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What is a walkathon – walk-a-thon? And why they are so awesome


What comes to your mind when you think of the word walkathon? Maybe walking a marathon or a long period of walking? Well, it’s often a combination of the two. A walkathon is known as a sponsored walk usually done in a community where funds are raised. Such funds from a walkathon go to a great cause, often the organizer’s charity. 

Once participants sign up for a walkathon, they pledge sponsors for their walk. Then if they successfully walk the allocated distance, the sponsor pays up. In return, the money they raised goes to the host’s charity. You probably agree that it’s a bit similar to a marathon or any other fundraising event.

Walkathons may hold similarities to such events, however in general, they are less competitive. This sponsored event is organised for enjoyment at a leisurely pace and with low intensity. 

You’ll most of the time find walkathons with distances of 1km, 2km, 5km, and 10km. However, there are also extreme walkathons with distances up to 100km. 

There are also walkathons which don’t have a cause, where people organize just for the thrill of walking. Similarly, there are themed events where organizers add a different flavor to the walk, often making it fancy dress, implementing obstacles, or having live music. 

Whatever the type, walkathons are a great way to connect with the local community, get healthy, and contribute to a more significant change to the world.

History of Walkathons

It wasn’t until 1953 a famous actor in Puerto Rico Ramon Ortiz Del Rivero walked 80 miles. Rivero raised over $80,000 across for four days towards a cancer charity.

Since then, he inspired many other natives in his country to host walkathons, and then later, America joined in with the hype. It was around 1985 when the first significant walkathon was held in the USA, and over $1 million raised. A Boston fundraising consultant Steven Biondolillo encouraged many participants from his workforce to walk against famine. The walkathon was called A Walk Against Hunger.

During this decade, there was a surge of walkathons to raise money to fight against HIV/AIDS. Ever since, there have been hundreds of millions of dollars raised from these walkathons towards research. Likewise, as these walks became popular more took to their idea and hosted walkathons raising more money for different charities.

After the trend of walkathons took off in the United States, many other countries decided to follow suit and actively hosted there own. Today there are walkathons held in pretty much every country with participants ranging from double figures up to a few thousand. 

 Different Types of Walkathon 

Usually, a walkathon is a sponsored walk for a period of 1-5km. However, due to the term being around for nearly 70 years now, people are hosting walkathons with a twist. Many organizers who organize walkathons genuinely care about their charity and want to attract participants from many backgrounds. Such examples of different walkathons are:

  • Nightime walkathon- These are walkathons done at night, usually with a head torch or in the early hours of the morning
  • Fancy dress walkathon- A walkathon where you undergo it in the form of fancy dress common examples are superheroes, Scottish kilts, etc.  
  • Dog walkathon– There are walkathons where you can walk your dog and accomplish great things for your charity with your furry friend. 
  • Pink walkathon- This type of walkathon involves all participants and the organizers to wear pink. Usually, it’s held for a cancer charity, specifically breast cancer. 
  • Candlelight walkathon– An ambient walkathon, where participants light a candle and walk together in unison. This type of walkathon is popular amongst churches and religious groups.
  • Pajama walkathon- A walkathon event where you raise money and complete the walk wearing your pajamas. 
  • Blind walkathon- A walkathon which involves following a rope and not being able to see.
  • A wine walkathon– This walkathon is strictly for adults, where you can take part walking to get tipsy at each stepping to each station and blowing off steam. 
  • Music walkathon– An event where a band or music is played at each significant km or mile. Sometimes there is also a concert at the end. 
  • Virtual walkathon- A walkathon held online can participate and track your distance, submitting it to the organizers.
  • Colour walkathon– A walk that replicates the colors thrown in the Hindu festival of Holi.
  • Superhero walkathon– An event where you dress up as your favorite superhero and then walk the distance.
  • Masquerade Walkathon– This is a walkathon where you wear a mask while you walk as if you were at a masquerade ball.
  • School Walkathon- This has specifically been designed for teachers, parents, and schoolchildren.

These are just a few different types of walkathons out there. In reality, there are way more forms than those listed above!

Why are Walkathons so Awesome? 

