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Wings for Life World Run raises $4.2 million for spinal cord injury research

The Wings for Life World Run was 100 per cent virtual this year, but that didn't stop runners from getting out and participating

The seventh annual Wings for Life World Run was held on Sunday, and over 77,000 people from 104 countries participated worldwide. Wings for Life is a spinal cord research foundation, and the organization’s World Run raises millions of dollars for the charity every year. This year, over $4.2 million was raised for spinal cord research. In addition to being a charity run, this virtual event also sees plenty of competition as some of the world’s best ultrarunners look to see who can run the farthest. This year, Nina Zarina of Russia won the women’s race, running over 54K, and Great Britain’s Michael Taylor won on the men’s side with an almost 70K day.

Wings for Life

Wings for Life was founded by Heinz Kinigadner, a motocross world champion, and Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull. When Kinigadner’s son had an accident that left him quadriplegic in 2003, it became clear to him and Mateschitz that spinal cord research wasn’t well-funded. And so, the pair created Wings for Life, a foundation to fund spinal cord research and, hopefully, find cures for everyone affected by such injuries. In 2014, the Wings for Life World Run was launched, and ever since, tens of thousands of people run the race every May.

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How does the race work?

Normally, there would be two ways to race the Wings for Life World Run: in person at a set event or solo on the Wings for Life app. This year, though, everyone participating had to use the app and run on their own. In 2019, 120,000 people participated in World Run, far more runners than this year’s turnout, but that is to be expected given the fact that every Wings for Life event around the world had to be shut down due to COVID-19. Fortunately, the Wings for Life app was already up and running and ready to go for the 2020 event well before the coronavirus outbreak, and 77,000 participants across the globe is an incredible turnout.

Photo: Joerg Mitter for Wings for Life World Run/Red Bull Content Pool

The race starts at exactly the same time, regardless of timezone (11 a.m. UTC). This means that some people are running in the morning, some in the afternoon and some in the middle of the night. Once the race begins, everyone can run for as long as they can until they are caught by the “Catcher Car,” the “moving finish line” which begins its route 30 minutes after the starting gun.

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Eventually, the Catcher Car catches up to each runner, ending their race. The male and female runners who run the farthest by the end of the day win the Wings for Life Global Championships.

Photo: Philipp CARL Riedl for Wings for Life World Run/Red Bull Content Pool

World Run 2020

Yesterday’s event saw Taylor and Zarina take the overall wins (Zarina won in 2019 as well), running 69.92K and 54.23K, respectively. The top Canadians were Cal Neff, who covered 51.83K for 37th overall, and Catrin Jones, who was the 13th-ranked female after running 42.25K.

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The 2020 event was supposed to be a big day for a Canadian group called #teamCoast2Coast. The team had hoped to cumulatively run 5,500K, the distance between both coasts in Canada. The team ran in 2018 and 2019, just missing their 5,500K goal both times. They’ll have to wait until the 2021 Wings for Life World Run for another shot at the coast to coast event.