Participants seen during the Wings for Life World Run Flagship Run in Munich, Germany on May 5, 2024.
© Flo Hagena for Wings for Life World Run
Running

Wings for Life World Run 2024 – you shattered the record

Over a quarter of a million participants gave spinal cord research a massive boost in the biggest running event in the world.
By Trish Medalen
5 min readPublished on
The Wings for Life World Run celebrated its 11th edition on May 5 with a record-breaking 265,818 participants, reconfirming its status as the largest running event in the world. Most importantly, if you were one of those runners, wheelchair users, joggers and walkers, you helped to raise a phenomenal event record of 8,104,499 euros, 100 percent of which will go to vital research and clinical trials to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Dr Joshua Burda of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, USA, is one of the researchers whose work is supported by funds raised in the Wings for Life World Run. Expressing his gratitude, he said, “Thank you so much for being part of this global movement, allowing me to continue my important research toward a cure for spinal cord injury. Because of you and your involvement, we can continue giving hope to those with spinal cord injury and their families.”
Wings for Life World Run participants pose for a picture before starting the Flagship Run in Vienna, Austria on May 5, 2024.

Participants share the love at the Flagship Run in Vienna

© Philipp Carl Riedl for Wings for Life World Run

Over a quarter of a million strong, the participants included 192 nationalities as they set off simultaneously in 169 countries to keep ahead of a moving finish line called the Catcher Car. Whether they were challenging the Virtual Catcher Car of the Wings for Life World Run App or a physical version of the car at one of seven global Flagship Runs, they covered an average of 11.5km each, for a total distance equivalent to nearly 50 times around the globe.
Many of the runners joined one of 345 App Run Events (that was an event record, too) held at spectacular locations from Mexico City to Paris and from Dubai to Miami.
No matter where they took part, Wings for Life World Runners didn’t seem to mind the weather: According to the official race weather forecaster, UBIMET, the coldest temperature recorded was in Quebec City, Canada (5°C) and the hottest in Lucknow, India (41°C). The sunniest runs were experienced in Zadar, Croatia and Cape Town, South Africa, and the wettest in San Francisco, USA.
Participants seen during the Wings for Life World Run App Run Event in Cape Town, South Africa on May 5, 2024.

The sun was beaming and so were the runners at Cape Town's App Run Event

© Craig Kolesky for Wings for Life World Run

With its unique format, the Wings for Life World Run welcomes a range of professional athletes, fun runners, wheelchair participants and total beginners for a fun day out. Part of the thrill is the motivation they receive from celebrities who drive the Catcher Cars.
The Catcher Car at the Flagship Run in Vienna, Austria, was driven by two-time Olympic snowboard champion Anna Gasser, while in Poznań, Poland, ski jumping legend Adam Małysz was in the cockpit. In the Audio Experience of the Wings for Life World Run App, runners in each country heard encouragement from a local celebrity driver of the Virtual Catcher Car, such as basketball’s Gigi Datome (ITA) and triathlete Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR).
Many stars were running themselves, such as Greek tennis pro Stefanos Tsitsipas, who participated with the App as part of his training in Monte Carlo, and skateboarder Sandro Dias, who ran on home turf in Brazil. Just a few of the other famous names who were helping to find a cure for spinal cord injury with their support included football’s Neymar Jr (BRA), rugby’s Siya Kolisi (RSA), MotoGP’s Marc Márquez (ESP) and Dani Pedrosa (ESP), surfing’s Carissa Moore (USA), cycling’s Wout van Aert (BEL), cricket’s Ben Stokes (GBR), skiing’s Lindsey Vonn (USA) and Lucas Braathen (NOR/BRA), and hurdler Karsten Warholm (NOR).
Skateboarding's Sandro Dias runs in the Wings for Life World Run App Run Event in Braganca Paulista, Brazil on May 5, 2024.

Skateboard legend Sandro Dias traded ramps for the road in Brazil

© Fabio Piva for Wings for Life World Run

On the sporting side, still another record fell. When Japan’s Jo Fukuda, who had been the men’s winner in the past two outings, failed to find the pace, his countryman Tomoya Watanabe made his own 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 gear to achieve 70.09km, setting a new all-time record for the event and also becoming the first ever to break the 70km mark.
“We started the race at a fast pace – the leading group was really, really fast – but that kept me going. Wanting to beat the record was a big motivation also,” said Watanabe. “Winning this race today means a lot to me, and I will keep running and be ready for the event next year!”
Men's Global Champion Tomoya Watanabe poses for a portrait after the Wings for Life World Run in Fukuoka, Japan on May 5, 2024.

Tomoya Watanabe was the first runner in the event's history to break 70km

© Wings for Life

The women’s competition saw a thrilling showdown between long-time sporting 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 despite rain and heat at the Flagship Run in Poznań, Stelmach – who was women’s Global Champion back in 2017 – kept pushing even after Šustić finished to claim her second win with a new personal best of 55.02km.
After the race, Stelmach said, “Today I did it for those who cannot run and also for those who don’t believe in themselves because it’s very important to be strong.”
Women's winner Dominika Stelmach of Poland poses for a portrait at the Wings for Life World Run Flagship Run in Poznan, Poland on May 5, 2024.

Dominika Stelmach had to wait seven years to capture her second global win

© Damian Kramski for Wings for Life World Run

Searchable results for everyone who participated, as well as news and reactions, are available right here.
In the end, all of the day’s joyous experiences resulted in these exciting new figures: Since the first Wings for Life World Run in 2014, 1,559,534 Wings for Life World Run participants have raised 51.93 million euros, funding 299 promising research projects and clinical trials.
Wings for Life CEO Anita Gerhardter, who ran side by side with football’s Nico Kovač in Croatia, was overwhelmed, saying, “When people join forces, incredible things happen! 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, to 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.”
The 12th edition of the Wings for Life World Run will take place on Sunday, May 4, 2025. Registration to run with the App is open now, and registration to run at specific App Run Event and Flagship Run locations will open on November 6, 2024.
You can receive notifications, and register, at www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com.

Part of this story

Wings for Life World Run

Registration for Wings for Life World Run 2025 is open!

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