Frequently people I meet will tell me about races they think I have never heard about, races they think I would want to run. Last fall someone told me about the Wings for Life World Run. When I heard how the race is organized, I knew immediately it is one I have to add to my “to-run” list.
The Wings for Life World Run was started in 2014 to raise awareness of the physical and medical challenges faced by paraplegic people and raise funds to help find cures for spinal cord injuries. This race is held the first weekend in May. It is unique for several reasons. First, the race, which is held in 24 countries all over the world, starts exactly at the same moment, 11AM UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). For some locations it is the middle of the night; for others it maybe be the middle of the day or early morning. Regardless of location, everyone is running at the same time throughout the world.
Next, there is no finish line in the traditional sense. Instead there are “Catcher Cars” that start out a half hour after the race starts. The cars travel initially at 15 km per hour and slowly increase their speed. Global satellite navigation is used to ensure that the Catcher Cars around the world are synchronized. When a Catcher Car overtakes a runner, the race is over for them and they have to board a bus back to the start area. In essence, the runners are not running to a finish line. The runners are trying to run away from a mobile finish line that is trying to catch them.
Finally, the distance a given runner completes is determined by how fast and fit they are as runners. For each race, a 100 km course is prepared. Slow runners may only be able to complete a 10 km distance (or 6.2 miles) before the Catcher Car ends their race. Faster runners may be able to complete a marathon distance (about 42 km). The current record for the furthest distance a runner covered before the Catcher Car caught them is an amazing 88.44 KM (almost 55 miles).
The winners are the male and female runners who are able to run the furthest before being the Catcher Car gets to them. There are winners for each location as well as overall global winners. Remember Michael Wardian, the winner of the 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days? It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Michael has been the overall global winner of the Wings for Life World Run – twice!
I definitely plan to run the Wings for Life World Run. I might not get very far before the Catcher Car passes me. But until it does, it will be exciting to be part of a global running event, happening across the world at exactly the same moment.
Interested in participating in the Wings for Life World Run? Check out their website for more information. Can’t get to one of the race locations? There is a virtual app to enable runners to participate wherever they may be. There is also a goal calculator to help you determine your expected time and distance.