CARLI FURNO AND ERIN SLINGERLAND
On Sunday 8 May, 34 countries participated in the Red Bull Wings for Life World run with the motivation to “run for those who can’t”. SuperSport Park in Centurion played host to the South African runners who wished to join the event and enabled a number of UP students to take their place at the starting line in support of the cause.
All funds raised at the event, including 100% of the entry fee, were donated to Wings for Life Foundation with the goal of furthering research on spinal injuries to improve treatment and eventually find a cure. By the end of the day, over R120 million had been raised.
Every runner across the world set off at the same time in this annual event, but instead of running toward a finish line, the finish line was something that chased them. A Red Bull “catcher car” with sensors started driving 30 minutes after the race started, passing the slowest of the runners from behind. It was up to the runners to stay ahead of the car for as long as their legs could hold out, because once the car passed them their race came to an end.
This year Pretoria celebrated the greatest distance achieved when French runner Thibault Barinian was passed by the catcher car after 62.51 km. Other runners included Mikhaila Hunter, a former UP student who was involved in the media side of the event and joined the race after experiencing a near spinal injury that would have left her paralysed. “Finding a cure for spinal cord injury is very close to my heart, because thanks to the grace of God I just missed being paralysed myself. It is so great to see that Tuks students were aware of the event today, and were prepared to do something for others. I am very proud of them,” said Hunter.
What made the event unique was that it catered for runners who were “differently abled”, and many participants joined the cause in wheelchairs, with some entering alone and others joined by a teammate who ran with them.
UP students Kyle Dodds, Robert Menendez, Steve Pinto and Darren Herbert joined the event as a team. When asked about his reason for joining, Dodds said, “We felt that it was important to support the cause, because almost everyone knows of someone directly or indirectly affected by a spinal injury or problem. Most of the time we take for granted the ability to be active, so this race – for us – was an expression of our thanks that we are healthy and able to compete in such an event.”
Photo: Stefan Stander