Michael Kilgard


The Vagus nerve is one of the particularly interesting aspects of spinal cord injury research, a topic Dr Michael Kilgrard specialises in. He is working with a large team in Dallas, USA to find out more about this incredibly important nervous system. The vagus nerve is located in the neck and involved with many important bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate, swallowing and the production of gastric acid. Stimulating the vagus nerve has a potential impact on spinal cord injury due to its connection to the central nervous system. The research team behind it is aiming to create new neural pathways, restoring the independence of people in wheelchairs and improving control and sensation for those with spinal cord injuries. The way the vagus nerve is stimulated can be used at home as it has been used to treat conditions such as epilepsy for years. This gives hope. Dr. Michael Kilgard is the scientist leading this research at the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He ran in the  Wings for Life World Run in the USA in 2023 and will do so again this year.

Groundbreaking Clinical Trial for Spinal Cord Injury

Florian Neuschwander


Florian Neuschwander is a 42-year-old ultrarunner from Germany. He started running at the age of 15 when he ran a 2km race and was approached by a running coach afterwards. He finds running freeing and says that once he has started to run, he can’t think of his problems anymore because all he is focusing on at the moment is the running. He also loves testing his endurance which has led to his running anywhere regardless of the terrain or distance. For example, he has not only run the Transrockies Run in Colorado, USA but he has also broken the indoor record for 100km with a time of 6h 26m 08s on a treadmill. He has won the local championship title in Germany for the Wings for Life World Run in 2015 and in 2016, covering 75.5km and 63.66km respectively. For him the Wings for Life World Run is particularly special as it is for a good cause and it allows him to push his boundaries every year.

When Florian Neuschwander blitzed the 100 km indoor running record in 2021

Sandile Mkhize

Pretoria/South Africa

Sandile Mhikze is a 35-year-old South African former aspiring model who broke his back in three places after a horrific motorbike accident in 2013. For over two years he was in and out of hospital. He fell into a dark depression and was ready to give up. He had to relearn almost everything after his accident, from dressing himself to how to interact with people. Fortunately, he had friends and family who helped him through. A Wings for Life World Run experience helped Sandile feel that he could be part of society again. He went from feeling like everything was still around him to feeling like he was speeding down a road, faster than the people running. This has made him a passionate ambassador for the event and its cause. He is an inspiration to many and continues to dream bigger and bigger. He dreams of skydiving and swimming, on his own. It has been a long and difficult journey; however, he appreciates the personal growth over the years. Today he is a licensed Drone Pilot and works as a software engineer in the drone space building autonomous systems. Since the last run, he started adaptive crossfit with plans to compete internationally soon. 

Inspirational story of motorbike accident victim, Sandile Mkhize

Jo Fukuda


Jo Fukuda is a 33-year-old Japanese long-distance runner. He was the Global winner of the Wings for Life World Run 2 years in the row, in 2022 and 2023. This is the highlight of his running career. He started running at his high school with track and field disciplines and then running the Japanese long-distance relay race called ‘Ekiden’. He has been part of corporate sports teams ever since he started to run. Fukuda ran his first marathon in 2016. He then continued running and tried to push his limits by running marathons in Japan and Australia. He also consistently ranked third when doing these challenges. In 2020, he officially became a professional runner and became the first Japanese to join ‘NN Running Team’ which is one of the best marathon groups in the World. He still continues to try and break his own records which led to him winning the Wings for Life World Run global male champion title in 2022 with a distance of 64.43km and then again in 2023, with a distance of 69.01km going even further once again.

Remigio Huaman Quispe


Remigio Huaman Quispe is a 41-year-old runner from the small town of Atalla in the Peruvian Andes. Quispe traces back his passion for running to the legendary Chasqui runners of the Inca times. Despite his humble beginnings and a simple rural lifestyle, Remigio's dedication to running never wavered. Growing up, he ran with boots due to a lack of proper shoes, until his mother sold her ram to buy him running trainers. This origin story, from the beginning of training in the hills behind his family home, to achieving second place globally in 2014’s Wings For Life World Run race, paints a fairy-tale-like narrative of success. Despite being a relatively unknown runner at the time, Quispe's astonishing performance, finishing just 90 metres behind the global champion Lemawork Ketema, surprised many and catapulted him to become a staple for the Wings For Life World Run community. As he prepares to compete in this year’s race, Quispe sticks to a strict schedule of running in the final weeks leading up to the race. In order to gain more strength for the race, he finds himself going back to his roots of running up hills and mountains.

