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The endurance runner combining races with beach cleanups

High 5 to Signe Simonsen, founder of Race for Oceans
Interview: Daiana Contini
Photo: Mads Tolstrup

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5 is here to celebrate and connect people and organisations who are having a positive impact on the world. Our High 5 series gives the stage to these inspiring people – and asks them to pass the High 5 on to someone who has inspired them.

Nominated by Katrine Lee Larsen, our second High 5 goes to Signe Simonsen, founder of Race for Oceans. The 456km relay race along the coast of Jutland in Denmark raises awareness about ocean plastic and combines sports, beach cleanups and education in a unique annual event.

Signe tells us what inspired her to take action, how she literally started racing for the oceans, and who she’d like to give a High 5 to.

What inspired you to do what you do?

Working in Iraq for the Danish military in 2005, I saw huge amounts of waste floating in rivers and irrigation systems. It was the first time I realised that this could become a really big issue for the world.

Later, I visited all seven continents in an adventure marathon from 2012 to 2016, and again noticed the increasing plastic pollution. Seeing how nature was being transformed, I wanted to do something and chose the UN Sustainable Development Goal that is closest to my heart: goal number 14, ‘Life below water’.

I have always been close to the ocean and grew up spending my summer holidays on the east coast of Jutland. I’ve also been really sporty all my life: running on the beach, swimming, diving, winter bathing, surfing and kayaking. So for me the ocean is something that we really need to take care of because it has so much positive impact in people’s lives.

Race for Oceans developed from all of those things. But what also makes the project unique is inclusion: thinking about how we can include people. It’s for everybody with a passion for oceans, because plastic pollution concerns all of us. That’s also why our activities are free.

What advice would you give to others who want to make a positive impact?

I think it’s important to find your purpose, your ‘why’. Why it’s important for you, but also for a lot of other people in the world, in terms of creating an impact. And it needs to come from your heart.

Right now, Race for Oceans is a low-budget project and almost all of my spare time goes into it. But I’m really passionate about it and it gives me a lot of energy, so it feels really natural.

And, doing things with your heart pays off in the long-run. We received the Verdensmål prize in September 2020, an award for Danish initiatives working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Who do you want to pass a High 5 on to?

I would like to give a High 5 to Ida Marie Tarp, the co-founder of GreenTel. They sell mobile phone subscriptions and have the same passion for the ocean as we do at Race for Oceans. We have a partnership with them and promised to collect two tons of ocean plastic. Now, for every 30 kroner (€4) their customers pay for mobile subscriptions, we collect 1kg of ocean plastic.

Thinking in this way is a bit new here in Denmark, especially when it comes to ocean plastic. But it’s really inspiring that they’re using this model to create awareness about the problem. And most of all, I like them because they care. They’re not doing this because it’s trendy.

High 5 Signe!

About Race for Oceans
At the core of Race for Oceans is a 10-day relay race stretching 456km along the west coast of Jutland, from Skylt to Skagen. The course is divided into 100 sections that people can run, walk or even kayak. The initiative was founded by Signe Simonsen to raise awareness about growing levels of ocean plastic pollution.

Find out more

  • In our previous High 5 interview with Katrine Lee Larsen we find out how she’s saving the ocean one bikini at a time. Read the story here.
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