July 23, 2024

Image by Mpumelelo Macu for Wings For Life World Run

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Participants of 192 nationalities run simultaneously in 169 countries on Sunday 5 May.“Running for those who can’t.”  

 For the 11th time, this mantra united the world, as over a quarter of a million professional athletes, fun runners and total beginners participated in the Wings for Life World Run. A record 265,818 participants of 192 nationalities set off simultaneously in 169 countries, running, walking or rolling to keep ahead of a moving finish line called the Catcher Car. 

 Tomoya Watanabe of Japan set a record for the event by reaching 70.09km as the men’s winner, while Poland’s Dominika Stelmach achieved 55.02km to claim the women’s title for the second time. But among the many benchmarks set across the day, the most important was the life-changing potential of the record fundraising that every participant helped to achieve. 

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 In South Africa, Lauren Quinn won the women’s race, running 32,6km. “Wings for Life is a great cause,” Quinn said after being caught by the virtual catcher car during the Organised App Run in Pretoria. “It makes you appreciate the fact that we can get up every morning and run. 

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Laura Quinn: Image by Mpumelelo Macu for Wings For Life World Run

Doing it for such a great cause is a fantastic reason to carry on running, and it just makes you grateful that you can put one foot in front of the other,” she said.  

 The SA’s men’s race was won by Andrew Geyser who ran in Cape Town. “ Sunday’s run formed part of a one-week challenge where I wanted to run two sub-three marathons back to back,” said Geyser, who ran 45,68km. “I ran at Durban International in two hours, 47 minutes and on Sunday, my marathon time, when I hit the 42-kilometre mark, was two hours and 55 minutes. So I achieved my goal there, which was awesome.” 

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 According to Geyser,  having the crowd around helped him achieve his goal. “I’m just super grateful for all the support that everyone gave and it was a really fun event and I’ll be back next year for sure.” 

 This was the fourth time that the 24-year-old took part in Wings For Life World Run. “It’s an amazing initiative to run for those who can’t and I truly believe that running is a gift and everyone who can either go for a walk or run outside shouldn’t take that for granted and make the most of it.” 

Andrew Geyser: Image by Craig Kolesky For Wings For Life World Run

Everyone worldwide started the run simultaneously at 11:00 am UTC – which was 1:00 pm in South Africa, 11:00 pm in mainland New Zealand and 4:00 am in Vancouver, Canada – and the participants experienced a variety of conditions. According to the official race weather forecaster, UBIMET, the coldest temperature recorded was in Quebec City, Canada (5°C) and the hottest was in Lucknow, India (41°C). The sunniest runs were experienced right here in Cape Town, as well in Zadar, Croatia, while the wettest was in San Francisco, USA. 

 In the 2024 edition of the largest running event in the world, the runners and wheelchair users covered an average of 11.5km each, for a total distance equivalent to nearly 50 times around the globe. Yet what they celebrated more than times or distances was the fun and spirit of joining together for a good cause. 

A new single-year record of R161,525,216 was raised and, as always, 100 per cent of that goes directly to promising research projects and clinical trials supported by the not-for-profit Wings for Life Foundation in the quest to find a cure for spinal cord injury. 

 Wings for Life CEO Anita Gerhardter said: “When people join forces, incredible things happen! 265 818 World Runners from around the globe walked, ran, rolled and raised over R161.5 million for spinal cord research. Together, we have the power to rewrite medical history and find a cure for spinal cord injury. A huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone – World Runners, the team and all volunteers and partners – who helped to create magic today. If you enjoyed the Wings for Life World Run as much as I did, I hope to see you at the start line again on May 4, 2025.” 

 Worldwide, participants ran individually with the Wings for Life World Run App or came together at one of 345 App Run Events (another record), which were held at stunning locations like the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City (MEX), the Bois de Vincennes in Paris (FRA), Expo City in Dubai (UAE) and the bayfront in Miami (USA). Others took part in one of the seven Flagship Runs held in Vienna (Austria), Munich (Germany), Zug (SUI), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Zadar (Croatia), Poznań (Poland) and Breda (NED) – all of them joined by numerous high-profile sports professionals, artists and influencers. 

 In Vienna, the Catcher Car at the Flagship Run was driven by two-time Olympic snowboard champion Anna Gasser, while in Poznań, ski jumping legend Adam Małysz was in the cockpit. In the unique Audio Experience of the Wings for Life World Run App, runners in each country heard a local celebrity driver of the Virtual Catcher Car encouraging them, such as basketball’s Gigi Datome (ITA) and triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR). 

 Many stars were running themselves, including Greek tennis pro Stefanos Tsitsipas, who participated with the App as part of his training in Monte Carlo. Just a few of the other famous names who were helping to find a cure for spinal cord injury with their support for the run included football’s Neymar Jr (BRA), rugby star Siya Kolisi (RSA), MotoGP champions Marc Márquez (ESP) and Dani Pedrosa (ESP), surfing’s Carissa Moore (USA), cyclist Wout van Aert (BEL), cricket’s Ben Stokes (GBR), skiers Lindsey Vonn (USA) and Lucas Pinheiro Braathen (NOR/BRA), and hurdler Karsten Warholm (NOR). 

 While the run is a fun day out where participants of every level set their own goals, another record fell on the sporting side. When Japan’s Jo Fukuda, who’d been the men’s winner in the past two outings, failed to find the pace, his countryman Tomoya Watanabe made his mark for Japan at the App Run Event in Fukuoka. After surpassing second place Guillaume Ruel of France and third place Valentin Poncelet of Belgium, Watanabe found yet another kick to achieve 70.09km, breaking the record for the event and becoming the first runner ever to pass the 70km mark. 

 The women’s competition saw a thrilling showdown between long-time rivals Dominika Stelmach of Poland and Nataša Šustić of Croatia, as well as eventual third-place finisher Ingalena Schömburg-Heuck of Germany. In a remarkable return to the top, Stelmach – who was women’s Global Champion back in 2017 – kept pushing even after Šustić finished to claim her second win and a new personal best with a distance of 55.02km. 

 Since the first edition in 2014, a total of 1,559,534 Wings for Life World Run participants have raised a total of R2,961,369,723. A total of 299 promising research projects and clinical trials have been provided with funding so far, all chosen through an exacting selection procedure. 

 The 12th edition of the Wings for Life World Run will take place on May 4, 2025. 

 

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