My motivation to take part in the World Run

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Thomas Pechhacker from Austria (Age-group 1983) won the Wings for Life World Run in Sweden. He told us why he took part and how he experienced the day.

My main motivation for taking part in the first-ever Wings for Life World Run is my friend Wolfgang Illek from my hometown Waidhofen in Austria. Wolfgang has lived with a high spinal cord injury since he had a sports accident in 2004. He is a super-cool, happy person. It would be a dream come true to see him walk, stand or even hold a spoon just like everybody else. So, together with my passion for running, I had several good reasons to run for those who can’t.  

My goal was to run the marathon distance under 3 hours. I didn’t know if I could manage it because I’ve never run more than 30 kilometers neither in training nor in a competition.

Before the start, the wheelchair competitions of several countries were shown on the video walls. Wolfgang was in the Austrian Wings for Life World Run. I could see him fighting hard with a big smile on his face. I got teary-eyed.
Shortly afterwards, runners took off all over the globe at the very same time. In Sweden, we had a very relaxed start, running over an impressive bridge from the mainland to the island of Öland. After 5 kilometers and a time of 21:24 minutes, a group of five runners picked up the pace. I was running with two other people and the gap from the lead pack was getting bigger. I enjoyed the beautiful landscape and the spectators along the route without any stress. I passed kilometer 15 at 1:02:37 hours and overtook Marcus Hellner, an Olympic cross-country skiing medalist. At kilometer 20, my watch showed 1:23:41 hours. Shortly afterwards, I moved ahead of Mustafa Mohamed, who did a 22 kilometer training run. He cheered for me. After kilometer 25 (1:44:28 hours), I was running alone and in fourth place. I passed the 30-kilometer mark at 2:05:50 hours.

At kilometer 35, I was in third place and at kilometer 40, after 2:48:29 hours, I overtook another person. By then, it was getting really hard. But I reached my goal and ran the marathon distance in 2:59:00 hours. Wow. I was getting slower and hoped that the Catcher Car would get me soon.

Suddenly at kilometer 44, I saw the leading man approximately 500 metres ahead of me, which boosted my motivation and energy, and I increased my pace again. Finally, I overtook the leader at the 48km refreshment station. I knew that I had 15 minutes until the Catcher Car would chase me down. I could do it! I ran 4:30 minutes per kilometer and was able to put more space between me and the Catcher Car.

Then, the big moment was there. After 50.5 kms and 3:37:30 hours, the Catcher Car overtook me. I was the winner of the Swedish Wings for Life World Run. My muscles were exhausted, but I was so happy. We did a little photo shoot and I received a lot of congratulations. What a feeling!

Afterwards, Cornelia, a very nice person from Red Bull Sweden, drove me back to the starting area. It was quite interesting to see quite how far I’d run. Cornelia asked me many questions about why I’d taken part, how I’d prepared, and so on. It was great to tell her, in Swedish, all about my friend Wolfgang’s story. Of course, I also told her how I’d prepared the day before: s good dinner and two beers, that’s what does it for me!

I’m very surprised that I won the Swedish race, and that I managed to run 50 kilometres. But the most important thing is that thousands of people ran together for a great cause, for those who can’t. It’s a great feeling to be part of a truly amazing competition.