate individuals on the United Nations sustainable tourism goals and raise global awareness on sustainability in the African continent.

8. There is a Toilet Walkathon

Apparently, there’s such a thing as world toilet day. Nepal hosts a walkathon on this day, raising funds for better public toilets in their country. Catchy name right?

9. The World Health Organisation Hosts a Global Walkathon

Aiming to connect as many humans for a cause, the World Health Organisation (WHO) annually holds a virtual walkathon to raise funds towards promoting world health. The past three years W.H.O. have been organizing an event called ‘Walk the Talk’. Due to COVID-19, this year, they invited people to take part in a virtual walkathon in their homes over two days. 

10. Shanghai Hosts an E.G.G. Walkathon

Just when walkathons couldn’t get more ‘Eggciting.’ In Shangai, some participants dress up like eggs and chickens. The organizers aim to create equal opportunities and provide nourishment to kids in underdeveloped areas. For every successful completion, they also donate an egg to a child. 

11. Dogs Can Participate in Walkathons

Walkathons are not restricted to just humans; depending on the event organizer; you can bring your furry friend too! For example, there’s a walkathon held in the U.S.A. to raise money for South Eastern Guidedogs. They allow humans and guide dogs to walk together in aid of charity.

12. You Don’t Have to Walk to Complete a Walkathon

While the word ‘walk’ is in the term walkathon, you can still participate in the event if you can’t walk. Walkathons are for the community and don’t discriminate, don’t be surprised if you find many wheelchair users undergoing walkathons.

13. Walk a Marathon and Make it Your Walkathon

Many people choose to walk a complete marathon, making their event a walking one. Likewise, some walkathons hold a distance of 26.2 the equivalent to a length of a marathon. 

The truth is, these 12 interesting facts are not enough to do all the walkathons in the world justice. Walkathons are epic events that bring the local community or the global population together. In comparison to other events, its a non-competitive one, where participants enter just for fun. Only by participating, you get to network with many different people and raise money for the greater good. 

Likewise, you’re getting fit walking a distance and encouraging others around you to walk and live a healthy lifestyle! What could be better than that? A lot of the time, walking is second nature to us and not a strenuous activity. Are you looking for something more interesting? Why don’t you attend a walkathon with a theme?

Whatever it is, we believe walkathons are truly remarkable. Still not convinced? Find out more about what a walkathon is and why they are so awesome (link here). Perhaps, you have even more exciting facts about walkathons, comment below and share your unique walkathon facts.

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