At 7:00am EDT on 3 May 2015, over 700 participants in Niagara Falls set off on a run to raise funds for spinal cord research.
Consisting of hobby runners to professional athletes such as Paralympic gold medalist Josh Dueck, adventurer Will Gadd, yachtsman Jimmy Spithill, and Olympic gold medalist Dara Howell, participants in Canada joined runners around the world at 35 race sites across 6 continents in the second-ever Wings for Life World Run.
After a frigid winter season that saw the iconic Niagara Falls freeze over for the first time in recent history, participants revelled in the mild spring weather and sunny skies that made ideal conditions for the run which started at Kingsbridge Park and continued along the Niagara Parkway, passing the falls before leading out into the countryside.
“Today’s event was spectacular, in every way possible... I went well beyond my expectation all for my loved ones. My family feels the pain and challenges of a spinal cord injury just as much as it has impacted me”
- Paralympic Gold Medalist Josh Dueck, who took his chair to a remarkable 50km.
In Niagara Falls, leading the women was Canadian Olympic cyclist Lyne Bessette of Quebec who won the women’s category. For the majority of the run, she was joined by husband and professional cyclocross athlete, Tim Johnson.
“I was aiming to run a marathon distance, and did 38km with (my husband) Tim. But I was running for a friend of mine who recently suffered an accident that resulted in a T8 spine fracture. She was my motivation and she was with me the whole time. I hit 42km and just kept going…”
– Lyne Bessette
In the male category, Blaine Penny of Calgary, AB won with a phenomenal distance of 65km, making him the last person running out of the 3 North American events which included Santa Clarita, CA and Sunrise, FL. The event holds a special place in Blaine’s heart as he ran for his son who suffers from a mitochondrial disorder rendering him quadriplegic.
“I have a son who’s a quadriplegic and anything I can do to make him proud is what matters. He’s not mobile and can’t do these things… the slogan ‘Running for Those Who Can't’ was my inspiration today. To come out here and suffer for a bit like this is our duty to do it for those who can’t”
– Blaine Penny
It was an astounding and emotional day, with everyone giving it their all in support of an amazing cause.
Globally, 101,280 runners participated in the event this year, raising 4.2 million Euro ($5.5 million CDN) in support of spinal cord research.