What is the price for tomatoes on the food points? What are the meerkats thinking about? How fast you have to run in order to outrun of a car? What can burn a handsome man?
One year ago, I found out about this original race, different from any other of the kind. And only this year I managed to try it. I have to say that it tasted really fine, with rich notes of sweat and useful for the society health.
This race is unlike any other, because it is held simultaneously in tens of countries around the world, and all the participants (more than one hundred thousand people) are competing with each other and with the rest of the world.
Wheelchair users and athletes, from beginners to professionals, all run together from the car, which is sent to the chase, as a mobile finish line. Last participant, whom the Catcher Car catches, is the winner.
The slogan of the race is “Run for those who can’t”, because the Wings for Life Foundation donates all funds to clinics and research centers around the world, which are engaged in research of spinal cord injuries.
Georgian wings of life
And here we are – Romka, Vitalik, Liviu, Volodya and I have decided to support people, whose lives are tied to a wheelchair, and I went to Georgia for the race.
After sharing the experience of sports events and wishing each other good luck in this difficult matter, we went to eat off before the start.
Well, in fact, the feast looked different, but since we don’t have the photos, you’ll just have to imagine it: khinkali, kebabs, ajarian khachapuri, eggplants with nuts and, of course, some Saperavi …
In the evening, we went home happy, singing Georgian folk songs …
The morning began as usual – with jam toasts and loperamide in the medicine box. And then the differences started, because we went to eat some more in the cafe, then met with Georgian business partners, then drank tea in the open air and only then, at 10 o’clock in the morning, got on the bus and went to the start. We were going so long that it seemed that we’ll arrive in the evening. In the evening next day. But suddenly after 4 hours the bus stopped and we were at the start.
150 km from Tbilisi, in Kakheti, a village is laid out, thousands of people, music, Red Bull is flowing, and everyone is moving here and there. The organization is highly organized, lots of volunteers, sucurity, media.
By the way, we, as a tradition, have made a press accreditation for ourselves. And now, Roma with Vovka, having hung on their necks badges with Point logo, visit the most secret places with a smart ass attitude, and the security lets them pass almost to the women’s cloakroom.
In addition to representatives of media, our team also has runners – Vitalik is going to run as long as the heart allows, Liviu plans 60 km, and I am thinking about 30 km (4:52 per km) – to go without any tension, as a regular training – Comrades is getting closer and closer.
While we waited for the start alignment, a live rock concert was rattling near, various fun competitions were going on, and the organizational tents with TVs, which will broadcast live, with drinks and food available for us at any time. Top all this off with beautiful weather, and voila – the holiday was a real success!
And here we are already at the starting arch. Next to us in a yellow T-shirt stands that Brazilian guy, about whom the ears were buzzed – because he won last year in Brazil, and now he came here. Everyone’s afraid of him, even though he doesn’t look scary.
And then the shoot sounded and we began to run!
To run is not even the right word. I was almost torn down from the place – children, women, people of average and older age, giggling girls – everyone were mixed up. Ahead of everyone, people in wheelchairs were struggling to race – one was nearly turned over. In short, a real mingle-mangle.
Judging by the amateur start, I understand that from the 4,000 people that started, only several will manage to overcome thirty km. Well, I’m running quietly, 5 minutes per km nice and slowly, smiling inside.
And no wonder – in 10 minutes I start overtaking tens of people. Then hundreds. 🙂 People already started to walk.
Friends, start slowly! Let go through the ones, who ask. It makes no sense to “fight” for a place at the start, because, usually, after a couple of kilometers you will meet again. And now we can safely overtake starting twinkletoes, they do not care anymore, but you get a buzz! It lifts you up!
Already by the 10th km I am running next to a guy from GB. He turned 37 today, and he decided to run 37 km. This means in 4:37 pace. Bold, but … judging by the speed, we run to a maximum of 32. I invite him to accelerate, he refuses, and I run ahead.
Fans in Georgia are very unique. You run into the village, and the fans are standing on the central square. Severe Georgian men and women in black are standing along the road and keep silent. As if they are seeing you off on your last journey. Well, I can understand them – shouting and waving posters is not serious. Somehow it is not Georgian, not respectable.
But that’s nothing compared to the informal “feeding stations”.
So, I reached 25 km. For the sake of entertainment, I began counting how many people I overtake per kilometer. At the 25th km, for example, I surpassed 9 people. The temperature began rising, there were getting less and less people. Some of them were walking, someone was waiting for the car, but I could still see competitors ahead, and I was not going to give up. After all, according to the average pace and my feelings, I can run more than 30.
Continuing to have fun, I came up with an interesting maneuver: you quietly run to your opponent from the back, 10 meters before him accelerate and fly past him, virtually without any tension and with the breathing ease of a gazelle. At this point you can see a meerkat:
He turns his head in your direction, his breath is frequent and intermittent, his face is red, he feels bad, and suddenly he sees a fresh guy, who overtakes him as if he was standing …
Where did you come from? – his eyes say… Why aren’t you suffering, and you are even smiling? Were you taken here by car and dropped off right behind me? Something’s not ok here …
You’re give him a sweet smile, and wish him not to give up, while quickly moving away … Meerkat remains perplexed….
