The Virtual 5K can be completed by running, biking, swimming, rollerblading, and any other way of moving for our oceans. STACEY HENDERSON/REE

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) will host the second annual ‘Fish Out of Water’ Virtual 5K to support ocean conservation, and everyone’s invited. 

Traditional 5K (3.1 miles) races involve running, competition and strict rules. The objective of REEF’s event is more free-flowing: to engage people who don’t like races or running in their mission to save our oceans. 

To that end, the event will be held June 7-13, 2021 to overlap with World Oceans Day, which falls on June 8. Participants can choose how they want to move for the oceans (run, walk, bike, hike, swim or any combination of activities). They complete the 5K at their own pace, either in one day or over the course of the week. 

Participants choose one of five “Fish Teams” to join that represent an iconic fish species monitored by REEF’s citizen-scientists around the world. REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project operates in 11 regions worldwide helping scientists monitor ocean health and biodiversity through these surveys.

Participants may report their 5K times if desired, and after the race, each Fish Team’s results will be shared. This year, friends, family, dive buddies or coworkers can additionally form a “Fish Shoal” at no additional cost and no matter what Fish Team they are on. 

“Shoals are groups of fish that contain different species, while schools are the same fish species who swim together in a synchronized way,” said Amy Lee, REEF engagement and communications manager. In this way, participants can select their own Fish Team but still join a different Shoal, should they wish.

A Shoal Captain can submit the shoal registration form online with a fun team name. Every participant still registers for the 5K individually, but Shoal members can get creative with costumes and themes. 

REEF piloted the idea of the more relaxed, virtual fun run last year, during the height of the pandemic, to engage people around the world with ocean conservation in a safe, socially-distant and healthy way.

“We had a great response to the first Fish Out of Water 5K. Nearly 500 people participated, representing 37 states and 9 countries, including US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, England, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland,” said Lee. People got moving by running, walking, biking, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and rollerblading. Last year’s race raised nearly $10,000, Lee shared. This year, REEF aims to have 700 participants.

Registration is currently $45 and is open until May 28. Two registration packages are available: the Starting Line package includes a limited-edition shirt, finishers’ medal, and race bib, and the Finish Line package will receive a shirt, medal, bib and a retro fanny pack and sticker set. Supplies are limited, so early registration is highly encouraged.

Fish Out of Water 5K proceeds support diversity in ocean exploration through REEF’s “Oceans for All Fund.” The fund provides inclusive, ocean-focused educational opportunities for underserved communities and those with financial need who are traditionally underrepresented in science, diving, and conservation, Lee explainedFor more information or to register online, visit Tag your photos from the race  on social media using #FishOutOfWater5K and #REEFRace.

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Tiff Duong is a self-made mermaid who loves all things cheesy (romantic and dairy) and thrives in the 3 am hour. She believes in leaving it all on the field and has never met a (mis)adventure she didn't love.