Forget marathons — these New Yorkers are running all the way to Moscow, sort of.
Since Jan. 25, Front Runners New York, an LGBT running group, has been hitting the streets to support those in Russia who are coping with anti-gay laws and violence.
Timed to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Front Runners’ original plan was to collectively run 4,664 miles, the distance between New York City and Moscow.
“Because we’re a running club, we thought this was a way to show solidarity with them in the way we knew best,” explained club president David Lin.
But what began as an internal club program — dubbed “To Russia with Love” — gained speed through word of mouth and social media, Lin said.
“We’ve seen people in the New York City running community reach out to us, wanting to contribute, and we’ve seen runners from outside New York,” Lin said.
In fact, the group has already surpassed its goal, according to project coordinator Jonathan Schneiderman.
As of Monday, the total had reached a whopping 6,823 miles, contributed by 127 members and 71 allies on runs throughout the city and the surrounding area.
“We’re so proud of all the enthusiasm surrounding this initiative,” Lin said. “It goes to show that so many people in New York and the greater running community care about this issue.”
But even though they’ve hit the distance to Moscow — and then some — Front Runners has no intention of stopping. “It’s important for us to keep logging those miles,” Lin said. “So many people see this as an opportunity to reach out to a community that needs our support.”
With the help of social media, the news of “To Russia with Love” has already reached its target community across the world.
A YouTube video posted on Feb. 6 to explain the project had acquired more than 600 views as of Monday.
The video has been seen in Russia and 18 other countries, Lin said, and the advocacy group Rusa LGBT has taken to Twitter to promote the program among New York City’s Russian expatriates.
Runners can log miles on the Front Runners New York website through this Sun., Feb. 23, the date of the Olympics closing ceremony.