At 11am UTC on May 7, Wings for Life World Runners across the world – at each event location and digitally via the app – will be setting off on their mission to run for those who can't, raising funds and awareness for spinal cord injury research.
Thirty minutes later, the Catcher Cars begin the chase. The cars will speed up at steady increments until they have caught up with every single competitor and knocked them out of the race.
These vehicles are what make Wings for Life World Run unique, so it’s only right to sit some special faces behind the wheel.
As over 100,000 people prepare for the challenge ahead, this is what you need to know about the Catcher Cars and their drivers:
Local heroes and international stars will be taking the controls at every event.
We’re all familiar with Carlos Sainz and David Coulthard sitting in the driving seat but others, like Mexico football captain Rafa Márquez, will be showing off their driving skills for the very first time.
Here are three stars new to the field this year:
Henrik Kristoffersen (driving in Stavanger, Norway) AKA the Wild Child took the slalom bronze in Sochi, making him the youngest male medallist in Olympic alpine skiing history and Norway’s most successful slalom racer of all time. Last year, he became the only skier in 50 years of FIS World Cup history to win all the classic slalom races back to back: Adelboden, Wengen, Kitzbühel and Schladming.
There are few things Reini Sampl (driving in Vienna, Austria) can’t do. After making his name as a skier, an accident in 1996 left Sampl paralysed. Far from stopping his sporting career, he then became a successful wheelchair basketball player, hand-biker and mono-skier and has competed in three Paralympic Games. He’s now turned his hand to rally driving as he manages his own fashion brand on the side.
Adil Khalid (driving in Dubai, UAE) is part of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team, reigning champions of the Volvo Ocean Race. It's not all been plain sailing. Adil faced the scariest experience of his life at his debut at the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race. His boat’s mast broke in 30-knot winds on the first night of the nine-month race around the world. Fortunately, he made it back alive and will be hoping for a calmer ride on May 7.
Competitors get a 30-minute head start while the Catcher Cars lie in wait.
At 11:30am UTC, the cars start off at a steady 15kph (9.32mph). Even at that speed, it’s no small task keeping clear of them and some amateur athletes get caught straightaway. The pros, however, take this chance to clock in as many miles as they can between themselves and the vehicles.
An hour in and the cars speed up to 16kph, and then to 17kph an hour after that until at 14:30 UTC when they are travelling at 20kph. By 16:30, the chase is really on as they hit 35kph.
The rush of the chase can push runners to extraordinary feats. Norwegian runner Elise Molvik had this to say after smashing her personal best to win the first women’s event:
“The Catcher Car makes it really exciting and gives you that extra motivation. When you see it, you get the feeling of ‘run like you stole something’ and you give it everything you have."
For some of our speed demons, patience doesn’t come easy. F1 starlets Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz had to train on motorised lawnmowers with a maximum speed of 15kph to calm their need for speed.
Join the thousands of runners at the Wings for Life World Run 2017 on May 7 and take part in a global race worlds apart from any other.
Step up, nominate friends, challenge family members and run for those who can’t.
Wing for Life World Run takes place at the same exact time all around the world on Sunday May 7 – with events in multiple countries as well as the chance to take part wherever you are, using the Wings for Life World Run app – and all the action will be shown live on Red Bull TV.
For more information, including how to take part, visit WingsForLifeWorldRun.com.