INEOS has never been one to run from a challenge. This one is no different. It wants to get kids running again and has launched a bold, new initiative that is doing just that.
INEOS is hoping to inspire thousands of children to give the TV, the Internet, and video games a rest, and go out and have some fun.
Chairman Jim Ratcliffe has turned his own passion for running into an initiative, which could, in turn, help to tackle one of the most serious global public health challenges facing the 21st century – child obesity.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “We just want to get children out of the house.
“Running is the basis of so many great sports so if our children catch the running bug early, they are more likely to stick to it. And that can only lead to them enjoying a more active and healthier lifestyle.”
The first Go Run For Fun event – and it is one of scores planned throughout the UK – saw hundreds of children taking part in a mile-long run. And by the time you read this more than 10,000 children will have taken part.
Former British hurdler Colin Jackson, an Olympic silver medalist, was in Newbury, London, to see them off.
“Running is simple and kids do it naturally anyway so this is a great way for them to have fun with their mates,” he said.
To ensure the campaign’s long-term success, though, INEOS is working with the people behind the iconic Great North Run to stage a series of small and large running events for children aged four to 11 all over the UK.
By 2014, it is hoped more than 30,000 children will have taken part in one of the 70 planned Go Run For Fun events, rising to 50,000 – and 100 events – by 2016.
“If this comes off – and I have no doubt that it will – it will be the biggest kids’ running initiative in the world,” said Brendan Foster, a former British Olympic long-distance runner who founded the BUPA Great North Run. “It’s also a fantastic legacy from London’s Olympic Games.”
The role of Brendan and his team at Nova International will be contact Schools and Local Authorities to encourage children to take part in each event.
“You cannot have a Great North Run without people so people will make this happen,” he said. “They will be the essential ingredient to the event’s longevity.”
Initially, Brendan believes the INEOS fun runs will attract mostly kids who already enjoy running, and whose parents understand the mind, body and soul benefits of running – rather than those who class running as a chore.
“We need to target the parents but where parents are difficult, it will be difficult to get those children involved initially,” he said.
“That’s why we need to make the events appealing and inspire those who do take part.
“Those kids will then inspire other kids to get involved. And parents will inspire other parents.”
So why has this not been done before?
“Good question,” said Brendan. “But who knows?
“All I know is that we run the largest mass participation event in the UK and are happy encouraging people to participate,” he said.
He said it was a combination of the right circumstances – Britain is still on a high after staging last year’s successful Olympic Games – and three like-minded people who wanted to make a difference.
Those three people – Jim Ratcliffe, Brendan and Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe – met in London earlier this year.
“It was INEOS’ inspiration, Jim’s idea,” said Brendan. “He had a very clear idea of what he wanted to happen and when.
“It was a typically bold move. But Jim’s right and his approach is admirable.”
Brendan said he was also delighted that the initiative had come, not from the government but, from the UK’s largest privately-owned manufacturing company.
The campaign is being launched in the UK, which has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, but it has been designed so that it can easily be rolled out across Europe and America.
“We will have events in Switzerland, France Germany, Belgium and the US but the main focus is the UK at the moment where kids are less active,” said Jim.
That sedentary lifestyle – coupled with eating too many fatty, sugary foods – has led to a huge increase in the number of children in the UK with obesity.
But the UK is not alone. The World Health Organization said child obesity was now so widespread that it regarded it as one of the most serious global public health challenges facing the 21st century.
“Our key objective is simply to inspire children to be active,” said Jim.
“Young children like to run around. It’s in their DNA. But so often children are told to slow down and sit still. This campaign is about encouraging children to run again.”
Many of the runs will be timed to coincide with existing major running events, such as the Great North Run, to allow children to experience the thrill of taking part in a mass participation event.
The Great North Run, which was founded in 1981, is now the world’s largest and most popular half marathon for adults attracted over 55,000 entrants this year. Along side this; a record 6,000 children entered the 4km Junior Great North Run.
Brendan and his team are excited at what can be achieved through INEOS’ Go Run For Fun events.
“It is such a fantastic initiative because it’s all about young kids simply having fun outside and enjoying running,” he said.
“It’s not difficult. We are not trying to put a man on the Moon. We are just trying to get as many kids running for fun as possible.
“It can be a competition for those who want it to be, but the objective is to encourage kids to run for fun.
“If they go for a run and enjoy it, they might then want to get more involved in the competitive stuff. And they will be the future Great North and London Marathon runners and you can bet that at least one of those 50,000 kids will be at the Olympics.”
For INEOS, the rewards will come in seeing young children enjoying sport.
“Go Run for Fun really does have just one aim,” said Jim. “And that’s to get kids running.
“There isn’t really a link to our business apart from the fact that we are making the investment to get this program up and running.
“We don’t have public shareholders to influence or products that consumers can buy. This is just about getting kids running and having fun.”
For more information or if you would like to plan an event visit: www.gorunforfun.com