In the world’s only global race with a synchronized starting line and no traditional finish line, more than 101,000 runners from around the world registered for the second annual Wings for Life World Run, a race which aims to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
In the end, the last male and female running globally were Ethiopian Lemawork Ketema in Austria and Yuuko Watanabe in Japan, who ran for 49.7 miles and 35 miles respectively, before being reeled in by a ‘Catcher Car,’ an innovative moving finish line that pursued the runners from behind. Ketema, the ultra distance runner from Ethiopia, defended his World Run title in Austria where he is in the process of applying for citizenship. Both of these runners will receive extraordinary month-long trips around the world, plus get to pick where they want to run in next year’s edition of the World Run.
In the USA, races were run in Santa Clarita, California, and Sunrise, Florida. Thibault Baronian, the 2014 male winner from France, won in Santa Clarita with a distance of 34.3 miles, while Shannon Rahlves (sister of 2010 Winter Olympic freestyle skier Daron Rahlves) took the female title with 29.6 miles. In Sunrise, runners Svein Risa (2014 Norway male winner) ran for 34.1 miles and Nathalie Vasseur (2014 France female winner) made it 32.4 miles. (scroll down to watch highlights from the US races in the video below)
As top U.S. finishers, they will choose anywhere in the world to run in next year’s Wings for Life World Run. In all, there were simultaneous runs in 35 locations in 33 countries on six continents, making it one of the most ambitious global endeavors in sports history.
“This was an opportunity to support the Wings for Life Foundation and run on the team my brother Daron Rahlves put together,” Shannon Rahlves said. “I expected to run 15-18 miles, but once I knew the catcher car was getting close, I told myself, ‘I’ve got to run!’”
Eric LeGrand, an inspirational voice in the spinal cord injury community after being paralyzed in a 2010 college football game, serves as an ambassador for the Wings for Life World Run and attended the Sunrise, Florida, race for the second year in a row. Team LeGrand of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which was established in 2013, is dedicated to funding research to find a cure for paralysis and to help improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries. Visit www.teamlegrand.org for more information.
Other ambassadors included Cory Hahn, a former college baseball player who was paralyzed in a game in 2010 and is helping the World Run raise funds for spinal cord injury research. In addition to LeGrand and Hahn, hundreds of notable athletes participated globally. Each was eventually caught and passed by the ‘Catcher Car.’ Here is a list of professional athletes who attended the two USA races:
Santa Clarita, Calif. – Olympians Lindsey Vonn, Louie Vito, Bobby Brown, Daron Rahlves, Greg Bretz, Jill Kintner, Mark McMorris, Phil Dalhausser, Sean Rosenthal and Todd Rogers; Surfers Ian Walsh and Evan Geiselman; waterman Kai Lenny; BMX bike rider Corey Bohan; freestyle motocross star Ronnie Renner; mountain biker Rebecca Rusch; ultrarunner Karl Meltzer; snowboarders Pat Moore and Ben Ferguson; freeskier Michelle Parker; and US Trophy Truck champion Ricky Johnson as the official Catcher Car driver.
Sunrise, Fla. – Olympians Nick Goepper and Sarah Hendrickson; wakeboarders Steel Lafferty, Shota Tezuka, Brian Grubb, Dallas Friday, Parks Bonifay and Meagan Ethell; freeskier Grete Eliassen; and Red Bull Air Force sky divers Miles Daisher and Jeff Provenzano.