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Among the participants racing at locations around the globe in the #wingsforlifeworldrun at 11am UTC on Sunday, an elite handful of marathon and ultra runners are on the hunt for a magic number: eight-zero.
Global Race Control, May 7, 2016 — With only 24 hours to go before the start of the third annual #wingsforlifeworldrun, participants in 34 global locations are breathlessly anticipating the climax to months of training and preparation. When the race starts at 11am UTC on Sunday, tens of thousands of runners and wheelchair participants, from enthusiastic beginners to seasoned race pros, will set off with the goal of raising awareness and funds for spinal cord research. Among them, some of the best in the world of marathons and ultra #running will be battling to become the first in the event’s history to break 80km (49.7 miles).
The unique challenge rests in the format of the race itself: the #wingsforlifeworldrun pioneered the Catcher Car format, with a moving finish line in the form of a celebrity-driven Catcher Car that gives the runners a head start at each location and then follows them at a strictly regulated pace. No one, ever, has managed to outpace the Catcher Car as far as the 80km mark.
For most of the runners, that doesn’t matter. Whether they achieve a kilometre, 10k, a half-marathon, a marathon or more, 100% of the entry fees and funds raised by the participants goes to work toward the ultimate goal of the non-profit Wings for Life foundation: finding a cure for spinal cord injury.
But long after the amateurs finish their race and start celebrating their achievements, a handful of top pros will still be pressing forward, aiming for that 80km grail. Last year, Lemawork Ketema came oh so close. The two-time men’s Global Champion of the #wingsforlifeworldrun was the only person left #running after everyone else on the planet had finished. He’d been pushing toward the 80km mark for five hours and five minutes when the Catcher Car caught him – at 79.9km. Of 101,280 registered participants in the 2015 #wingsforlifeworldrun, only three runners – Ketema, Chile’s César Díaz (78.31km), and Italy’s Giorgio Calcaterra (78.06km) – made it past 75km.
Thanks to dedicated training, not to mention favourable weather forecasts in many parts of the world on Sunday, this could be the year that the seemingly unbreakable record finally cracks.
To hit 80km at the #wingsforlifeworldrun, an athlete would need to run at a pace of 3 minutes and 49 seconds for more than five hours. While Ketema is planning a moderate distance as he focuses on the 2016 Olympics, Calcaterra, a three-time world champion in the 100km, will once again take on the Catcher Car in Italy. Meanwhile Díaz will race in Austria. And don’t underestimate Florian Neuschwander, the German whose passion for the Wings for Life cause is as big as his impressive moustache. Neuschwander logged 74.56km in 2015, and this year, he’s made it his mission to stay ahead of the Catcher Car to 80km.
So can the 80km distance be broken? There’s only one way to find out:
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