Milan to stage the ultimate ultra running showdown on May 7

Three-time world 100km champion Giorgio Calcaterra has proved time and again that he is all but inexhaustible – but is the Italian ultra marathoner actually unbeatable on home soil in the Wings for Life World Run?

That theory will be tested to the extreme in Milan on May 7 when Calcaterra faces three other heavyweight ultra runners in a showdown that will almost certainly decide the overall winner in the global charity race.


Calcaterra ran an astonishing 88.44km last year to secure his third victory out of three in the Italian race and take the overall Wings for Life World Run title for the first time.


His performance destroyed the previous world record of 79.90km in a race that only ends when the last runner is overhauled by one of the Catcher Cars.


As tens of thousands of runners worldwide set off simultaneously at 11:00 UTC in the fourth edition of the race, Calcaterra will clearly be the man to beat but if he is to extend his perfect Italian record he will have to beat three serious challengers in Germany’s Florian Neuschwander, Poland’s Bartosz Olszewski and Chile’s Francisco Morales.


“Last year the route in Milan was challenging, because of the pavement and bends and the high temperature,” said Calcaterra “However, I was in perfect condition, both physically and mentally, and well prepared.


“Certainly the participation of the three champions this time will be a great motivation for me.”


All three of Calcaterra’s main rivals are national Wings for Life World Run champions.



Olszewski was the only other athlete to break 80km when he posted 82.42km to win in Niagara Falls last year, a performance that followed on from his win in Poznań the previous year.



Running in the Wings for Life World Run at home in Chile in 2016, Morales captured the national title and third place globally with a distance of 75.47km.


Meanwhile Neuschwander’s past victories include the six-day, 200km TransRockies Run in Colorado and two consecutive Wings for Life World Run wins in Germany (best distance 74.56km).

“Ultra distances are not easy, and when the weather is bad and you have a hilly course it is nearly impossible to break 80km,” said Neuschwander. “You need a fast and flat course and good conditions, and hopefully I will have them this year in Milan.” 

The overall women’s champion from 2016, Kaori Yoshida, set a remarkable benchmark of  65.71km in the darkness at Takashima, Japan, and this time she will start her run at sunset in Tainan, Taiwan – an event location that has already sold out.


Russia’s Yana Khmeleva, who claimed the national title in Georgia in 2016 with 34.93km and recently won the Maratonina dei Turchi in Italy, is setting her own course this year. Khmeleva will again run in Georgia, but with the Wings for Life World Run App, which allows participants to run anywhere they wish against a Virtual Catcher Car. 


All entry fees for the Wings for Life World Run go to spinal cord research. More than 130,000 people took part in 2016 and registration for 2017 is currently open. Runners of all levels can register here – and with no finish line, anyone can set their own target distance.

The day had many beautiful moments, from training to finish. It was amazing to celebrate the victory with the embrace of so many friends.

Giorgio Calcaterra, Italian ultra-runner and winner in Italy 2015

If it doesn't challenge you, it sure as hell won't change you.

Kelly Whittaker, Puma Faster Trainer @kjw227

To run, to do something for a better tomorrow and to run with people that I love. It is something special because it is not about winning the race...but winning in life itself.

Matej Markovič Slovenia