I Put Some New Shoes On: Running the Talk

My old-fashioned alarm blares at 6 a.m. Every morning. I get up and put my battered running shoes on. Before sunrise I am out and running, when Geneva’s streets are still slick from morning dew.

Make no mistake, this is not me. And honestly, I don’t think I even want this person to be me. There is little else I avoid as passionately and thoroughly as exercise. Unfortunately, this summer had to be different. I went down to my crammed basement, fished my ten-year old running shoes from the back of the storage unit, and dusted them off. Because this year, I am joining the #TheHumanRace.

August 19 is World Humanitarian Day. In memory of the bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, on 19 August 2003, this day commemorates humanitarian workers, who have given their lives in service to others. On this day, the world celebrates humanitarian workers, who provide life-saving support and protection to millions of people in need. Every year, World Humanitarian Day sheds light onto a pressing challenge to unite the efforts of all humanitarian actors. This year’s theme highlights how climate change threatens vulnerable communities and the necessary urgency of joint climate action. Unless we manage to effectively address climate change, natural disasters will increasingly threaten people — their lives and livelihoods. We are all in this race, the race against the climate emergency. Currently, we are losing. But together we can win.

For this reason, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) is hosting a global race challenge to draw the attention of world leaders to the importance of the global race against the climate emergency. Participants can back the campaign by recording at least 100 minutes of exercise on Strava. Each step will bring the message closer to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November.

Run the talk

In my career, in politics, and in my community, one type of leadership has always stood out: leading by example. Leaders whose vision and purpose aligns with their own actions don’t just make others follow — their principled and authentic behavior inspires. Authentic leadership can show up in small gestures. I had a boss whose belief in humanity was evidenced by how she treated people, showing the same care and consideration to the executive director as she did to the office cleaners. Principled leadership can be big, like a former supervisor who spoke up against a strict new policy favored by management. In both cases, the entire team rallied around these leaders.


If I ever assume a leadership role, I want my words to match my actions. So, this year, I won’t simply tweet about World Humanitarian Day. Instead, I will be taking up the baton, and I will run #TheHumanRace. I will log my humbling times. You could join too. Run, ride, walk, or just send a message in solidarity as part of the #TheHumanRace. Our time to act is now.