More than 280,000 people have taken part over the first three editions of the Wings for Life World Run, raising 13.8 million euros and covering more than 2.8 million kilometres. But what is it that has inspired so many people, and will draw them to compete again on May 7 at 11:00am UTC? We decided to find out by setting up a poll.
For many people, running the race is about helping in the search for a cure for spinal cord injury, and for others it’s just because they love being out there on the road, or need to burn off some extra calories before it’s time to hit the beach.
But the biggest motivating factor is breaking through a personal barrier, with almost half the respondents in a recent poll saying they were in it to see how far they can push themselves.
In total, our poll found that 21.6 percent of participants were in the race primarily to raise money or awareness for spinal cord injury. Another 25.2 percent were in it because running is what they love most.
A whopping 46.6 percent said they wanted to push themselves to the limit of what they could achieve, while for the remaining 6.6 percent, signing up was a response to being personally affected by spinal cord injury.
Running to see how far you can push yourself fits the format of the Wings for Life World Run. The race gives everyone a 30-minute start before a Catcher Car sets off and gradually increases speed. Each runner’s race ends when they are caught, and in the case of serious ultrarunners like 2016 global champion Giorgio Calcaterra, that can be more than 80 kilometres down the road. And even for amateurs, the unique format of the race regularly sees people smash through their own personal barriers.
For the many thousands of people who run because of a personal connection with spinal cord injury, Wings for Life World Run is a lot more than just a race.
“In the penultimate year of high school my best friend suffered a cervical spinal cord injury as a result of an unfortunate accident during a game of rugby,” wrote Timothy O'Shea, explaining his reasons for signing up to run in California.
“Through our friendship I have witnessed firsthand the physical, social and psychological hardships that are abruptly forced onto paralysed individuals and their close support network. My friend has inspired me to dedicate my life as medical researcher to help advance what we know about the pathophysiology of spinal cord injury and how we can develop more effective treatments.”
Another runner, Mandy Marsh in Cambridge, wrote: "My dad fell off a roof and broke his spine at waist level. From that moment on he became an incomplete paraplegic. He has been a wheelchair user ever since. Some years later he acquired his first hand-cranked bike and has raised lots of money over the years for many different charities to try and help others. Dad is a miracle and we are all so very proud of him! I wanted to do this run for him and with him, in his honour and to say Dad, you truly are my hero!"
Those comments are typical of those who cite a personal connection but everyone has their own special motivation when it comes to running – whether it’s to change the world, or just take the tiniest first step.
“Right now, I'd struggle running the length of my street and I have no excuse,” wrote Rebecca Lloyd from Melbourne. “Last year, I dropped my friend Rob off at the race and went to have a burger. For such an amazing cause, this year I'll run it.”
On May 7, 2017, you can join thousands of runners in the Wings for Life World Run, a global race a world beyond any other. Step up, nominate friends, challenge family and run for those who can’t. Find out how to register here.