Over 100,000 registered runners and wheelchair participants at more than 200 locations across 66 countries covered 934,484 km globally on Sunday in the fifth annual Wings for Life World Run charity event to raise funds for spinal cord injury research. Five and a half hours of camaraderie and competition shared across every continent produced unforgettable moments of elation and emotion until Swedish wheelchair athlete Aron Anderson and Portuguese runner Vera Nunes were crowned Global Champions.
Everyone can take part in the Wings for Life World Run regardless of fitness level, and the 2018 edition of the run for those who can’t brought all-time event totals to more than half a million registered participants. Among those supporting or taking part on Sunday were seven runners from the Amazon in traditional clothing, a prime minister, and sports celebrities like Formula One legend Niki Lauda, Dakar Rally winner Matthias Walkner, three-time Ironman World Champion Daniela Ryf and America’s Cup winner Jimmy Spithill, as well as Paralympic and Olympic Champions including record-setting skier Aksel Lund Svindal, who “drove” the Virtual Catcher Car of the Wings for Life World Run App.
The run’s simultaneous start – night or day, sun or rain – spanned every corner of the earth, from Australia to Colombia and the United Kingdom to Kazakhstan, and as always, the unique format with a moving finish line of Catcher Cars added to the excitement. Boosting the location count to a new high this year were caring people all over the world who organized group runs with the App, inspiring others to join them for a special day of fun while making a difference for others. Running in Sunrise, USA, Swedish wheelchair athlete Aron Anderson earned his second consecutive Global Championship by outpacing the Catcher Car to 89.85 km in an everyday wheelchair, while in Munich, Germany, Portugal’s Vera Nunes ran hard to capture the women’s crown with a distance of 53.78 km, a margin of just 50 meters over Croatia’s Nikolina Šustić.
“I’m so happy. This race is awesome, it means so much that we are raising money for spinal cord injury. It truly makes a difference, so thanks to everybody for putting this race up,” said Anderson, who with his back-to-back wins now holds the two longest distances in the history of the Wings for Life World Run. “I was so tired, but I wanted to keep pushing so that maybe we could raise more money and make even more of a difference. Everything hurts right now, but this is amazing!”
In Slovenia, there were three App Runs organized: in Brdo pri Kranju the best ones were Matic Debeljak in Jožica Murnik (member of the team Passion4life Renault Slovenija), in Maribor Blaž Savšek and Patricija Merkuš, and in Rače Jernej Donik and Estela Emanuela Zupanc (member of the team Adidas Runners). The team Passion4life Renault Slovenija donated an additional 1 EUR for every kilometre of every member of the team to the Wings for Life foundation.
One hundred percent of entry fees and donations raised in the Wings for Life World Run – over 3,000,000 euros in the 2018 edition alone, with more still coming in – goes to leading-edge research funded by the nonprofit Wings for Life foundation. Marc Herremans, the event’s Sports Director Wheelchair, stated: “The Wings for Life World Run means a lot to me, because I am paralyzed from the chest down due to a bicycle accident, and I’ve also lost good friends because of medical issues related to paralysis. Historically spinal cord research has received relatively little attention and funding, and it is time to change that.” He continued, “I want to thank every supporter, because one day we will find a cure. When you participate in the Wings for Life World Run, you are not only changing lives – you’re saving lives.”
The date for the sixth edition of the Wings for Life World Run is Sunday, May 5, 2019. For registration alerts, along with complete 2018 global results, the full race broadcast on demand and more: www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com