The story behind Run Across America

The first Saturday of June marks the return of the flagship Run Across America 5k.  These days, it's the first bonus challenge to kick off Summer Start.  But what's the story behind Run Across America?


How to help in a pandemic

To wind back the clock to the first Run Across America, we head back to spring 2020.  Our company had specialized in making live event software to help event organizers keep track of all of the people and equipment that keep an event running smoothly. 

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, live events quickly got cancelled as people stayed home to keep safe and healthy.  The disruption to routines created new stresses for everyone, including a worrying rise in unemployment and food insecurity.  Meanwhile, essential workers were risking their lives to keep us all safe.  Our team was left wondering how we could help.


An idea is born: the first-ever Run Across America

So we got together and created a new idea: a virtual 5k that everyone across the whole country could participate in outside together.  It was the first nationwide race.  We decided to partner with Feeding America to help combat food insecurity nationwide and offer free registration to Essential Workers.

The event was scheduled for the first Saturday in June: June 6, 2020.  But how could everyone participate in all states?  We built a new app where people could form teams, track their route with GPS, and log their results.

To make sure everyone had a chance to participate no matter their schedule, the event opened at midnight on the East Coast and ran for 30 full hours, ending Saturday night at midnight in Hawaii.  Any time during that window, people could use the app to record a 5k—run, walk, or roll. 

Even though it was virtual, the idea was to create the excitement and stakes of race day.  Leaderboard results were verified and available by activity, state, age, and sex so that people could see how their efforts stacked up.  To keep the race vibes going, registration included t-shirts and medals.


The response was beyond anything we could have imagined.  More than 12,000 people ran, walked, or rolled in the event.  3,600 essential workers participated for free (and got free t-shirts!).  And we raised more than $100,000 for Feeding America.  For our small team, being able to create this impact was simply amazing.


Since then, Run Across America has evolved into a season-long program that has helped thousands of people log distance daily.  Even as the app and program have changed, we still keep the flagship 5k spirit alive building community (6 million miles logged) and raising money for Feeding America (6.2 million meals and counting). 

And the first Saturday each June, we continue to host the Run Across America Flagship 5K.  If you're registered for Summer Splash this year, we'll see you there!

2023 Summer Splash challenges:

Did you participate in the 2020 Run Across America?  What are your memories?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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