Kasia Szkoda


Katarzyna Kasia Szkoda, is a 33-year-old car factory worker from Swarzedz, a small town in Poland near Poznań. She made headlines last year as the unexpected global winner of the Wings for Life World Run. Covering an impressive distance of 55.07km, Szkoda's victory stood out as the most surprising among the top ten participants of the 2023 edition. What made Szkoda's win even more astonishing was her limited experience in street marathons. Prior to her triumph in the 2023 Wings for Life World Run, she had only participated in one such event, making the 2022 edition her first venture into street marathons. Despite only recently starting street racing, Szkoda is no stranger to the podium, having stood on the podium for mountain running events on several occasions. In February of this year, Szkoda added another victory to her name by triumphing in one of Poland's most prominent winter trail races. In an interview following her unexpected win last year, Szkoda revealed her modest approach, admitting that she typically ‘doesn't believe in her own ability’ to win races but simply keeps running. She is very proud to be part of the Wings for Life World Run.

Dominika Stelmach


Legend Dominika Stelmach will return to Poznan’s Flagship Run, nine years after her first win there in 2015. That run was the kickstarter to her running career. Her decision to be in the race and winning it, completely, unexpectedly, changed everything. She suddenly started to believe in herself, and started beating her records at every distance. Dominika Stelmach won in Santiago de Chile in 2017 becoming the global female winner and the first global winner from Poland. Her determination won her the global title, at 68.21km. Since then she became World record holder in the 12-hour run. Polish cord holder in 50km, 100km, 6h, 12h runs and World vice-champion in mountain running.  For her the Wings for Life World Run is unique, not just because of the personal connection, but because of the purpose for which we run and secondly because it's for everyone, regardless of their level of advancement, regardless of whether they are running, walking or rolling in a wheelchair.

Impossible today, can be possible in half a year

David Mzee


David Mzee is a 36-year-old inspirational speaker and a Wings for Life World Run legend. He was born to a Kenyan father and a Swiss mother, and he has had an affinity for sports since his early childhood. He is a passionate and positive person despite his spinal cord injury and loves movement and adventure, whether on land or in water, he is diving, kitesurfing, wakeboarding, skiing and quad-biking. He is also a Swiss National Wheelchair Rugby player. He sustained a spinal cord injury during trampoline training in 2010 which changed his life. In 2016, Mzee participated in a groundbreaking study involving the implantation of electrodes into his spinal cord. These implanted electrodes stimulate his spinal cord, causing a prickling sensation that may be uncomfortable at first but they have enabled him to walk a few steps again. In 2019, he inspired thousands worldwide when he walked across the Wings for Life World Run start line and covered an astonishing 390m. In 2020 he once again exceeded expectations by walking 467m. He continued to surpass expectations every year and even walked 1.87 KM in 2022. He is a pioneer and a symbol of hope for people all over the world.

How David Mzee walked a record 467m in this year’s Run

Lukas Müller


Lukas Müller, 32-year-old Wings for Life World Run legend that has been participating in Vienna ever since he first did in 2016. He is a former ski jumper, who started ski jumping at the age of 12 and had various victories throughout his career. On the 13th January 2016 at the age of 23 he crashed on a ski flying hill when he was the forerunner of the Ski Flying World Championships. He was diagnosed with an incomplete spinal cord injury from the chest down. He was in therapy for five months after his accident trying to regain some mobility. He was determined and refused to let that accident rule his life. He first participated in the Wings for Life World Run in 2016 when he was pushed by Thomas Morgenstern. In 2022 he pushed himself to 34.09 km. But the biggest surprise was in 2023 when he stood up and started walking the WIngs for Life World Run for the first time. His aim was to walk one kilometre but he ended up running 2.3km, surprising everyone again. He is a symbol of hope and courage for so many people everywhere. 

