Each year, untold numbers of pink-haired gnomes gather for one day in World of Warcraft to make a heroic trek through snowy hills, murloc-filled forests, and perilous jungles all in the name of charity. This year, Blizzard is making it an official in-game event.
The Running of the Gnomes — a community-run race that raises awareness and money for breast cancer treatment — has been going since 2010. For the eighth run happening this October, Blizzard is turning the event into a micro-holiday called the Great Gnomergan Race (named after the old gnome capital) and it’s decking out the course with checkered flags, cheering gnomes, and a quest reward for runners who make it all the way to the end.
The Running of the Gnomes raises money for the Cleveland Clinic’s Tuohy Vaccine to prevent breast cancer. World of Warcraft players create gnome characters with pink hair and run from the gnome starting area Gnomergan all the way to Booty Bay. Some players pledge a few cents per participating gnome, some donate a fixed amount, and others just run for fun.
The creator of the run, Dravvie, said it’s really exciting to see Blizzard embrace the charity race and increase awareness around it.
“We’ve had people come and tell us they’re there for their family members, that they’re there because they survived cancer.”
“I feel really honored that they saw how much the event meant to so many members of the community, really,” she said. “It’s very moving.”
Dravvie has been coordinating the event every year with the help of some close friends and fellow guild members, including Skakavaz, another brain behind the charity operation. As the years have gone on, more and more people have participated.
“The first year, we had 144 gnomes,” Dravvie said. “We started it as something fun for our guild and friends to raise a bit of money for a charity. Last year we had 2,860 gnomes that we could count. I have no doubt that there were more, there were just so many of them.”
Along with the Running of the Gnomes, Dravvie also began a Running of the Trolls to benefit the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention service for LGBTQ+ youth.
As for the inspiration behind the Running of the Gnomes, Dravvie said she’s always cared about breast cancer charities.
“There were a lot of people in our now-defunct guild who had been effected by cancer, especially breast cancer,” she said. “It seemed like a charity that people would really care about. The year before we had turned our tabards pink for the month of October and people were really emotional about it.”
The annual race really means a lot to some people, especially those who have been affected by breast cancer or are close to someone who has.
“We’ve had people come and tell us they’re there for their family members, that they’re there because they survived cancer,” Dravvie said. “Some [gnomes] are named after people. Some people I know personally go in honor of people.”
Those people who participate are what make the event what it is.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without everyone who makes it possible and community interest, honestly,” Dravvie said.