How #RunningDry grew from a campaign to a movement

When we began the #RunningDry journey with Mina Guli in late 2018, we thought we were somewhat prepared. After all, we’d worked with Mina on the 7 Deserts Run in 2016, when she ran 40 marathons across 7 deserts, on 7 continents in 7 weeks. We’d also worked on the 6 River Run in 2017, when Mina ran 40 marathons in 40 days along 6 rivers around the world. The difference with #RunningDry was that this campaign wasn’t 40 marathons - it was 100. 100 marathons in 100 days to show what 100% commitment to the global water crisis looks like.

Photos: Kelvin Trautman

A team of storymakers

We worked closely with Mina’s team on the ground, in particular photographer Kelvin Trautman and videographer Jared Paisley, to craft the story we wanted to tell over the 100 days. With more than 3 months on the road, we knew we had to keep tension in the story to sustain interest. We looked at Mina’s physical, emotional and mental story arcs from previous campaigns and mapped out how we might highlight those at different times.

We wove together the two distinct strands of the campaign - the running story and the water story - and figured out how best to tell the stories of the people the team would meet along the way: the water heroes. We created infographics with key facts and tips about invisible water - the water that is present in our food and clothing without us even being aware of it. And we figured out workflows with a team who at any one time would be scattered across the globe: from Hong Kong to Australia, South Africa and the USA. At last, on November 4th 2018, we plunged headfirst into a thrilling adventure with Mina.

100 day logistics

The team travelled far, and fast, with Mina running a marathon every single day. This sounds crazy even without the travel in between, but they travelled literally around the world - starting at the New York City Marathon before heading off to run across Europe (UK, France, Italy), Uzbekistan, India, China, Hong Kong, Dubai, the Middle East (Jordan, Palestine, Israel) and South Africa. She then headed to Australia before crossing the USA and finishing her 100-day journey back where she started in New York on the 11th of February 2019. What this meant, logistically, is that often Mina would fly to a new country overnight, do media on arrival, drive a few hours to meet a water hero, and then run. A whole marathon.

Video: Jared Paisley

Consistently high social engagement

It was a gruelling pace, but the stories we were able to tell - on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Mina’s blog were beautiful, and heartbreaking. The global water crisis was being shown in true human form, and we were getting respectable numbers of video views (around 4,000) and great engagement on the social front. Mina hired Fenton to do all the social media posting and reporting, freeing up Treeshake to do campaign and creative direction, and the reports from Fenton were consistently higher engagement rates than the norm. For example:

  • Facebook: 2.3%. Average Facebook engagement rate: 0.5%-1%.

  • Instagram: 7.9%. Average engagement rate:  2%.

  • Twitter: 1.7%. Average engagement rate: 0.9%-1%.

An unexpected twist

But then something happened. Mina got injured - and not the kind of injury that meant she could walk her marathons for a few days and it would get better. She was walking her marathons (and they were taking more than 12 hours a day to complete), but her injury didn’t go away. Eventually, an MRI verified what the whole team had feared: Mina had multiple stress fractures in her femur. The bone later broke through - she ran so hard she broke her leg. Mina revealed this to the #RunningDry community in an honest video and series of photographs that many supporters said was a refreshing break from the airbrushed perfection of social media. She spoke to them person to person, sharing her vulnerability and despair at being injured.

Video: Jared Paisley

While this was unfolding, Mina and the team were visiting Beaufort West in South Africa, a town that literally ran dry. They joined local disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers to donate water to the residents. It was a heartbreaking few days. And then, Mina couldn’t go on.