Mason Spellings

Houston, Texas/USA

After a motocross crash left him paralyzed, Mason Spellings had a choice - give in to his injury or fight to regain the use of his body. He was optimistic when first learning about the details of his neck injury. He had broken a few bones before, why would this be any different? With the unfamiliar feeling of paralysis and time, he eventually learned that things may never be the same again. With his wife's support, he tackled the daunting task of relearning basic tasks, pushing forward with perseverance. Mason has been a huge advocate for the Wings for Life World Run. This fundraiser gives him incredible purpose and drive when he trains to take small steps and increases his goal for walking in the run (with walker assistance) and recruiting people to join his team to raise money for this research he holds great hope in. For him it means everything. As a father and a husband, he dreams of one day being back on his feet, holding his family in his arms.  This is Mason’s 4th year participating in the Wings for Life World Run and his first with first child born last year, Ellis. He is excited to be hosting a local App Run Event at a new venue with new partners this year.

Diane Vitkus

Boston, Massachusetts/USA

Diana Vitkus lives in Boston. In the summer of 2020, she was working her dream job as a surgical physician’s assistant in Syracuse, New York. After a long day at work, she got home wanting to admire the sunset, so she took the ladder to get up on her roof as she often did. But this time she slipped and landed on the cement. Upon trying to get back up, she realised she couldn’t feel anything from the chest down. People who experience a spinal cord injury like this, and hear that they may never walk again, often go through a dark sense of hopelessness as they struggle to picture their lives in a condition of devastating disability. Dianne also experienced her hope fading until she learned about Wings for Life. Knowing that there was an organisation out there solely dedicated to funding the research needed to find cures for spinal cord injuries gave Dianne a vital sensibility of hope to keep fighting. Her optimism and perseverance always grew through competition and sport - that's why for her a sportive event, where people come together as a community and support each other and spinal cord injury is the best combination.

I'm Dianne Vitkus and this is my story

Ben Tansley

London/United Kingdom

When Ben Tansley found himself in a wheelchair after being paralysed in a motorbike accident, when he made his first venture into disability sport. Just three weeks earlier, life had been very different: his day-to-day life was running the boxing gym he’d opened at 26 – a lifelong dream.  Following an unwavering dedication to his physiotherapy, is now able to walk with the aid of crutches. Tansley’s latest feat was taking part in the Red Bull 400 in Planica, Slovenia – a gruelling 400m event that challenges competitors to race up a ski slope with 202m of altitude gain. There was a moment, halfway up, when Tansley thought he couldn’t reach the top. But he pushed through it.  This determination and resilience have underpinned every step of Tansley’s journey, whether reaching a 400m summit on a 37° incline or confounding the doctors who said his sporting life was over. And he’s not done yet…he is participating in the Wings for Life World Run again this year.

Walking Tall

Heinz and Hannes Kinigadner


Wings for Life was founded by two-time motocross world champion Heinz Kinigadner and his friend Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull. In 2003, Kinigadner's son Hannes suffered a tragic accident that left him tetraplegic. Because of this Kinigadner and Mateschitz came to the realisation that research in spinal cord injury was underfunded. This prompted them to set up the Wings for Life research foundation, with the goal of finding ways to cure all people affected. Hannes is paralysed from the shoulders down. He can no longer feel anything below them, including legs and hands. But he is convinced that he will rise from the wheelchair one day and when the time comes, he will be ready to return to a normal life and rejoice at regaining his independence. He exercises regularly and works in the family business. However, it's impossible to compare his everyday life with that of a healthy person. The scientists are sure that it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when they will find a cure. That will be the day Heinz and so many others will celebrate finally being free again.

I Will Rise From This Wheelchair One Day!

Wings for Life – News


The Wings for Life World Run is the largest fundraising event organized by the Wings for Life foundation, whose sole mission is to find a cure for spinal cord injury. Wings for Life has funded life-changing research projects and clinical trials globally. While a cure has yet to be found, steady progress has been made. Learn more about all the advances achieved.

Learn more