Getting people moving at the Virgin Sport Festival of Fitness

Richard Branso taking part in a sports warm up in Hackney
Image from Virgin Sport
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 30 April 2017

Virgin Sport is go! What a start for our newest business at the first ever Virgin Sport Festival of Fitness in London. It was a fantastic atmosphere in the heart of Hackney and I was so proud to be there to kick things off.

Richard Branson, dressed in black, leads a group of runners dressed in red across the finish line at a Virgin Sport Hackney race
Image by Daniel Dyne

The joy of play and getting active has always been a big part of what makes Virgin unique, so it’s wonderful to see this spirit come to life with thousands of people running and getting involved at the Festival of Fitness. It really was a festival, with 10,000 people running the headline act of the Hackney Half Marathon, plus a 5.5k (an extra 0.5k because we love to give 110 per cent!) and all manner of group fitness, music, food, art and culture shenanigans going on around Hackney Marshes.

Richard Branson fires a confetti cannon from a double decker bus at Virgin Sport's Hackney Festival of Fitness
Image from Virgin Sport
Runners racing out from the starting line in the Virgin Sport Hackney Half
Image from Virgin Sport

It was a sweet moment for our family, as the idea for Virgin Sport was originally pitched to me by my son-in-law Freddie a few years ago while we cycled the Cape Argus in South Africa. I was so tired from cycling up the steep hills that I said yes! Freddie, Holly and their kids Etta and Artie joined us onstage to launch the Festival of Fitness, alongside Virgin Sport Chief Exercise Officer Mary Wittenberg. Sam even made it up bright and early after seeing Anthony Joshua’s thrilling Heavyweight World Championship win against Wladimir Klitschko the night before!

Richard Branson with the hosts of Virgin Sport Hackney on the roof of a bus
Image from Daniel Dyne
Holly and Sam Branson at Virgin Sport's Festival of Fitness in Hackney
Image from Holly Branson

There is a rare satisfaction one can gain from simply getting up and giving it a go. You can see it in the smiling faces of the runners as I high-fived them along the start line and hugged them at the finish line. You can see it in my own giggles as I messed up a bit of our warm-up routine before the half marathon. And you can feel it when you complete your own fitness goals, whether that is running a race, playing sport with your friends or getting out and cheering them on.

Richard Branson giving a runner a high five at the Virgin Sport Hackney starting line
Image from Virgin Sport
Freddie Andrewes and Holly Branson in front of the Virgin Sport logo
Image from Holly Branson

Congratulations to Mary, Freddie and all the team, along with everyone who took part, for making the day such a success. But this is just the start. Virgin Sport is launching four 2017 Festivals of Fitness in the UK and US, customised to each host borough or city. We are on a mission to get people moving, breaking down barriers to participation and encouraging everyone to get active. Next up we have the British 10k in Westminster on July 9th – head over to Virgin Sport to find out more.