Running festival goes virtual thanks to Benfleet running club

A South Essex running club is organising a virtual alternative to the postponed HARP24, the annual 24-hour running festival organised by HARP, Southend’s Homeless Charity.

Graham Douglass, co-chair of Benfleet Running Club, has taken part in HARP24 for five years in a row and was missing his usual training routine for this time of year.

When the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, he came up with the idea of “HARP24 – Virtually” to raise money for HARP’s work with local homeless people.

He was inspired by local fundraiser and community champion, Noel Kelleway, who passed away earlier this year and was one of the original founders of HARP24.

Graham said: “I was running and thinking about Noel and I realised that this year’s event would have taken place in his memory. He was a fantastic guy and so energetic and enthusiastic about the event and I thought that would be a real shame.

“When I then considered the way the current situation is impacting charities and the vulnerable people they support, I thought this could be a great way to give myself and other runners a sense of purpose during our runs, keep running clubs connected, and raise money for people in need.”

Local running clubs are already signing up to take part in “HARP24 – Virtually” over June 20 and 21, the original HARP24 weekend.

Teams of 12 will run individually for 60 minutes, during daylight hours and in sequence, for 12 hours on June 20, and again on June 21, with no set route. Runners will track their distances on running apps and then upload them into a dedicated Facebook group.

The teams will be ranked by the total distance completed over the two days.

Graham added: “Winners get the warm feeling of satisfaction that they have helped our local homeless community and, of course, free bragging rights.”

Running clubs can sign up to “HARP24 – Virtually” at


Mick Ferris

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