77,103 people across 104 countries came together on May 3 to achieve what had seemed impossible in the current situation. They ran, walked or rolled simultaneously in the Wings for Life World Run charity event. Separated by distance but united in spirit, they raised €2.8 million for spinal cord injury research. Nina Zarina of Russia won her second consecutive women’s Global Championship with 54.23 km. Michael Taylor of Great Britain captured his first men’s Global Championship with 69.92 km. // Runner performs during the seventh edition of the Wings for Life World Run – App Run in Altenmarkt, Austria on May 3, 2020. // Joerg Mitter for Wings for Life World Run via Red Bull Content Pool

On Sunday, 77,103 people across 104 countries came together to achieve what had seemed impossible in the current situation. They ran, walked or rolled simultaneously in the Wings for Life World Run charity run. Separated by distance but united in spirit, they raised €2.8 million for spinal cord injury research. Nina Zarina of Russia won her second consecutive women’s Global Championship with 54.23 km. Michael Taylor of Great Britain captured his first men’s Global Championship with 69.92 km.

“We have all experienced limitations and restrictions in our personal lives in the past weeks, but things are getting better. People with a spinal cord injury are in a permanent lockdown their whole life. They, too, dream of getting their freedom back and doing the things they love again,” said Anita Gerhardter, CEO of the non-profit foundation Wings for Life, whose mission is to find a cure for spinal cord injury. “Today, more than 77,000 people came together to give hope and help to put an end to this permanent lockdown one day.”

At exactly 11:00 am UTC, the participants of 171 nationalities in 104 countries began their run, whether it was day or night in their location. From Austria to Australia and from Tanzania to Taiwan, everyone ran according to local distancing regulations. Everyone was able to run individually following their own course. Every participant ran or rolled as far as they could until they were caught by the iconic Catcher Car, the moving finish line.

During the final minutes, it all came down to the British newcomer Michael Taylor and two-time Global Champion Aron Anderson of Sweden. In a nailbiter, it was Taylor who prevailed with his 69.92 km to 68.15 km for the Swede. In taking the women’s crown, Russia’s Nina Zarina (54.23 km) held off a determined effort by 2017 Global Champion Dominika Stelmach of Poland to win by 2.98 km. 

Lindsey Vonn, the most celebrated female skier of all time, said, “It’s incredible that so many people have come together for the Wings for Life World Run. There’s no other race like it. So many events had to be canceled, and there’s this one thing we could all do together for a good cause.” 

Austrian ski legend Marcel Hirscher, stated,

“It was great to be part of this Wings for Life World Run. Running with the App was something new, and a lot of fun.

It’s really something to have in mind that over 77,000 were starting at the same second.”

Dominic Thiem, tennis world no. 3, concluded, “The Wings for Life World Run is a great thing. And it’s for a great cause, because I really hope – and I’m pretty sure – that one day they will be able to heal spinal cord injury. That would be sensational and, for sure, a big day in history.”

Colin Jackson, the International Sports Director for the Wings for Life World Run, commented, “The way the global community embraced this opportunity has been magnificent. It shows that people are hungry to connect with others. And to get out and move! I think there’s a strong desire to do good as well.” The Olympic medalist and three-time World Champion in hurdles added, “On the sportive side, seeing Michael and Nina giving everything they had against that virtual Catcher Car was extraordinary. This has been a special day.” 

—Reuters