Get to know Nina and Michael, the 2020 Global Champions

We still get goosebumps when we think about the final moments of the Wings for Life World Run 2020. In an unprecedented edition where all 77,103 registered participants ran together yet apart using our App, Nina Zarina of Russia (54.2km) became the first woman to successfully defend her Global Championship, while newcomer Michael Taylor (69.9km) claimed the first-ever win for Great Britain.

How it felt to win

Nina, who now lives in the USA, ran a 5km circuit in a Washington, D.C. park. “I'm so honored. We are also the first champions to win using the App, and that is quite special for me,” says the 33-year-old, explaining that she has a background in software development. “I'm the IT girl who became the champion against a virtual Catcher Car!”

Michael, 38, ran a 2.5km loop near his home in Cambridgeshire, UK. As locals who were following the Run’s Live Experience realized that he was fighting for the win, they popped outside to cheer him on. The icing on the cake was when one of his sporting heroes, hurdling legend and Wings for Life World Run Sports Director Colin Jackson, phoned with congratulations. “It’s a fantastic charity and it was brilliant fun,” Michael declares.

Most important of all

Both Global Champions were already accomplished athletes – Nina has won numerous international marathons, and Michael, who serves in the Royal Air Force, is a record-setting distance runner on the national team. Yet they have found that the Global Championship has raised their profile even more. They’re using that attention to spread the word about Wings for Life and its work to find a cure for spinal cord injury.

Michael has come to know many people with spinal cord injuries and narrowly escaped paralysis himself when his T4 vertebra was broken in a 2016 accident. He comments, “The more experience you’ve had worldwide, the more you see how important the research is. Sometimes it’s not even about walking, it’s the difference between being able to talk to your family or not.”

The new champions are hoping to see a big turnout of participants at all running levels for the Wings for Life World Run in 2021. Nina explains, “Running can bring a lot to your life: health, unforgettable emotions, new friends, personal rewards. The Wings for Life World Run is perfect for new runners – everyone can take part in a beautiful, friendly atmosphere and choose their personal goal while helping people with spinal cord injury.” 

Want to share the good feeling at the next Wings for Life World Run on May 9, 2021? You can pre-register for a heads up, and we’ll be happy to send you an email when registration opens.