Running with wings

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Team #IgniteJozi at the start of Wings For Life run

I was privileged, on 10 May, to take part in the 2016 Wings for Life world run in Centurion. This a race like no other, held annually, globally, simultaneously, to raise funds for spinal cord research. When you participate in a Wings for Life run, you run for those who can’t. Big lump in throat moment? Being thanked by people with spinal injuries at the finish as they handed out medals.

But I get ahead of myself. I was invited to join the race with the Puma Ignite Jozi Crew, of which I am a member. I’m also a cyclist, and having done 40-odd kilometres of hill training on the morning of the race, tackling some of the biggest hills we could find, I wasn’t sure how far, or fast I was going to manage to run before the car caught me. Because the big difference between the Wings for Life run and other races is that you don’t race for distance – you race against a chase car. The car starts about half an hour after the runners, at 15kph, increasing its speed by a kilometre every half hour ’til it gets to 35kph. And once the gun goes, the race against time, and car, is on.

So off we wobbled, sorry, ran, surrounded by hundreds of other people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels. The first hill claimed a lot of the less fit, and runners became walkers. We persevered and didn’t stop til we hit the first water point, at 3km. I wasn’t thinking I’d make much further than that, but amazingly, no car was in sight. So off we went, past teams of runners in corporate shirts, people dressed up as all sort of things, any number of angels with wings and cheerfully waving supporters.

Once you hear the car behind you – and you’ll hear the music and the mobile MC – everyone seems to find some reserves of energy and makes a mad dash to get just a few hundred metres more done before the car passes, and your race is over. We made it to just before the 7km. The longest run my running companion had done, and the longest I’d done in quite some time. Kudos to the fireman in full gear (plus oxygen tank on is back) we got caught at the same time as I did. Uber kudos, of course, to the maniacs worldwide who ran, and ran, and ran – the global winner making a whopping 88km before he was caught.

If you haven’t, I’d strongly recommending doing the run next year. It’s for a great cause and the spirit and atmosphere is amazing. 7 May, 2017. We’ll see you there.

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Team #IgniteJozi with medals

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