Historic milestones that topped all three previous editions made the fourth annual Wings for Life World Run an exceptional event. In all, 6.8 million euros were raised for spinal cord research by 155,288 registered participants on Sunday. Running in Dubai, the only Middle Eastern stop in the race, wheelchair participant Aron Anderson of Sweden is the new Men’s Global Champion (92.14km), while Bartosz Olszewski of Poland was the men’s runner who achieved the longest distance (88.24km). Another Polish athlete, runner Dominika Stelmach (68.21 km), was crowned the women’s Global Champion.
In the UAE, the female record was broken by Emily Waugh (GBR) who clocked in 43.01 km, just about doubling Caroline Gutierrez’s (COL) 2016 distance of 21.52.
The fourth edition of the Wings for Life World Run grew to new heights on Sunday, raising 6.8 million euros for spinal cord research. An unprecedented total of 155,288 people, from everyday heroes to elite running champions, registered for Sunday’s event across 111 locations. The global movement began at 11am UTC, when participants simultaneously crossed start lines in 58 countries, whether it was day (Brazil) or night (Australia), heat and humidity (Taiwan) or a hailstorm in Slovenia, which didn’t stop enthusiastic participants including the country’s president, Borut Pahor, who ran 20.48km.
After the Land Rover Discovery catcher car driven by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Adil Khalid caught up with him at 92.14 km, an ecstatic and exhausted Aron said: “Thanks to everybody putting on this race for spinal cord injury. I had cancer when I was seven years old, had surgery in the back and I ended up in a wheelchair. It’s tough to be in a wheelchair sometimes. It’s really, really hard. Thanks to everybody raising money for this, actually making a change. I don’t know if I will be able to walk one day, but that could be pretty cool! Thanks everybody!”
After the race concluded, Wings for Life CEO Anita Gerhardter said: “Congratulations to everyone, everywhere, who participated, donated or volunteered,” “By taking on this single challenge today, you’ve given hope to those who face countless challenges every day. The funds you’ve raised will enable top researchers to push forward with finding a cure to spinal cord injury.”
Many people ran side-by-side at event locations, and large numbers of registered App Runners also took part worldwide, creating their own routes. Part of the fun was the shared experience of being chased by a moving finish line, the Catcher Car, which was driven by names like Formula One’s David Coulthard in the UK and Carlos Sainz in Spain. What the participants achieved together is even greater than the combined 1,431,183km that they covered (another record, surpassing last year’s mark by more than 176,000km), because 100% of entry fees and donations go directly to funding urgently needed spinal cord research.
Participation is what matters in the Wings for Life World Run, and everyone can set their own goals. In a great day for racing, twenty-seven course records fell, and the men’s and women’s overall records were shattered. In the 40-degree heat of Dubai, professional Swedish adventurer Aron Anderson achieved 92.14km in an everyday wheelchair, with top men’s runner Bartosz Olszewski of Poland outpacing the Catcher Car to 88.24km in Milan, Italy.
Commenting on Anderson’s win, Marc Herremans, Sports Director Wheelchair for the Wings for Life World Run, stated, “In a sports wheelchair this is normal, but he did this in a regular wheelchair according to the rulebook – an amazing achievement. It’s important to know that we’re all doing this for spinal cord injury. There are so many people who have tetraplegia and are paralyzed from the neck down. They can’t use their arms like Aron. So he’s racing not only for those who can’t walk, but also for those who can’t use their hands.”
Running in Chile, Poland’s Dominika Stelmach smashed the women’s world record in the event by over two kilometers with 68.21km, with Austria’s Cornelia Moser (62.37km) and Portugal’s Vera Nunes (62.17km) rounding out the top three.
The UAE leg of the run was organized in partnership with Emirates NBD – the leading banking group in the region, Dubai Airports, Land Rover and Dubai Parks & resorts.
For more information, visit www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com
Global Results MEN: 1. Aron Anderson (SWE) / event in UAE 92.14km, 2. Bartosz Olszewski (POL) / Italy 88.24, 3. Lemawork Ketema (AUT) / Austria 87.16, 4. Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA) / Italy 87.15, 5. Tomasz Walerowicz (POL) / Poland 85.14, 6. Florian Neuschwander (GER) / Italy 83.49, 7. Elov Olsson (SWE) / Sweden 75.05, 8. Anton Rehn (SWE) / Sweden 74.55, 9. Philipp Aigner (AUT) / Netherlands 71.37, 10. Shishov Konstantin (RUS) / Russia (70.39)
Global Results WOMEN: 1. Dominika Stelmach (POL) / event in Chile 68.21km, 2. Cornelia Moser (AUT)/ Italy 62.37, 3. Vera Nunes (POR) / Chile 62.17, 4. Olesya Nurgalieva (RUS) / Australia 60.97, 5. Elena Nurgalieva (RUS) / Australia 57.92, 6. Alexandra Morozova (RUS) / Russia 57.59, 7. Nathalie Vasseur (FRA) / California USA 57.24, 8. Sophia Sundberg (SWE) / Sweden 55.29, 9. Karen Torrealba (CHI) / Chile 55.16, 10. Nikolina Šustić (CRO) / Great Britain 55.14