Wings For Life World Run 2023 – you smashed it
In a joyous boost for spinal cord research, the Wings for Life World Run celebrated its 10th anniversary with a record-breaking 206,728 participants, the biggest running event in the world.
If you were one of those 206,728 participants in the 2023 edition – or among the countless additional supporters of the run for those who can’t – you joined a global movement that felt even more special than ever. And not just because it was the event‘s 10th anniversary.
As people around the world came together for a fun day out, entry fees and donations for the May 7 charity run tallied an astonishing 5,802,595 euros, 100 percent of which will go directly to vital research and clinical trials to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
With a unique format that includes a simultaneous start worldwide, as well as a signature moving finish line called the Catcher Car, the Wings for Life World Run draws professional athletes, fun runners, wheelchair participants and total beginners. 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, participants of 192 nationalities covered an average of 11.59km each across 158 countries. Many of the App Runners took part at one of 239 App Run Events held at spectacular locations from Kazakhstan to Mexico, Spain to Kenya and Australia.
On the sporting side, it was no surprise that the world’s biggest running event produced thrills right up to the final moments.
With four-time winner Nina Zarina expecting a baby, the women’s field was wide open, setting up a nerve-tingling showdown among the top runners before Poland’s Katarzyna Szkoda, running at home in the Poznań Flagship Run, captured her first global title with a distance of 55.07km, ahead of Austria’s Veronika Mutsch and Poland’s Dominika Stelmach.
An overjoyed Szkoda said: “This feeling is sensational, it was one of the best feelings in my life!”
The men’s competition delivered exceptional drama, as Japan’s Jo Fukuda gave his all to claim his second consecutive title, despite daunting rain and cold in his nighttime App Run. The Japanese runner pressed into an entirely new day as the clock passed midnight in Tokyo. Finally, exhausted, he stopped just before the Catcher Car caught him, only to be overjoyed when his result of 69.01km put him in first place – with runner-up Dariusz Nozynski of Poland just a few hundred metres behind.
“I injured myself two months ago and couldn’t practise enough, but I had a very strong will to win again, and that pushed me to keep going,” said Fukuda. “The Wings for Life World Run is a very special event for me because I can give courage and impact others in a positive way with something I love – running.”
Every single participant played a key role in giving hope to those affected by spinal cord injury. Stars from sport, culture and entertainment were also keen to be involved, from alpine skier Marco Odermatt, rally driver Sébastien Ogier, track athlete Karsten Warholm, skiing and rally driver Luc Alphand and racing driver Felipe Fraga to singer Seven, YouTuber AdiTotoro, and singer and former Miss World candidate Rebeka Dremelj.
Additional athletes supporting the good cause included volleyball player Christian Sandlie Sørum, football hero Trent Alexander-Arnold, surfing legend Björn Dunkerbeck, skateboarding icon Letícia Bufoni and record-setting pole vaulter Armand 'Mondo' Duplantis, to name just a few.
Among the many high-profile names taking the wheel of the Catcher Car in Flagship Runs were Formula 3 driver Sophia Flörsch, Olympic track cycling champion Kristina Vogel in Munich, and two-time Olympic snowboard champ Anna Gasser in Vienna and ski jumping’s Adam Małysz in Poland. To motivate runners using the App, the Virtual Catcher Car was voiced by a wide variety of celebrities, such as Geri 'Ginger Spice’ Horner (formerly Halliwell) and actor/singer Lance Bass of NSYNC fame.
Searchable results for everyone who participated, as well as news and reactions, are available right here.
Since the first Wings for Life World Run in 2014, the event has raised a total of 43.83 million euros to date, with 1,293,716 people covering 11,839,989 kilometres. Their efforts have already helped to fund 276 completed and ongoing research projects, with more to come.
“This in itself is a great success, and we’ll see even greater progress in the future,” said Anita Gerhardter, CEO of the Wings for Life foundation. “Now I’m totally overwhelmed, happy beyond words, and so proud of everyone. Having felt the World Run vibes, I know for sure that we will have the power to find a cure for spinal cord injury. If so many people join forces, we will make that happen.”
She concluded, “A heartfelt thank you to each and everyone who was part of this race today. And next year, it would be great to see all of you at the start line again.”
The date for the 11th edition of the Wings for Life World Run is May 5, 2024, and registration will be available well before 2023 is out. You can sign up to be notified as soon as registration opens at www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com.