While you can host and participate in many events, we believe walkathons are so awesome because:

1. Those that Can’t Walk Can Still Participate

Even though the event has walk-in its name, you don’t have to be physically able to walk to complete it. This type of activity does not discriminate, is noncompetitive, and done for charity. Therefore don’t be surprised as most walkathons accept wheelchair participants too!

2. Feels Good

You’re out raising money, exercising, and socializing. During the whole event, your brain will be releasing endorphins providing you with a feel-good factor. Likewise, after the event, you will reflect on the distance you’ve accomplished and your money raised. After a while, this provides you with a permanent reminder of what you’ve achieved. You will also have increased self-esteem for future walkathons. 

3. Promotes Healthy Living

In today’s world, we are always on the hunt for the latest gadget or device. We all become victims of our screens, and arguably many of us don’t exercise as much as we should. Participating in a walkathon is an excellent way to promote healthy living. You are getting in shape and are also encouraging others to do the same. 

4. New Membership

Participants may not have heard of the name of the non-profit organization or their mission before the event. If participants agree to their mission and enjoy raising money for them, it may lead to more membership. After the walkathon, people may want to volunteer for a cause or help raise awareness further. A walkathon helps put a charity on the map.

5. No Judgment

The reason behind this type of event is walking for a cause. All the event organizers and participants care about is having fun and raising as much money as possible. While the event occurs, nobody cares about politics, race, religion, culture, gender, etc. The motives are much bigger than that, allowing people from different backgrounds to unite for the greater good.

6. Contributing to a More Significant Cause

The majority of walkathons are held in aid of a specific charity. Therefore, as a participant, you play your part by raising money for that charity when you undergo one. Often in some events, you have a minimum requirement to meet, allowing a substantial change to be made. As a result, walkathons hold participants in the masses, and mass amounts can contribute significant figures to charity. 

Money is not everything, but it can fund and contribute to improvement and change in the world’s much-needed parts. Something is liberating about knowing you are playing your role.

7. Exercise For All

Unlike hardcore events such as races, triathlons, and cycling events, walking is less strenuous. We walk pretty much every day of our lives, but the movement is so natural that we never think about it. Walking is something that we take for granted. Participating in walkathons can allow us to do what we’re naturally good at and help better the world around us at the same time.

During walkathon events, there are extended periods of time assigned for you to accomplish your goal. Which means there’s no pressure or competition unless you decide for it to be. Therefore anyone from children up to the elderly can participate in a walkathon. This is also excellent for you to raise money for charity and walk with your loved ones.

8. Affordable

Walkathons are affordable to host and participate in. If you are hosting a lot of your organizing funds are covered by money raised. Similarly, if you want to join, the entry fee is often minimal, and you are not confined to raising a certain amount. Also, if you choose to be competing against yourself, the training leading to the walkathon is free. All you need to do is go outside and simply walk!

Finally, walkathons don’t involve intense exercise, and for that matter, you only need light, comfortable clothing. Unlike running a marathon, you don’t need to invest in expensive active gear. 

9. Impacts The Community 

Many types of people come out and participate in walkathons. When you are taking part in a walkathon near you, you may meet people you didn’t know in your community. By merely undergoing this event, it’s a fantastic way to socialize and become acquainted with locals around you.

Likewise, if a walkathon involves raising money for a certain charity or cause, it can cause others to speak up. Especially if people have been quiet about their condition, concerning the purpose. If they see others actively doing their part and raising money, it may lead to more people getting help and assistance when needed. 

10. Develop a New Set of Skills 

If you’re hosting your own walkathon, you may gain a new set of skills you didn’t have before. The skills could be learned through marketing the event, speaking about it, and enhancing your leadership skills. 

It also serves as an excellent addition to your CV for future employers. Similarly, if you’re a participant and you’re fundraising, you can gain new people skills by attraction donations. Your skillset will be truly diverse after this!

11. Enjoy Scenery

Walkathons are often hosted in parks, forests, streets, beaches, or in a mountains’ foothills. Often the organizers of the walkathon have precisely thought about the event route. They choose to host in a picturesque destination to make it more appealing to participants. This way, you get to walk outside in a gorgeous environment and breathe in the fresh air.

