As the spread of COVID-19 shuttered his two run specialty shops and race timing business in Long Island, NY, Brendan Barrett and his team at Sayville Running Company and Smithtown Running Company concocted a daring plan designed to both inspire collective movement and support business operations.

On March 21, the stores announced Run Around the World: A (Social) Distance Project. Set to begin April 1, the $30 virtual event challenges participants to accumulate miles over the month of April together. The more miles the group completes, the more everyone wins.

If the group collectively runs the length of the U.S. (2802 miles), all participants, regardless if they’ve logged a one-mile walk or 100 miles on local streets, receive a $20 gift card. If the group traverses the entire circumference of the globe (24,901 miles), participants earn a $30 gift card. If the group successful loops the world twice, the running stores will award $40 gift cards.

“This is something people can latch onto, a positive goal they can chase with others and then be rewarded for at the end,” Barrett says, adding that the stores will offer raffles, prizes and motivational checkpoints to keep spirits high in the Run Around the World Strava club.

The brainchild of Smithtown Running Company manager Mike Petrina, Run Around the World builds off the stores’ popular February Challenge, a now-annual event that tasks participants to run everyday in February. With Petrina presenting a rough draft of the idea, store leadership refined the Run Around the World plan through ongoing brainstorming sessions in advance of its March 21 debut.

“We just kept bouncing ideas around and it kept growing,” Barrett says.

For Sayville Running Company and its sister business in nearby Smithtown, the virtual challenge props up the running community and the retail businesses simultaneously, according to Barrett. It provides runners an ambitious goal they can work toward collectively with hearty rewards at the end, while also bringing immediate income into the running stores and enticing future purchases via the gift cards.

“It’s a win-win, and that’s something we’re always after,” Barrett says.