Catch me if you can

Chase. Tag. It. Hide and Seek.

We all know from playground games that the thrill of the chase is real. But does it make you faster? Since the very first Wings for Life World Run in 2014, all the evidence says yes. Being chased by the Catcher Car pushes you to be better, go further. Fact.

Even though runners, rollers and walkers use the Goal Calculator to work out how far they can go and set their distance goal, year after year, we see those goals smashed.

Carolyn Macintosh, who has created App Runs in St Gilgen, Austria, and St Andrews, Scotland, sees it time and again.

“The first year, I went 9k – a full 3k further than I ever believed I could, and certainly much further than I went in training. In 2015, I covered 12k and 2017 an incredible 17.9k – I hold the Catcher Car entirely responsible.”

We asked other Wings for Life World Runners who believed they could go one distance and ended up setting their own Wings for Life World Run record again every year. Carolyn’s results weren’t alone. Many, many people had gone further than they thought they could – a true testament to the body being stronger than the mind.

We spoke with sports psychologist at Middlesex University Dr. Rhonda Cohen to find out why being chased by the Catcher Car pushes Wings for Life World Runners so much further than they’d imagined.

“Research identifies fear as a tool within our evolutionary survival kit,” Dr. Cohen explains. “Being chased creates fear which, in turn, acts as a powerful motivator.”

“The body’s physical response to being chased is a rise in adrenaline, which gives the body a great burst of energy, an increase in blood pressure and a speeding up of heart rate. In addition, the stress hormone, cortisol is released. Due to higher levels of oxygen in the muscles, you feel stronger.”

So you feel you can go further. And you do.

Even simulating the fear of being chased (we’re looking at you, Virtual Catcher Car in the Wings for Life World Run App) is effective, says Dr. Cohen.

“Simulation can still create the experience of fear as evidenced in a virtual reality game. Adding a chase simulation uses the powerful motivator of fear in a safe environment. As this is a ‘safe fear,’ it can be extremely motivating but also lots of fun. The ‘safe fear’ experience pushes you out of your comfort zone, which is scary, but it’s also challenging. It gives you a great sense of achievement and accomplishment in having outrun your fears.”

The Virtual Catcher Car creates the perfect version of ‘safe fear.’ The utterly absorbing Audio Experience has  famous voices AS the Catcher Car, they push you on, tell you how long you’ve got until they track you down, and playfully torment you then make you smile.

When Dr. Cohen mentioned “people who face fears are actually happier, according to research,” everything made sense. The Wings for Life World Run is one of the happiest races on the planet. People are drawn to its welcoming community, to the joy on the start lines across the world, to the smiles, jumps, handstands and taunting the Catcher Car at the end of their race.