12. Chance To Be Creative

Perhaps you’re hosting your own walkathon; this is a chance to utilize your creativity, especially when planning your event, promoting it, and running it. You may learn about creative endeavors or be shown creative ways you didn’t know prior. On the other hand, if you are participating in a themed walkathon, this is your chance to think of ways to express yourself and your outfit to wear for it. 

13. Morale Booster For Your Workplace

Are you looking for a team-building activity for your employees or co-workers? Walkathons serve as an excellent event for companies to get involved. Walking together, achieving milestones, and raising money helps build office self-esteem. Office outings like this help provide an excellent opportunity for bonding and reconnection.

14. Team Building For Schools

If you’re a school and want to raise money, this is a fantastic event to conduct. You don’t have to travel far to organize a walkathon. In fact, you can host it from your school. Whether you choose to walk in a playground, field, or school gym, the event can become a success.

This way, you can involve school children, teachers, and parents. Walkathons in schools can be an excellent team-building activity and form tight-knit relationships between teachers, parents, and students. 

15. Make a Change in The World

You and many other participants will have raised money for a specific cause. More funds can lead to actions and research. Therefore, in the long run, more time spent can be spent contributing to new discoveries.

Popular Walkathons across the globe

It’s mentioned that around 2 million people take part annually in walkathons around the world.

While many walkathons have been held globally, in the past decade or so, some specific ones have caught the global media’s attention. Similarly, if you want to travel to another country or city for a walkathon, you may be interested in joining one of these stated below. Finally, if you’re hosting a walkathon, these may provide you with ideas on making yours an impactful one. 

World Wide Walk To Fight Poverty

Back in 2014, a massive walkathon was held in the Philippines capital Manila. The 1.5 million participants broke four Guinness world records making it the most enormous charity walk.

 It was hosted by Iglesia Ni Cristo’s Church of Christ to tackle poverty. As a result, the church raised lots of money to combat hunger and raise awareness of African countries suffering from poverty.

MS walk

A popular walkathon held in the UK across many cities to raise awareness against multiple sclerosis (MS). This is a lifelong condition known to attack the brain and nerve cells, making simple daily tasks hard. 

Moreover, there’s no cure for this just treatment. Therefore MS Walk is a popular walkathon in the UK helping fund research behind this disease and also helping suffers of MS. 

Coldest Night Of The Year

In Canada, a national walkathon takes place in the wintertime to raise money to help serve charities that feed the homeless and those hurting. The walkathon involves a distance of 2km, 5km or 10km and helps 132 Candian communities. At the beginning of 2020, coldest night of the year had 26,112 walkers and raised over 6 million dollars for charity.

Walk4Africa

A giant walkathon held across the African continent, with 38 countries taking part. The walk has different legs, and over the next ten years, they hope 52.5 million steps to coincide with UN goals in 2030. Walk4Africa aims to educate individuals on the UN’s sustainable tourism goals and raise global awareness on sustainability in the African continent.

Annual pink walkathon 

In Dubai, there is a pink walkathon held every year. The annual pink walkathon aims to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer. Each year more than 13,000 people take part in a 3.6km walk and have been doing so. This walkathon is open to males, females, children, and the elderly.

The Moonwalk Iceland 

A nighttime walkathon is held in Iceland amongst picturesque landscapes covering an entire marathon distance, 26.2 miles. A minimum of £650 is raised per participant, and the funds go towards a breast cancer charity, Walk the Walk. The Moonwalk Iceland happens every year and raises lots of money towards breast cancer research.

Ecco Walkathon

Denmark’s biggest walkathon is Ecco walkathon taking place each year in the center of Copenhagen. This year held its 21st yearly walkathon in a row, and the distance was 7.5km. Funds raised from this year’s walkathon went towards supporting Kenyan villages in crisis and helped build a safe project in Nairobi’s slum. 

Kathmandu Pinkathon 

Located in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu Pinkathon is a walk specifically for women and to empower women. Participants are female and have to wear pink, the funds for this event aim towards educating Nepalese women to adopt a healthier and active lifestyle.

These are just a few famous global walkathons that have been hosted across the world. However, there is a wide range of excellent ones out there.

How to find out about walkathons in my area?

You’d be surprised there are a lot of walkathons out there in your local area. There is no specific way to find out about a walkathon. However, there are certain websites which regularly promote and advertise walkathons which are happening; they are:

Active

Active showcase many different types of events and walkathons across the world. You can filter by distance, date, location, and type of event. 

