The fourth edition of the Wings for Life World Run reached record-breaking heights in 2017, raising more than $7.4 million to help find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Wheelchair participant Aron Anderson of Sweden became the new Men’s Global Champion (57.25 miles), while Bartosz Olszewski of Poland was the men’s runner who achieved the longest distance (54.83 miles). Both distances are more than twice that of traditional marathons (26.2 miles).
The ‘Catcher Car’ — an innovative moving finish line — took off 30 minutes after the start and steadily increased its speed until the final runners were caught. Dominika Stelmach (POL) in Chile was the global female champion, setting a women’s world record of 42.38 miles before being overtaken by the car.
In the USA, Santa Clarita, California, runners Dan Berteletti (42.87 miles) and Nathalie Vasseur (35.57 miles), and Sunrise, Florida, runners Calum Neff (40.80 miles) and Ana Villegas (27.25 miles) were the last males and females running before being caught.
“I never thought I could win it,” said Villegas. “I came to run as fast as I could and as long as I could. I’ll be here next year.”
“The last three months I’ve been focused on training for this race and maintaining a pace,” said Berteletti. “My goal was to go over 40 miles.”
The Wings for Life World Run has now raised more than $23 million across four years, with 100% of all entry fees and donations devoted to support cutting-edge medical research projects. More than 44% of the research being funded happens in the USA, including more than 10 projects at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital.
Overall, 155,288 runners and wheelchair participants simultaneously took off at 111 locations in 58 countries, compared to 2016 numbers of 130,732 participants in 34 locations and 33 countries. Waves of elated runners surged past start lines shoulder-to-shoulder at spectacular destinations, from Vienna, Brasília and Melbourne to dramatic coastlines in Norway and Spain. In daylight runs, participants in Dubai, UAE, faced heat edging past 104 degrees, while clouds cooled the Central European runners in locations like Kakheti, Georgia. The coldest location was in Poznan, Poland — a brisk 48 degrees.
Some people chose to participate alongside thousands of others at one of the official event locations around the world, while others downloaded the Wings for Life World Run App and took park anywhere they chose, at exactly the same time, chased by a virtual Catcher Car. In New York City, people gathered in beautiful Central Park to stay ahead of the virtual Catcher Car as long as they could. In Madison, Wisconsin, reigning Olympic gold medal triathlete Gwen Jorgensen, who is six months pregnant, ran 17 miles before the virtual Catcher Car reeled her in.
The global champions, as well as all local race winners, will get to pick where they want to run in next year’s edition of the Wings for Life World Run, which is already set for May 6, 2018.
Overall Results Men:
1. Aron Anderson (SWE) – UAE (57.25 miles)
2. Bartosz Olszewski (POL) - Italy (54.83 miles)
3. Lemawork Ketema (AUT) - Austria (54.16 miles)
Overall Results Women:
1. Dominika Stelmach (POL) – Chile (42.38 miles)
2. Cornelia Moser (AUT) - Italy (38.75 miles)
3. Vera Nunes (POR) - Chile (38.63 miles)
For those who missed it, a global broadcast of the Wings for Life World Run is available on demand at Red Bull TV.