October-November 2022 | Features

Rotarians on the run

Rotarians on the run

Rachel Cole from Summerville Evening Rotary Club in South Carolina, USA, describes the joy of marathon running and the International Marathon Fellowship of Rotarians.

It is said that less than 1% of the world’s population completes a marathon. The International Marathon Fellowship of Rotarians (IMFR) aims to have members be a part of that small portion of the world while bringing together members from all over the world.

Once a year, members of the fellowship come together somewhere around the world to complete a marathon together.

The IMFR began gathering in 2005 at the Paris Marathon. Since then, members have gathered for marathons in Amsterdam, New Zealand, Iceland, Australia, Italy, the USA, and France, just to name a few places.

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The goal is for Rotarians to come together to not only run but also for friendship and fellowship while running and raising funds for PolioPlus.

Each year a contribution has been made to help End Polio.

Currently, the fellowship has over 200 members representing 30 countries, with seven from Great Britain & Ireland.

This diverse membership coming together annually is something that must be experienced first-hand to truly grasp the wonderful ways Rotary unites members around the world.

During marathon weekend, members typically gather for meals before and after the marathon, complete pre-marathon runs together, and explore the local area.

Once a year, members of the fellowship come together somewhere around the world to complete a marathon together.”

Depending on the location of the marathon there have also been tours offered before the marathon where members tour around together for a week or so to explore the country they are running in, which leads to many adventures and countless memories!

I can recall my first trip with the fellowship back in 2015.

At that time, I had only been a member of Rotary for about five years and was considered a young Rotarian at 32 years old. A fellow club member had shared about fellowships and was encouraging members to begin joining at least one fellowship.

In 2013, I had completed the New York City Marathon and was beginning to find my way as a marathon runner.

The idea of joining a group that combined my love of travel along with the hobby of running sounded like the perfect fit. After a little consideration I decided to jump in and join the fellowship and participate in the Paris Marathon.

When I arrived in Paris I had no idea what to expect. I had had little communication with other members of the fellowship at this point and had no real connection to anyone there, or so I thought.

Group of the Marathon Fellowship Rotarians.

I was the only American active in the fellowship and had never been to France before, not to mention the barrier of language and not knowing if anyone would be able to communicate.

However, in the true spirit of Rotary, each member greeted me warmly and made me feel as if I had been a part of the fellowship for years. The language barrier between members was quickly set aside and we all found ways to communicate through our various languages.

During our time in Paris, we fellowshipped, enjoyed meals together, explored the city, and completed a marathon. You can’t ask for a much better of combination of activities than that!

Rotarians exchanged banners and pins, shared about their home clubs, and, most importantly, made lasting friendships that would develop strong ties regardless of the miles between us all.

Although there may be a year or two between when we see one another due to individual situations, the members of the fellowship pick right back up where we left off the year prior with our friendships.

Although a location and marathon have not been announced yet, the hope is to have an announcement very soon about the 2023 plans.”

When we gather, we catch up on family happenings, career paths, and all things in our lives. Many members travel with their spouses and we keep up with each other through our times apart.

The marathons offer each of us an opportunity to visit other countries we may have never dreamed of seeing and what better way to see a new city than running through the streets!

Though the past few years have not been as travel friendly as we may like, we are excited to be planning the next gathering of the IMFR. The board has been working to keep members involved through virtual runs but is excitedly working to plan a gathering in 2023.

Although a location and marathon have not been announced yet, the hope is to have an announcement very soon about the 2023 plans.

If you have a desire to be part of the small percentage who complete a marathon, or if you’re already a marathon runner, we encourage you to consider joining the fellowship.

Rachel Cole after finishing one of her marathons.

Currently, there’s a one-time, lifetime membership fee to join the membership.

If you’re interested in joining the fellowship or just want to learn more, you are encouraged to visit the website.

Also, be sure to follow the Rotarian Run Facebook page to stay up to date about upcoming gatherings.

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