Time Outdoors

Time Outdoors allows you to view nearby walking events, sponsored walks long walks, hill walks, and walking festivals.

Event Brite

Event Brite is a standard website used worldwide to advertise happening events around you; it’s not just tailored to walking; however, most events happening in your area are regularly advertised here.

Facebook

Nowadays, many events are posted on Facebook to gain more PR attraction. You may see many people on your feed clicking attend on upcoming events. On your account, you have a specific section where you can search for upcoming events in your areas and other locations too.

Similarly, if you’re based in the US, you may want to see an overview of the US’s walkathons in 2020 (link here). 

Finally, if you can’t find any walkathons happening in your area, you could always start the trend and host your own walkathon!

Why we need to encourage more walkathons

Currently, in the world, there are many different sporting events you can take part in. Depending on your mood, you could participate in races, triathlons, swimming competitions, danceathons, obstacle courses, rowing, etc. While all of these are fun to join in, they require a baseline level of fitness and rigorous training. 

Whereas doing walkathons, you don’t need much training in advance or a fitness level to do. Walkathons are a non-competitive event (unless you decide to make it one) and are done at a leisurely pace. At times the term ‘athon’ can often provoke worry into people’s minds, thinking it’s prolonged periods of vigorous exercise, when it’s not. 

Walkathons should be promoted more because the distances are often easily achievable. This is an event full of support with usually good intentions if it’s for a cause. For most of us, we’ve been walking all of our lives and make this distance on our daily commute. Whereas if you’re not able to walk or have those who struggle with walking, there’s no rush. The real purpose of a walkathon is getting out there, socializing, and exercising.

Do you know the benefits of walking?

Simply by participating in walkathons, it can allow you to become more active and, as a result, walk more. Just because walking isn’t as vigorous as some other exercise, it still provides fantastic benefits to your lifestyle. According to Healthline if you do it regularly, it can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. This is because it has been shown to lower blood pressure and improves the circulation of your blood. 

It’s also naturally been proven to boost your mood as a neurochemical known as endorphins are released into your bloodstream. Likewise, Mayoclinic suggests that it can also reduce the chances of anxiety and depression in the long term. Your cognitive function is also improved and helps you make better decisions. Because of this, if you walk, there is often a reduced risk of getting Alzheimers disease. 

Further to this, walking helps ease joint pain, as it allows fluid to lubricate the areas. Also, Arthritis.org mentions it can prevent the loss of bone mass if you have osteoporosis. “one study of postmenopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40%, Arthritis.org.”

Likewise, it will provide you with more energy as walking allows more oxygen to flow to the body, resulting in increased energy-inducing hormones. Moreover, because you are inhaling more oxygen, it helps your breath and eliminates waste. As a result of this, your energy and fitness levels increase.

Go sign up for a Walkathon today!

Given these health benefits of walking, if you haven’t already, go and sign up for a walkathon event today! On the other hand, if there’s not one, you should definitely organize an event. Walkathons are a fantastic way to get involved with your local community and contribute to change. 

Don’t even panic or think about your background, age, culture, ability, or fitness level. We’ve just told you walkathons are available for all; it’s a non-judgemental event. We are living in a time where the world is preaching about equality and diversity. Walkathons are a fantastic event to be held to contribute to change and make history in your community. 

More to the point, the exercise involved in walkathons is natural to us. We walk every day. Similarly, if there’s a walkathon that is not to your liking, there are many more out there. Also, if you’re a bit apprehensive about your first one, you can participate on your own virtually. Likewise, you can also host your own virtual walkathon (link here). 

Remember, the best websites to look for walkathons in your area are on Eventbrite, Active, Time Outdoors, and you can search via Facebook events. All these events allow you to search by date and filter by location. 

If you have a dog, a family member or friend bring them out to attend a walkathon. After all, you deserve to feel good and enjoy the electric atmosphere from a walkathon. We can assure you the enjoyment factor alone will keep you coming back pining for more!

Have you participated in a walkathon before? Share with us your thoughts and information about your walkathon experience. If you have any questions about walkathons, you can also contact us for more information or simply have a browse on the website where you’ll find more tips and tricks about walkathons.

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