Wings For Life World Run 2017 – As it happened

Getting off the tram at 6:30 in the evening, I was making my way towards the event hub of Wings For Life World RUN (WFLWR) in Melbourne. With my earphones on, I had a decent 1.5k walk ahead of me before I would arrive at the grand party. I was thinking about my last year’s run in Taiwan in which I lasted for 18.24k.

You might be wondering about what’s with this LASTING thing! Let me tell you about it. There are a number of things that makes this race unique. One, it happens at the same time at multiple locations all around the world. Day or night, moon or light, runners all over the world are smashing it. From US of A (early morning) to Australia (late at night), people lift their asses up, assemble at the start-line and run their hearts out. Secondly, it is a race without a finish line. There’s no pre-defined distance that you have to run e.g. marathon/half-marathon/10k et cetera et cetera. AND HOW COULD THAT HAPPEN you might wonder? Well, it’s fairly easy. 30 minutes after you’re into the race, a car (aka THE catcher car) chases you down until you’re caught and the car is fast enough (at later times) to run down even the most enduring runners. It’s very similar to the lion-deer story, the difference being that the deer would DEFINITELY be killed (unless you run off the course leaving the organisers all puzzled up). And finally, the money raised through this race goes for the spinal-cord research injury and that’s why this race is often promoted as “running for those who can’t” and I can totally relate to it. I have had my share of injuries when I felt helpless that I can’t run. Thinking of those times and of the people who are suffering, there’s nothing better than this that I can do to support them in their treatment/recovery.

As compared to my last year’s WFLWR, this edition was quite different.  I was running in a different country (Australia) at a different time (9 PM, last year it was 7) in a different weather (cold, rainy and dark). However, there were other factors this time which can easily overshadow these minor mental setbacks. First and probably the most crucial was mine being running with my club-mates. In Taiwan, I made my way to the start line as a stranger to the crowd, paced myself up when I could and lifted myself up when I was experiencing downtime. But this year in Melbourne, I had “friends” with me at the start line, during all the pacing-up, slowing-down situations. Secondly, I was better trained at this point of time. At the start-line this year, I had 8+ week of training with me with my longest training run being 23k while these stats last year were 4 weeks and 15k respectively.

Now that’s my HUGE running club. Can you spot me?

Based on these numbers and the racing atmosphere, I was hoping to get past the 25k mark in this year’s edition of the race. The race started pretty smoothly for me (and my mates). We did hold on to a constant pace of 5-ish i.e. 5 min/km for the first 7k (where the first refreshment station was located). It was an easy-paced part of the race with constant chit-chats about the terrain, about the training, about the highway on which we were running. After this mark, we were more or less divided into little sub-groups depending on the pace we could hold. I kept running with a friend till the 18k mark. While passing that, I felt confident and wonderful. Confident because my training was paying off and I could see it. Wonderful because I was witnessing a significant progress over my last year’s limit. Nevertheless without thinking much over it and before it could get over my head, I kept running, my goal to get to the 25k mark now seemed even more optimistic. It was only after the race was over, I realised that I also completed the half-marathon distance i.e. ~21k in 01:39 hours (my earlier best time was 01:57).

Some more time after the half-marathon mark, I eventually reached the 25k mark where I was more than happy about my running and the challenge I had undertaken. A thought crossed my mind: now you can simply walk as some of the other runners were doing, you’ve achieved your goal. Of course, that was the easier choice. Running at that point of time required more effort than usual, probably because I had never run that long a distance. But I was determined not to walk. My brain was thinking of other excuses: “you have a presentation tomorrow, haven’t you done enough already?” or something like “your shoelaces are really tight, you won’t be able to fix them quickly, so just take a walk, fix them, and walk some more comfortably” and finally “you’ve achieved your goal, take it easy now” I listened to these thoughts and carefully discarded them and focused on what I was doing while they were running through my head.  My pace was slower now but I didn’t mind it. I was still running. And then it arrived. Without a horn, without a flash, it passed me by saying a “thank you”. My race was over. I was actually glad that it was over. Why? Because it was freezing cold out there and I am not lying when my brain said I had a presentation the day after.

My Garmin (running watch) finally unfolded all the secrets as I hit the stop button on it. I had run 29.5k in 02:24 hours. The deer inside me had gone a significant distance. A big jump over the last year’s and a bigger target to nail for that of the next’s.

This run on strava:

And this is my proud certificate:



The Run – Wings for Life World Run 2016, Yilan (Taiwan)

And the Wings for Life World Run 2016 is finally over! Almost 90,000 people all across the globe ran at the same time and for the same cause. They ran without a finish line and I am sure, all of them had their targets in mind. And so did I! With just a month of training, my primary target was to make it at least 15k and to make it as much as close to 20k.

With my running destination as Yilan, I was running alongside 4400+ runners. This was the second and till date, the biggest race of my life. The race was scheduled to start at 7 PM. I managed to reach the venue at 2 PM and made a couple of friends to help me out with the formalities before the race. The environment was great, people were happy, enthusiastic and excited! There were a lot of performances to boost the energy of every single runner. I am pretty sure that I and my friend Jerry explored almost everything out there! People were gradually showing up until 5 PM and by that time, the stadium was full with the view of fluorescent green running T-shirts. At around 6.15, we started for our warm-ups. People could be seen jogging and running around the track as part of their rituals. Some were stretching, doing yoga and we were no different. Even in a crowd of all strangers, I was no alien to them and we all were getting ready to hit it up for the main event.

The clock was about to hit the mark of 7 PM and the countdown had already begun. I thought to myself, I had prepared enough, I just have to do what I have learnt during my entire training. To run, and to run until I can. This race was supposed to be the combination of all the key elements of running that I had focused on during my training – stamina, speed and strength. There was no room for me to doubt on my abilities and therefore I was pretty confident about what might happen.And therefore, I knew my limits too. Because I would like to stay in the race for as long as I can.

Three.. Two.. One!

And it started. All the runners around the world started making their way out in the middle. Some wanted to take the lead which they are allowed in the first thirty minutes and some wanted to maintain their regular pace. On a day before, I did a 30-minute comfortable yet slightly challenging run so as to see where I could make it in the first thirty minutes and my target was the same. Around 5.5k. Because of the presence of thousand of runners, it took me a bit of time to get myself fueled up at my regular pace but on the other side, it was a good warm up to go slightly slower for the first couple of minutes. I skipped the first refreshment station which was at 3k because I knew the next one was at 5.5k and I could easily maintain my running form until then so I won’t need any water or Red bull (sponsor). For the next 10 minutes or so, I kept running and I hit the refreshment station where I managed to get two cups of water and drank them while running because the thirty minute mark was not yet over. I almost made it 5.65k in the beginning and that’s when the catcher car started. That’s when this moving finish line started. My goal was then to make myself to the mark of 15k. Catcher car reaches 15k in ninety minutes, so from that I can estimate that how much I am leading and how much can I lead further.

I had already picked up my usual pace, close to 5 min/km. I was getting continuous feedback from the Nike App that I have on my cellphone about the time, distance and my pace. It really helps in such races to keep a track of your speed because you do not have “infinite” time with you. I kept on running, gradually passing by some slower runners, being thrashed by runners who were pacing up. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten. I hit the 10k mark in around 54 minutes. At that time, I was thinking may be I could had run more faster at the beginning of race where I crawled with other runners.I gulped down two cups of water and a cup of red bull at this station.

And then came the hardest part for me. The next five kilometers. Not because of the distance, but because of the unavailability of the water on the way. I used to drink water every 2-3k on the day on my long runs. The reason being that I sweat a lot and I need to have a good intake of water to cope up with that. And the 5k desert lying ahead of me was indeed a big problem. I maintained my pace at the first and felt it trembling near the end. With every kilometer passing by, I was hoping to make it as fast as I can to the refreshment station because that was really necessary for me to stay in the race.

Finally! 15k!Almost 82 minutes. Catcher car was just 8 minutes behind me and after that, it would speed up a bit to gain even more on my back! I was a bit dizzy at that moment. Supporting myself against the pole, I gulped down three cups of water and one red bull with some apples. I stopped for a while and walked down some distance so as to make it OK for me to run the next part i.e. my second target, to run as much as possible!

I started back again. My next target was to hit the refreshment station at 17.5k because that would mark my half success towards my last target. It was getting a bit difficult to continue to maintain the same pace but I was not the one to give up at that point. I dragged my body along. I knew that the catcher car would catch me up in sometime no matter if I am running or not.Undoubtedly, I was not running at the previous pace at which I ran the last parts of race! But I was certainly avoiding to jog right there on the track. I was pulling out every bit of strength I had left inside of me and I got to the refreshment station. An awesome feeling! No more red bulls, just a cup of water because catcher car was already on my shoulders by then. My mobile shouted “17.9 kilometers…..” and I did not care to listen to the rest and I gave my race the last boost, the last drop of fuel I had in me and sprinted for at least a minute with whatever I had until the catcher car passed me by. And that was my finish line. 18.24 kilometers!

I was extremely happy that I made it so far in my first edition of WFLWR and I am sure that I would be giving it all to beat this distance next time. I have pulled this from my phone to share with you about my timings, distance and the pace:

2016 May 12 19-31-19

Final week before the Wings for life World Run

It has been a great journey so far! I have not been doing it from a long time. I have not done as much as I should, but this short span of training and sharing has been awesome. It motivated me, helped me to train better and it kept my momentum up during the entire last month. And here we are, very near to the final showdown. Wings for life World Run starts this Sunday and I am all geared up with my shoes on.

Here is my last video before I go and run it all: