In Afghanistan, the runs every Saturday get an escort of armed guards. In Poland, runs go ahead in temperatures below zero degrees; for one event it was -20 degrees Celsius - though only three competed.
They are called parkruns, and they are about to make their Lower Hutt debut.
The first parkrun was at Bushy Park in London in 2004.
Englishman Paul Sinton- Hewitt wanted to encourage more people to run - not necessarily competing against others, but challenging themselves to improve their times.
His simple and ingenious format has grown into a worldwide movement.
Runners register for parkrun online and every Saturday they can run a five-kilometre race.
It's free to join and once you have registered you get an individual barcode.
After each race your barcode is scanned and two hours later your results appear automatically on the parkrun website.
The figures for parkrun are staggering. There are 9494 races worldwide every Saturday, which attract an average of 126 runners each.
So far some 165,000 people have signed up around the world,
Local runner Richard McChesney is keen to get at least 150 locals running every Saturday.
He has designed a course that starts at the southern end of the Riverbank Car Park and follows the river.
The first race is Saturday, May 5, and it will mark the debut of parkrun in New Zealand.
Internationally, the races all start at 7am but he figures that with many Kiwis basing their Saturday morning around sport, 8am is a better time.
"They can do the parkrun and then go to rugby, cricket, softball, or whatever."
Parkrun has provided him with all the electronic gear required and he says it is a great way to socialise and get exercise at the same time.
McChesney says the idea to set it up here came during a spell in England, where he competed in 128 runs. His 11-year-old son Zac is a committed runner and has promised to help Richard run the races.
Parkruns are held in nations as diverse as Poland, Australia, Iceland, Wales and South Africa.
A keen runner all his life, McChesney says running has been good for him and he sees this informal and fun format as an opportunity to give something back to the sport he loves.
Parkrun is free but to run you must pre-register and get a barcode. Once you have registered in New Zealand you can run in any parkrun anywhere in the world.
- Hutt News