A 78-kilometer long race came down to a thrilling sprint finish between two runners battling it out on two courses separated by 11,000 kilometers as the first-ever Wings for Life World Run turned out to be an improbable success.
Lemawork Ketema of Ethiopia out-sprinted Remigio Huaman Quispe of Peru to win a dramatic intercontinental duel by just 90 meters at the end of a grueling 78-kilometer ultra-marathon race for charity on Sunday in which 35,397 runners from 164 nations took part in pulsating virtual duels that played out on 6 continents. In the revolutionary first-ever race staged simultaneously around the world on 34 different tracks in 32 countries, Evgenii Glyva of Ukraine came in a close third place and just meters behind the leaders in the inaugural Wings for Life World Run, a fun-filled spectacle in 13 time zones for everyone from hobby joggers to elite runners that raised more than 3 million euros for research into spinal cord injury.
Running on the course in Austria, Ketema was not only dueling against the irrepressible Quispe, who was running at some 1,500 meters altitude in Peru, but he was also locked in a tense battle with Glyva in their race along the Donau river valley. He stayed hot on Glyva’s heels for more than an hour in their electrifying battle in the midday race before finally making his well-timed move to sprint past the Ukrainian distance runner at the 5-hour mark just as one of the 34 “Catcher Cars” closed in behind them. Quispe, on his own in the race in Lima, Peru that started before dawn, was the only other runner left as the “Catcher Cars” closed in from behind at at 20-km-per hour pace.
“It was an incredibly close finish,” said Colin Jackson, the international race director, who monitored the most complex long distance running event ever staged from the Red Bull Ring F1 circuit in Spielberg, Austria. “It was an outstanding day and an outstanding occasion.” Wings for Life CEO Anita Gerhardter announced that the world run will become an annual fixture with the date for the next race set for May 3, 2015.
In the women’s race, 18-year-old high school student Elise Molvik of Norway took first place by running 54.79 kilometers before the “Catcher Car” in Stavanger, Norway caught up with her. Molvik had never run further than 30 kilometers before and will share the first spectacular first-place award with Ketema — a highlight-filled month-long trip around the world to meet sporting and business legends.
Under the banner slogan “Running for those who can’t”, tens of thousands of runners and roll chair racers from all walks of life took part with celebrities and top athletes in the global happening. Former F1 driver Mark Webber of Australia ran 28.36 km and world class skiers Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway reached 28.22 km while France’s Luc Alphand ran 22.08 km.
Global Results Men: 1. Lemawork Ketama (ETH)/ run in Austria 78.57 kilometers, 2. Remigio Huaman Quispe (PER)/ Peru 78.48, 3. Evgeny Glyva (UKR)/ Austria 78.40, 4. Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA)/ Italy 72.96, 5. Paul Michelletti (NZL)/ UK 69.37, 6. Daniele Baldino (ITA)/ Italy 65.24, 7. Wouter Decock (BEL)/ Belgium 65.11, 8. Rainer Predl (AUT)/ Austria 65.02, 9. Rainer Achmüller (AUT)/ Italy 64.07, 10. Wolfgang Wallner (AUT)/ Austria 64.02;
Global Results Female: 1. Elise Molvik (NOR)/ Norway 54.79 kilometers; 2. Nathalie Vasseur (FRA)/ France 51.26; 3. Svetlana Shepalova (MDA)/ Turkey 48.29; 4. Mfanzi Ntombesintu (RSA)/ South Africa 47.57; 5. Lea Bäumler (GER)/ Germany 46.23