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Wings for Life World Run draws 184,000 participants, raises $6 million for spinal cord injury research

More runners participated in the virtual event than ever before, beating the previous record by close to 30,000 people

Photo by: Andreas Schaad for Wings for Life World Run

The Wings for Life World Run was held virtually across the globe on Sunday, and the event saw a whopping 184,236 people get out to participate. This is an event record, smashing the previous best of 155,000 participants from the 2017 run, and it resulted in more than $6 million raised for spinal cord injury research. On top of the massive fundraising success, the competition itself was also a big hit. Swedish wheelchair athlete Aron Anderson won the men’s event with a total of 66.8K and Russia’s Nina Zarina won the women’s run with 60.2K. 

Participant competes virtually in the Wings for Life World Run in Perast, Montenegro. Photo: Predrag Vuckovic for Wings for Life World Run

Fundraising efforts 

The Wings for Life World Run was founded in 2014, and in the following years, it was held as a virtual and in-person event. Depending on where a runner lived, they might have been able to run in person on one of the event’s many physical race courses worldwide. If a runner couldn’t make it to one of these venues, though, they were able to download the WFL app and compete virtually. 

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In 2020, though, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented these in-person races from happening. This year was no different, and the event was wholly virtual. The 2020 event saw 77,000 people compete virtually, which was down 43,000 from the 2019 run. This year, participation shot right back up, matching and then surpassing the 2019 total. 

Thanks to the thousands of participants, the WFL raised close to $2 million more this year compared to last. One hundred per cent of the proceeds from this event go to various studies worldwide, all of which are focused on spinal cord injuries. In Canada, 1,400 runners participated in the event, and all of the money they raised will be dedicated to Canadian research studies. 

Men’s WFL champion Aron Andersson competes in Sweden. Photo: Adam Johansson for Wings for Life World Run

The World Run 

Anderson’s win in the men’s competition is his third, adding to his victories in the 2017 and 2018 World Runs. In 2017, he won the event with a grand total of 92K, and he almost matched that the next year with 89K. After missing the 2019 event, Anderson returned for the 2020 run, finishing in second place with 68K. This year, he travelled shorter than any of his previous three competitions, but he still won the event with his final result of 66.8K. 

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Sunday’s win was also the third for Zarina, and hers have come back to back to back. After finishing as the 12-place woman in 2018, when she ran 47K, she won in 2019 with a total of 53K. Last year, she defended her crown, running 54K for the win, and she made it three in a row with her 60K win on Sunday. Her result also put her at fourth overall. 

Top honours among Canadians went to Vincent Pagot, who finished in 24th overall with just under 52K, and Mariane Pominville, whose 33K was good enough for 70th-best among all women competitors. 

For full results from the Wings for Life World Run, click here