A record-breaking 206,728 participants with 192 nationalities in 158 countries set off for the 10th edition of the Wings for Life World Run with the motto “run for those who can’t”.
Participants walked or rolled to keep ahead of the Catcher Car – the moving finish line that started 30 minutes after the runners.
Poland’s Katarzyna Szkoda triumphed in the women’s category as she covered 55.07km during the flagship run in Poznań, while Japan’s Jo Fukuda ran 69.01km during the app run in Japan.
During this year’s anniversary edition of the biggest running event in the world, runners and wheelchair users covered an average of 11.59km by the time the Catcher Car finished the race for them.
Fukoda, now a two-time event winner, said: “I injured myself two months ago and couldn’t practice enough – so I could tell it was going to be a tough race. But I had a very strong will to win again, and that pushed me to keep going. 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.”
Following her victory, Szkoda, who ran in Poznań, Poland, said: “This feeling is sensational; it was one of the best feelings in my life! I had information on the route that I was the first here in Poznań, and later that I was first globally, but somehow it didn’t quite reach me. I guess I need some time to process that!”
Worldwide, participants ran individually with the Wings for Life World Run App, or they came together at the 239 App Run events, which were held at stunning locations like the Botanical Garden in Almaty (Kazakhstan), at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City (Mexico), in the port of Barcelona (Spain), in Karura Forest in Nairobi (Kenya) and Sydney (Australia).
Others took part in one of the seven flagship runs in Vienna (Austria), Munich (Germany), Zug (Switzerland), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Zadar (Croatia), Poznań (Poland) and Kakheti (Georgia).
Two-time Olympic snowboard champion Anna Gasser was in the Catcher Car in Vienna, Austria, while many other stars took part in the race, including Alpine skiing overall world champion Marco Odermatt. Olympic champion Karsten Warholm also cheered along competitors, while world rally champion Sébastien Ogier competed in Germany.
The 2023 edition of Wings for Life World Run also marked a milestone with entry fees and donations totalling €5,802,595, and 100 per cent of all entry fees and donations going directly to spinal cord research.
Anita Gerhardter, CEO, Wings for Life, said: “I’m totally overwhelmed, I am happy beyond words, and I am so proud of everyone who helped us to make this happen. 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. So a heartfelt thank you to each and everyone who was part of this race today. Thank you so much. And next year, May 5, it would be great to see all of you at the start line again.”
Over ten years, raising a total of €43.83m, 1,293,716 people ran a combined 11,839,989km since the first event in 2014. A total of 276 different projects have also been provided with funding after a strict selection procedure.
Dr Jan Schwab, Scientific Director for Wings for Life, was himself participating in this year’s Wings for Life World Run, and said: “I like running. And this run is of particular concern to me. It creates awareness for people who have to live with a spinal cord injury.”
Research is expensive, Dr Schwab explains. The millions raised by the Wings for Life World Run every year is “important money and enables Wings for Life not only to fund a larger number of projects but also to conduct clinical studies that are more expensive. The run is good news for research.” He added: “On behalf of the many scientists who have received funding and on behalf of the entire field of research: I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to all participants.”
Unofficial Wings for Life World Run 2023 results:
1. Katarzyna Szkoda, POL, Flagship Run Poznań, 55.07km
2. Veronika Mutsch, AUT, Flagship Run Vienna, 49.8km
3. Dominika Stelmach, POL, Flagship Run Kakheti, 49km
1. Jo Fukuda, JPN, App Run Japan, 69.01km
2. Dariusz Nozynski, POL, Flagship Run Poznań, 68.3km
3. Bogaci Andrei, ROU, App Run Bucharest, 63.15km
The 11th edition of the Wings for Life World Run will take place on May 5, 2024. Registration opens later this year. Participants can set a notification at www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com
Full results list, news and reactions are available at www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com
Watch the Replay of the Wings For Life Live Event HERE
Header image: Anita Gerhardter and Wolfgang Illek pose for a portrait during the Wings For Life World Run Flagship Run in Vienna, Austria on May 7, 2023. Credit: Philipp Carl Riedl for Wings for Life World Run