Photos: Kelvin Trautman

Campaign to movement

What happened next was quite remarkable. A few of Mina’s supporters had commented on her injury video, saying they wished they could run a marathon for her, and suggested she let others run so that she could rest. We reached out to these supporters via DM and amplified their message. Mina ran 62 marathons in 62 days, but on day 63 she was told by doctors that if she ran any more she would never run again. After a mentoring session with her friend, Lewis Pugh, she agreed to hand the baton to the community. Her team stepped in to help her, and the following day - and every one since - the #RunningDry community stepped up, donating kilometres or miles to #RunningDry, and sharing water facts as they went.

bruno sanchez

The first follower was Bruno Sanchez, who ran a full marathon for Mina as soon as the request was put out. That same day, supporters in Cape Town, where Mina was that day, showed up to contribute kilometres to the cause. The images and story were picked up by the Associated Press worldwide, and from there the #RunningDry movement began…

Video: Jared Paisley

A real community

Our team worked hard to make sure every single person who contributed distance to #RunningDry felt validated, and noticed. We replied to every comment, reached out on DM to thank people, and shone a spotlight on the community who was not only doing Mina’s distance for her, but also sharing water facts and helpful tips along the way. Kilometres poured in from all over the world, with the biggest running day logging 1800km for #RunningDry (42 marathons in one day!) It was then that the next dream was born: Mina set out to run 100 marathons in 100 days for water. What if the #RunningDry community could run 100 marathons in 1 day?

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100 marathons in 1 day

We started working on the idea - reaching out on DM to anyone who had contributed miles and asking for their support in the challenge, creating a special page on Mina’s website explaining exactly what to do, adding a pop-up so that anyone who visited the site would know about the marathon attempt, setting up a folder of easily shareable infographics on Facebook and punting the message that we could only achieve this if we all worked together. On Sunday 27th January 2019, we attempted 100 marathons in 1 day, and we were blown away.

Mina’s vision for the 100 marathons in 100 days #RunningDry campaign was simple: to make saving water famous. Just over 2 weeks after announcing her injury on social media, the vision became a reality with #RunningDry becoming a worldwide movement.

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As of midnight on the 27th of January, 251 marathons had been logged: an incredible distance of 10,629.3km. People donated kilometres from 44 different countries and territories - from Antarctica to Sweden, Mexico to Japan, Australia to Serbia and everywhere in between. Supporters logged distances from 1km to over 50km, in temperatures from -15°C to over 40°C, in deserts, snow and in forests. People ran by rivers and others by oceans and waterways. Some ran in cities and on tracks. Some ran in groups and others on their own. But every single one of them donated their miles on Sunday to support #RunningDry and help drive global water awareness.

Video: Jared Paisley

Global reach, local effect

The reach of this campaign has been truly phenomenal. Press releases were picked up in more than 200 publications, including the New York Post, South China Morning Post and Economic Times, as well as TV and radio stations all over the world. The total online audience, according to Critical Mention, is 1,375,603,595 and growing daily (approaching 1.5 billion). The media value is over a billion US dollars ($103,047,338). Flux Communications is our PR agency, and we worked as one team.

What has been even more gratifying is the rapid growth of the community online. Mina’s social media pages have gained 194,605 new followers and fans throughout the campaign - with 24,830 new followers in just one week building up to the #RunningDry marathon. That week also totalled 424.6k impressions on Twitter (in 1 week!) and Instagram engagements were over a million (1,109,576) as of January 28th 2019. Videos posted during this time have been watched 40,000 times - 10 times more than videos earlier in the campaign.

With the global #RunningDry marathon on 27th January, hashtag usage spiked due to the global community engagement. On Sunday, #RunningDry on Twitter had a reach of 1.4 million and garnered 3 million impressions. Across platforms, the hashtag was used at least 1,525 times in the previous week. That’s almost as many times as the previous three weeks combined.

There was an outpouring of positive comments and water facts shared on Sunday for the global marathon. Users from around the world took to social media to share why they were running for water. Most notably, influential supporters Peter Gleick and Esteban Bullrich (from Antarctica) participated in the global marathon. These two alone had a combined following of 614,000 on Twitter.


The future of #RunningDry

What’s next? Once Mina finishes her 100 days on 11th February, she has a busy line-up of speaker engagements to further this message, while her team gets to work on the #RunningDry documentary, which will include community video submissions. The opportunity to work as such pivotal team members on #RunningDry has been an extraordinary one. It has shown us - in stark detail - the power of storytelling, the importance of getting personal on social media, and the strength of a global community. We will continue to work with the #RunningDry movement in 2019 and beyond, to show that - truly - every drop counts.