Running

4 things you need to know about the Wings for Life World Run 2021

© Wings for Life World Run / Red Bull Content Pool
The eighth edition of the global charity run will take place on Sunday, May 9, 2021 with registration for the UK now open. This is what you need to know.
Written by Alessandro NocciolaPublished on
There's no other running race like it – thousands of runners racing simultaneously at locations all over the world, all raising funds to help find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Things are going to be a bit different in 2021. The race will take place on Sunday, May 9 as a Wings For Life World Run App Run, complete with a virtual Catcher Car, allowing people all over the country to take part in a safe and convenient way.
The app is free from the Apple App Store or the Google Play store, and it records your distance so the only thing you have to worry about is choosing your playlist.
Scroll down for a refresh on how the race's unique format works... then sign up to event here!

1. The finish line crosses you, not the other way around

A participant taking part in the 2020 App Run in Mammoth Lakes, California
A participant taking part in the 2020 App Run in Mammoth Lakes, California
Yes, you start running and then, 30 minutes later, the Catcher Car – a virtual iteration in 2021 – sets off and begins to creep up behind the field, its set speed getting faster at various checkpoint distances on the way. When it reaches you, it records the distance you've run and that's your mark. The last runner to be caught by the Catcher Car is the overall race winner.
For 2021, you will be be able to hear the Catcher Car catching you while you are using the app.

2. Some participants run in the middle of the night

Participants start during the Wings for Life World Run in Melbourne, Australia on May 3, 2015.
Participants running by torch light in Melbourne, Australia, in 2015
Organisers have to choose a time for everyone to start in the whole world. That's a simultaneous starting gun but across dozens of timezones in lots of races all over the world.
It's a leisurely start of 12pm for UK participants, but a long day of trying to keep energised and motivated all day long for participants in Melbourne (9pm start). Runners in Australia also find headtorches a handy extra piece of running kit!

3. It funds an enormous amount of spinal cord injury research

Doctor Samira Saadoun from St George’s University Hospital in London shown in a lab while working on new monitoring techniques for the ICU.
A doctor carrying out research at St George’s University Hospital in London
Like most brilliantly organised running events, people are running for a cause, in this case a cure for devastating spinal cord injuries. Wings for Life was set up in 2003 and now works in dozens of countries on various projects committed to finding that cure. The charity, and the Wings for Life World Run, take not-for-profit to the limit, with every cent, penny or other smallest currency denomination raised in its name going towards research, with no admin fees, tax or other costs deducted. So what you pay to take part in the Wings for Life World Run or raise in sponsorship is what reaches those key projects.
The Wings for Life World Run has raised almost €30,000,000 since it began in 2014 for Wings for Life through entry fees and donations.

4. The total distances run are quite staggering

Participants start Wings for Life World Run in Cambridge, Great Britain on May 8, 2016.
Wings for Life World Run: UK start in Cambridge in 2017
Every running and wheelchair participant in 195 locations worldwide are covering a massive amount of asphalt, so let's do some maths here.
Running to the moon? In the first year of the Wings for Life World Run alone (2014), the global field ran a combined 531,000km, far enough to reach the moon and run a third of the way back towards Earth (admittedly you'd probably want to keep going from there). How about staying on the planet? That same distance is 13 times around the Equator. Or put it this way – it's estimated that the average person takes 7,500 steps every day. If you live to 80 years old, that's 216,262,500 steps. With an average stride, that’s 177,000km in a lifetime. So, those 2014 runners, in just one day, ran as far as three averagely fit 80-year-olds cover in their lifetimes!
Since that first race in 2014, over 700,000 participants have taken part in the Wings for Life World Run, completing a staggering seven million kilometres!
To register for the 2021 event, click here and follow the prompts. The first 10,000 registered participants will receive an official Wings for Life World Run shirt.