In the Wings for Life World Run, the Catcher Car is a moving finish line: when you're caught, your race is through. Everybody has their own way to celebrate the achievement – and this video shows some of the classics.
The Wings for Life World Run is the only race where everyone who starts is guaranteed to reach the finish. Why? Because the runner doesn’t come to the Finish Line – the Finish Line comes to the runner!
The launch of the first Wings for Life World Run in 2014 pioneered the concept of a “moving Finish Line” of Catcher Cars.
Think that keeping ahead of a moving vehicle sounds impossible? Think again. The 2016 men’s Global Champion, Giorgio Calcaterra, achieved 88.44 kilometers, keeping ahead of the Catcher Car in Milan for five and a half hours before his race was done. Even participants who had never raced a day in their lives managed a minimum of 30 minutes on the course – running, jogging, walking or rolling a wheelchair. Here’s how it works:
The half-hour head start
All over the world, runners begin the race simultaneously, whether it’s day or night in their location. Thirty minutes later, a Catcher Car sets out on the same course, pursuing the runners at a precisely determined (and very slow) pace. The moment that a runner is “caught” – that is, passed – by the Catcher Car, he or she has finished the race. The Catcher Car pursuit continues until only one man and one woman are left running worldwide: the Global Champions.
So just how fast does a Catcher Car go? The pace starts out at 15 km/h and increases at strictly regulated intervals, according to a rigid global schedule:
11.00 UTC – RACE START
11.30 UTC – CATCHER CAR START – PACE of 15 km/h (approx. 9.3 mph)
12.30 UTC – PACE INCREASES TO: 16 km/h (9.94 mph)
13.30 UTC – PACE INCREASES TO: 17 km/h (10.56 mph)
14.30 UTC – PACE INCREASES TO: 20 km/h (12.43 mph)
16.30 UTC – PACE INCREASES TO: 35 km/h (approx. 21.75 mph), which remains steady until the final participant is passed
Adding to the fun and excitement, the Catcher Cars are driven by celebrities, from popular television personalities to stars of the sporting world. Each driver has a trained expert along as a wingman to help navigate the course and adhere precisely to the acceleration schedule.
The finish is just the beginning
What happens to the participants once the Catcher Car passes them? Back at the starting area, they begin celebrating their success and the difference they’ve made for spinal cord injury research.
And that’s the point. Whether you outlast the Catcher Car for a half hour or many hours, for one kilometer or dozens, your participation is helping spinal cord researchers move in the right direction, to one day make spinal cord injury curable. It’s a race result everyone can be proud of.