South Loop ‘Qua-RUN-tine’ marathon raises money for coronavirus efforts in Kenya

By Mari Devereaux, Managing Editor

Courtesy Jeff Harbert
South Loop residents Jeff (right) and Allyson Harbert ran a marathon on their balcony to raise money for coronavirus relief efforts in Kenya.

Within the confines of their high-rise apartment in Chicago’s South Loop, Jeff Harbert and his wife sprinted from one end of their cramped 6-by-10 foot balcony to the next, completing a marathon.

“This is by far the hardest thing we’ve done in quarantine,” Harbert said during the livestreamed run.

Under the gaze of their dog, Sophie, and supportive viewers on Facebook and Instagram Live, the couple began the marathon at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 9 and finished in 6 1/2 hours.

Harbert said after a month of staying at home, he and his wife Allyson grew restless and began thinking of creative ways to raise money for the nonprofit organization Hope For Life located in Kenya, which he said is struggling tremendously due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hope For Life is a nonprofit organization currently serving 115 children with varying nutritional, educational and medical needs, many of whom have been affected by HIV or AIDS, according to its website.

Harbert’s mother, Barb, who works as the board treasurer at Hope For Life and lives in Nakuru, Kenya, said the donations will help them continue feeding children throughout the coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic.

“Like a lot of people, we have a little bit of extra time on our hands, so we wanted to put that to good use,” Jeff Harbert said.

The Harberts set up a GoFundMe page on April 27, which outlined their plan to run 1 kilometer for every $100 donated, with the intention to raise $4,200 and run 42 kilometers, the length of a full marathon. They met their goal just one week after launching the fundraiser.

While battling technical difficulties and cramps, the Harberts interacted with viewers, running to donor-requested jams including “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John, “Friday” by Rebecca Black, “Bored in the House” by Tyga and Curtis Roach and “Africa” by Toto.

Since the marathon ended, they have raised more than $8,000.

“It’s exceeded our expectations, and we’re really thrilled because so many friends and family have donated,” Jeff Harbert said. “We know this is a difficult time, and it’s been really awesome to see people outpouring that generosity.”

Barb Harbert said due to the Kenyan government’s enacted coronavirus regulations, it has been drastically harder for people to make an income. She added that if Kenya had a strict stay-at-home order in place, many citizens would not have the means to eat.

Through Hope For Life, food like milk, vegetables, fruit, eggs and grains are delivered to the homes of youth in the feeding program twice a week to maintain social distancing guidelines. Organization workers take sanitation measures to ensure the delivery car is clean and wear gloves to prepare the food in separate containers, Barb Harbert said.

Before the pandemic, the organization spent roughly $1,000 a month, but the cost is “a lot higher now,” she said.

Funds raised from the “Qua-run-tine” will go toward medical and food expenses, which Barb Harbert said should yield one meal a day for children in the program lasting four months.

“It will go a long way in providing meals for kids, which is a big thing for us that we wanted to do,” Jeff Harbert said. “And hopefully coming out of it, we don’t injure ourselves on the run. If we can accomplish both those things, we’ll be really happy.”


Those interested in contributing can donate to the Harbert’s GoFundMe page, which is still open for donations.