One of such guys, a brutal mildly hirsute Georgian, after the overtake has stopped and shouted from the heart:
Bro, c’mon, burn it up! you’re handsome!
These sincere words are always motivating, and I, wishing him not to give up, accelerated, although it was already getting difficult to keep running! The sun was burning, and the pace began to fall. But it was hard not only for me, so from the 30th to the 34th kilometer I overtook another 7-8 people.
According to my calculations, I was about to be caught up by the car. I accelerated, trying to overtake another comrade, but he saw me and accelerated, as well. And here is the Catcher Car. I manage to shorten the distance with him to 20 meters, but the car goes ahead of me, and I, not without pleasure, stoped…
We sit down with him under a tree, and start chatting with local boys on the running theme. Then we were taken by a pick-up and driven to the start line.
At the finish, the first thing we do is run into the organizers tent, to see how Liviu is doing there. We see that there are three runners left, they ran 40 km. Which of them is the first one – it’s not clear, we’re getting nervous… 15 minutes later, there remain just two of them, and on is Liviu. Well… We are mentally sending glycogen to his muscles. And there, at the 47th km, there is just one. And who is it?
YES, IT IS LIVIU!!!
We jump, hug, open the champagne, shout, in short, we are behaving indecently! We can do it – we are the winners’ team!
If I had known then that I ran the first in my category of 40-45 years, and 14th overall, I would probably, being unable to withstand the euphoria, doing something really improper.
But I wasn’t aware of this fact yet, and it saved the tent from destruction, Moldova – from the tainted reputation, and us – from fights and police.
Meanwhile, Liviu, even without competition, does not give up and continues running. And here, at the 56th km he got caught by the car, and we celebrate the victory of Moldova with loud swearing and stormy applause. We are congratulated, hugged, and pour us more and more.
An hour later they brought our winner, but it was not that easy to get to him – cameras, microphones, reporters, organizers and fans were pushing us until we managed to elbow them all away and reach Liviu. Photos, interviews, stage, rewarding, more photos, cameras…
The leaders in the international competition were: the Italian athlete Giorgio Kalkaterra with incredible 88.44 km and Japanese Kaori Yoshida with staggering 65.71 km.
The unprecedented number of runners of Wings for Life 2016 – 130 732 runners on 34 routes. These athletes helped raise a staggering € 6.6 million, having run for those who can’t.
A great event with a strong subtext! We will surely run it more than once. By the way, Liviu, let’s fly to Australia in 2017?
Meanwhile, we, tired and happy, go by the bus to Tbilisi, to eat the well deserved barbecue and drink Saperavi. And to make a toast about:
Five small, but proud birds that flew from the sunny Moldova, to support those, who can’t fly. And one of them was the fastest bird of all birds of Georgia, and the other – the fastest among all the birds of it’s age! So let us drink for the ability of never forgetting about those, who are left on the ground, no matter how high and fast you fly…
So let us drink, my friends, for sports, health and friendship among the people! Alaverdi!
Where and when will the race take place?
It starts at 11 am GMT at the same time in 13 time zones around the world in 34 countries. In Europe and Africa, at the start it will be day time, in India – evening, and in Australia, New Zealand and America – night. In Georgia, the start is scheduled for 15:00.
If you are unable to come to one of the tracks, it does not matter – become one of the Selfie Runners, who using the app for smartphones and run in your own city. Runners and wheelchair users participate side by side.
Who can participate?
Men and women aged 18 to 99 years are allowed to take part in the race, as well as athletes in wheelchairs without electric drive. You may run both individually and as a team.
Is there a prize for winning?
World champions are the man and woman around the world, whom the car catches last. Each of them receives a trophy Wings for Life World Run and a travel around the world.
And all the national champions of the Wings for Life World Run get a flight ticket for the following year to any of the cities, where the race takes place.
How long does the race last?
The race lasts for as long as you want or as you can. There is no finish line. Catcher Car, or a car that catches runners, is used as a mobile finish line. It leaves half an hour after the start and goes at an increasing rate.
Starting speed is 15 km/h, and the car rides in this pace for the first hour. Then the speed increases to 16 km/h, and an hour later – to 17 km/h. Two hours later, the vehicle travels at a speed of 20 km/h, and then rises to a maximum speed of 35 km/h.
The runner, who is overtaken by the car, finishes the race. Last participant, who will be overtaken by the Catcher Car, is the winner.
Calculating your pace and time will be easier with the goals calculator. Just introduce the distance you want to run, and it will calculate the tempo in such a way, that the Catcher Car catches you namely at this distance.
Should I pay for the race? Where does the money go?
Yes, the price is 20-40 euro.
Wings for Life Research Foundation donates all the money to the projects, clinics and research centers around the world that are engaged in research of spinal cord injuries and are working on a program of treatment and rehabilitation for people with such injuries.
And all the administrative costs for the event and foundation work are paid by the Red Bull company .
I usually never advertise anything on my blog, even hidden, but here I give in to the chic marketing of RedBull – you are a really cool company, and Wings for Life is a super emotional, very bright and important event for all people in the world!
In short, this is for you for being so: