184,236 Wings for Life World Runners set historic record

We’re still trying to wrap our heads around these amazing numbers: On Sunday, May 9, 184,236 runners and wheelchair users from 195 nations took part in the Wings for Life World Run! All at the same time, all with a single mission: to find a cure for spinal cord injury.

It was a new record for history’s largest run, and with the Catcher Car format, everyone was a finisher. Most important: A total of 4.1 million euros was raised for spinal cord research.

“I’m at a loss for words. The number of participants is so much bigger than what we dared to dream of. All I can say is thank you to each and every person who ran, walked or rolled with us today," said Wings for Life CEO Anita Gerhardter. “Together, we’ve celebrated life and raised an incredible amount to help find a cure for spinal cord injury.”

Thanks to the unique race format, runners and wheelchair users with completely different ability levels could race together, connected by the Wings for Life World Run App. Interest was so high that Wings for Life World Run was trending on Twitter, and the run’s Instagram page actually crashed for a moment at the start.

More big news came just after the race, when it was announced that the next Wings for Life World Run will take place on May 8, 2022 – and registration is already open!

On the sporting side, the run set more benchmarks, with its first three-time winners. Staying ahead of the Catcher Car for 66.8 km, Sweden’s Aron Anderson took his third win after victories in 2017 and 2018, while the 60.2 km of Nina Zarina gave the Russian a third consecutive title, following success in 2019 and 2020. Altogether, the 2021 runners and wheelchair users covered an average 12.3 km each.

“For me as a person with a spinal cord injury, it's truly amazing and gratifying that over 180,000 people decided to participate to help researchers come closer to finding a cure,” said Aron Anderson. “The race brings so much joy to my heart, and I really love being a part of it. I want to express my thanks to all the runners today, because they are all contributing to an important cause. Thank you, everyone!”

The eighth edition of the Wings for Life World Run was packed with beautiful scenery and stories. Some ran alone, or in small groups, across sun-scorched countries in central Europe, at times with snow-capped mountains in the background, while others were running along ocean shores at dawn or dusk; and one woman in Africa was even spotted running as giraffes looked on. Weather conditions varied from cold rain in Ireland and Spain to snowfall in Norway and hot weather in Greece.

How far and where did you run, roll or walk on May 9? We’d love to know your story, so please share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And while you’re at it, why not sign up for 2022 here?