Global race started on 34 courses in 13 time zones
At precisely 10 am UTC on Sunday a global race for charity with 50,100 registered participants from 164 nations kicked off with simultaneous starts on 34 long distance routes in 32 countries on 6 continents. Hobby runners, celebrities and some of the world's best ultra-marathon runners all set off in the Wings for Life World Run at the same time in front of a moving finish line under extremely different conditions ranging from searing afternoon heat in India to frosty pre-dawn chill in Canada.
Under the banner slogan "Running for those who can't", world class athletes and ordinary joggers hit the roads together in the first-ever such global race, a spectacle made up of 34 separate races with the single aim of raising funds for spinal cord research through the Wings for Life charity. All the runners taking part, between the ages of 18 and 91, will attempt to run or walk as far as possible. The remarkable feature of the first global sporting event of its kind is that a moving finish line will be chasing the runners from behind instead of the runners dashing towards a fixed finish line. The race will end hours later when the last male and the last female runners are caught by one of the "Catcher Cars".
Some of the top favorites, including Giorgio Calcaterra of Italy, a three-time world champion ultra-marathoner, and Takahiro Sunada of Japan, who holds the 100km world record (6:13.33), are expected to run up to 80 km or possibly even 100 km in one of the many spectacular duels being played out across national and continental barriers: Calcaterra will be running on a picturesque course in Verona, Italy while Sunada will be racing along the Donau river valley in Austria.
A global happening that is being followed through social media, live streaming on the internet and with selected television coverage, the Wings for Life World Run is also one of the most complex sporting events ever staged - in part because no one knows where the finish line will be. Coordinating the race held simultaneously in 13 different time zones will also be an enormous logistical challenge for the 110 timekeepers and organizers. The timekeeping and satellite news gathering operations, with some 200 cameras feeding live images of the racing action, are based at the Red Bull Ring F1 circuit in Spielberg, Austria.
While runners in the races in Europe and Africa will be racing during daytime hours, others in locations such as India will be running into the sunset and the athletes in Australia and New Zealand will be running at night. Runners on the West Coast of the United States, in Canada and South America will be starting in the middle of the night and running for hours before dawn.
With all proceeds from the race going to charity, the Wings for Life World Run will raise funds for spinal cord research. Wings for Life CEO Anita Gerhardter announced just before the start of the race in St. Poelten, Austria that the Wings for Life World Run will become an annual fixture with the date for the next race set for May 3, 2015.