PHOTO: Red Bull Content Pool
Unconventional Race, Deeply Motivated Racers: Red Bull Canada stages Wings for Life World Run App on May 7 to benefit victims of spinal chord injury.
By Ben Kaplan
The most unconventional run of the year is put on by Red Bull and has no finish line and sees 100% of the costs associated with the event go to Spinal Chord injuries. Wings for Life, which was started in 2004 and has thus far sponsored 142 spinal chord research projects, is May 7 and there’s no one set event location. Instead, racers of all levels use the Wings for Life App to participate wherever they are across Canada—and all over the world. Runners around the world take off at the same starting point and run as far as they can until a virtual chase car catches them. It’s fun and strange and the people who benefit from it, like Pauly Plewa, 22, are inspiring and wonderful.
“When people say I can’t do something, that just gives me motivation to prove them wrong,” says Plewa, who broke his back before his 17th birthday and was told that he’d never walk again. He says he has US$45,000 worth of steel holding his spine together and that he’s back driving race cars, and running and jumping, even though doctors thought he’d forever be wheelchair-bound. “I had a few words for those doctors, and not everything I said, I admit, was said politely,” recalls Plewa, with a laugh. “The truth is much more can be done for people with injured spinal chords. I want to thank Red Bull Canada for leading the charge.”
Event participants prepare to compete in the Wings For Life World Run in Santa Clarita, California, USA on March 08, 2016.
PHOTO: Redbull Content Pool
Spinal chord injuries effect 250,000 people each year and scientists know that injured neurons are able to regenerate. The Wings for Life Spinal Chord Research Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure. Pauly Plewa, hard working and with the support of his parents and sister, knows that his recovery is rare. He participates in the event to raise attention to spinal chord research—and because he loves to run.
“It’s probably the coolest event I’ve known and I’ve been an ambassador since day one,” he says. “Even the doctors I worked with after my accident didn’t seem to know how to treat my injuries. But that’s changing, and these injuries can be treated, and what’s better than a race to raise attention to helping people survive?”
Josh Dueck races at the Wings for Life World Run in Niagara Falls, Canada on May 8, 2016.
PHOTO: Redbull Content Pool
The Wings for Life event is nontraditional, in that instead of a finish line, participants run as far as they can until they’re caught by a chase car. In the past, this was held around the world with 150,000 runners taking part in 34 locations, with the event lasting as long as it takes for each participant to be caught. This year, to avoid any exclusions, the event is basically virtual with the Wings for Life App, which allows participants to download the program and virtually compete. For Leslie Woods in Montreal, who has twice run the race, the virtual component is a big leap forward.
“The format, the energy, the people, I found the whole thing to be unlike any other running event I’ve ever seen,” says Woods, who helped pilot the app with the help of his run crew in Montreal. “It’s great to see Red Bull championing this charity and I just know this year, the event is going to bring runners together all over the country to make a difference for people who’ve injured their spinal chords.”
Events are being held all over the country, in Niagara Falls, in Montreal, in Calgary, and in Vancouver, where Rob Smith, from Vancouver Running Company, is leading the run. Smith, who also hosted the event in 2016, believes the event is fun and unique and a very powerful way to get runners involved with a great charity. On May 7, he plans on leading 125 runners out to participate at the Wings for Life App event at 4 a.m.
“Experiential events are what a lot of runners are clamoring for—the world of $70 10Ks and an ill-fitting shirt are falling by the wayside. Runners demand an experience,” says Smith. “I think when you take that, and combine it with an international company that isn’t concerned about selling their product but growing the sport, and with 100% of the proceeds going to charity, it’s an amazing match. I can’t wait for May 7 to arrive.”
Visit The Wings for Life App for more information on runs.
This is a paid piece of advertorial content, brought to you by Red Bull Canada.