This Wings of Life World Run came across my radar last year and it sounded too much fun not to do this year. Wings for Life is a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation. Their mission is to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Co-ordinated across 35 locations around the world the race starts at exactly the same time in every location, for me in California that was a 4am start! The format of the race is unlike any I have run in before. You start and 30 minutes later the Finish Line car starts at a speed of 10mph, every hour it speeds up, the overall schedule looked like this;
- 4:00am race start
- 4:30am catcher car start – pace of 15km/hr (approx. 9.3 mph) 6:27 pace
- 5:30am pace increase: 16 kph (9.94 mph) 6:02 pace
- 6:30am pace increase: 17 kph (10.56 mph) 5:40 pace
- 7:30am pace increase: 20 kph (12.43 mph) 4:49 pace
- 8:30am pace increase to 35 kph (approx. 21.75 mph) 2:45 pace until the final participant is passed
While I have been doing lots of running lately I certainly hadn’t been doing any speed work or anything that came close to tempo runs for any real distance, the only thing that came close was an 18 miler at an 8:33 pace everything felt a bit tight but it was ok. So based on that I came up with three goals
- C Goal a Half Marathon (13.1 miles)
- B Goal 15 miles
- A Goal 18 miles
I estimated it would be somewhere between 2-2.5 hours of running time.
So with both Becca and I signed up we headed out of town the night before to stay at a friend’s due to the crazy alarm time of 2:45am for the 4:00am start. Three (or was it four) beers and night chatting meant we didn’t get into bed until gone 11:00pm that night…3.45 hours of sleep!
Bleary eyed we stood in the start chute, it was chilly and dark, I had a head-torch, many people didn’t. I was glad I did. With a pretty good rendition of the National Anthem we were off. The first couple of miles were crazy busy and I just focused on finding some space knowing that it would tail off as the miles increased. I had no real plan but I had in mind to try to keep a pace somewhere between 8-8:30 per mile which would be 7-7.5 mph. I had downloaded an app to my Garmin Fenix3 that gave me some indication of my possible distance and catch time.
The first 7 miles slipped by and on the hour I passed 7.5 miles. Some of the earlier splits were pretty quick but the first half of the course was much more downhill. I made a couple of stops to grab some photos and stretch out a tired hip. Inevitably due to my mad pacing skills and the fact that the course had nearly 5 miles of climbing in the second half I slowed down. I passed the half marathon mark in 1:47 and knew that the clock was running out. The two hour mark passed and I was at 14.5 miles.
A last dash for the 24k mark was foiled when I was passed by the Finish Line Car.
Final tally 2:01 and 14.86 miles on the clock.
I walked back to the last Aid Station and hopped on a bus that took me back to the start. there was a breakfast laid on and plenty of recovery options. The Race organization really was excellent.
Overall I was pleased, given the lack of speedwork and blah, blah, blah…you know the rest.
Bottom line I was happy, it was a fun race, super well organized and for a great cause. I was 90th in the US and 8107th in the world…I’ll take that!
The 4:00am start killed Becca and myself for the rest of the day, but some days you just have to lay in bed and watch TV…at least once every 2-3 years!