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Wings For Life World Run

03/05/2015

The Wings For Life World Run is a unique concept for a race in which runners in 35 venues all around the world begin to race simultaneously, be it day or night wherever they are. Organised by Red Bull, the event aims to raise awareness of spinal cord injury with all proceeds going towards the non-profit Wings For Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation...

Apart from its worldwide stage, what makes this race so unique is that the finish line, in the form of a Catcher Car sets off 30 minutes after the last runner crosses the start line. Travelling at a constant pace but increasing in speed every hour it chases down and passes the runners. The overall winners of the Wings for Life World Run are the man and woman who have covered the most distance before being reeled in by the Catcher Car.

As a prize for having run furthest at last year's UK venue at Silverstone, Jo Zakrzewski was invited to race at a venue of her choice in this year's event and decided to travel to Cape Town in South Africa. Whilst conditions elsewhere might have been more conducive to producing a further distance than running through the heat in Africa, few venues could compete with the spectacular setting of the Franschhoek Valley where, starting at the Boschendal Wine Estate, the route took the runners out on a loop through the vineyards and orchards, surrounded by a stunning backdrop of mountains.

As all the events start at exactly the same time, some people run into darkness (for example Australia) while others run through dawn (as in the USA). Unfortunately, this meant that the South African run started at 1pm, precisely when the African sun was at it's strongest and the ambient temperature was about 25 degrees.

All the runners and wheelchair participants started off at the same time, with a pack of serious Nedbank athletes speeding off into the distance right from the start. Jo and Doug Brown set off at their own paces, both wanting to enjoy the experience and being fully aware that they were less accustomed to the local conditions that most participants.

A short run out took them onto a 45km loop, with markers every km along the way. There were initial road closures, but as the field thinned out, the roads were reopened, so tiring runners had to remain alert to potential traffic hazards.

Considering that this year's event had 101,280 people participating worldwide and with 1,300 of those taking part at the South African venue, Jo had a relatively solo run. She overtook the 3rd placed lady between 8 and 9km and remained in 2nd place with the company of a motorbike and camera until eventually being passed by the catcher car, by which time she had covered an incredible 51.11km. A distance which placed her 4th overall in South Africa and 6th placed female in the world!

Doug was grateful to be given the opportunity to join Jo on the start line. It has been a considerable time he has last worn a race number and was very happy to reach a distance of just over 10 and a half miles at 17.17km.

In Cape Town, the winning man Eric Ngubane covered a distance of 68.86km with winning lady Riana Van Niekerk reaching 55.21km before being overtaken by the Catcher Car.

Both Jo and Doug thoroughly enjoyed their run and would heartily recommend participating in the event to others. The organisers at each venue go to length to create a great atmosphere, with celebrity drivers, (for example the runners at Silverstone were chased down by David Coulthard), and live coverage from around the globe shown on large screens in the start/finish areas. Because of it's unique nature it is suitable for runners of all ages and abilities and the UK race would perhaps make an ideal basis for a Club weekend trip.

Doug.

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