50,100 registered participants from around the world simultaneously ran on Sunday in the first ever Wings for Life World Run, a race dedicated to funding research to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Runners of all types from 164 nations all started running at the same time at 34 race locations in 32 different countries. Over 1,100 runners raced here in Santa Clarita, starting at Town Center Mall at 3 a.m.
Unlike a normal race, there was no finish line. A “catcher car” left the starting line exactly 30 minutes after the race started and began passing runners at 9.3 mph. Every hour, the car sped up, first to 9.94 mph, then to 10.56 mph, then 12.45 mph, and finally to 21.75 mph. As the car passed runners they were electronically recorded and eliminated from the race. The car stayed at 21.75 mph until the last participant had been passed with one male and one female winner.
Runner Jeannie Rutherford was the local female winner, who ran a total distance of 21.05 miles before the catcher car caught up to her. Calum Neff, the local male winner, ran a total of 34.56 miles before he was eliminated. The winners worldwide were male runner Lemawork Ketema from Ethiopia with a distance of 48.83 miles and Elise Molvik of Norway who ended with 34.04 miles.
Neff was the top male finisher in the U.S. and will choose anywhere in the world to run in next year’s Wings for Life World Run. Rutherford will select any U.S. location to run at next year. Confirmed cities for 2015 will be announced at a later date.
As the top world finishers, Ketema and Molvik received the grand prize- an extraordinary month-long trip around the world, with stops in Salzburg, Istanbul, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Sydney, Fiji, Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro.
Many professional athletes came out to join the race as well. Santa Clarita participants included America’s Cup champion skipper Jimmy Spithill; windsurfer Robby Naish; surfers Jamie O’Brien, Ian Walsh, Carlos Burle and Maya Gabiera; waterman Kai Lenny; BMX riders Corey Bohan, Anthony Napolitan and Mike “Hucker” Clark; freestyle motocross stars Robbie Maddison and Ronnie Renner; and skateboarder Joey Brezinski.
The race spanned 13 time zones in day and night conditions. Geo-synced GPS systems and RFID technology recorded the global results, coordinated by 110 timekeepers with four tons of timing equipment for the 34 Catcher Cars. Worldwide, approximately 200 cameras and 34 television feeds brought the event to spectators.
100 percent of the registration fees from the World Run go directly to the Wings for Life Foundation to fund research to cure spinal cord injury.