On Sunday May 6, South Africans gathered at the SuperSport cricket stadium in Centurion under the blazing sun for the Wings for Life World Run. People from all over the world set off at exactly the same time (13:00 local time) to run for people with a spinal cord injury (SCI) who can’t participate in the race (powered wheelchairs are not allowed).
All proceeds go towards the Wings for Life Foundation, which drives research into finding a cure for SCI. This year, Rolling Inspiration participated in the event, with journalist Mariska Morris running on behalf of the team. Her participation was sponsored by Budget Car Hire South Africa, which was also a sponsor of the South African chapter of the World Run.
Journalist Mariska Morris poses with Budget Brand Ambassador Mike Sema and with the QASA team underneath the Wings for Life arch
QASA CEO Ari Seirlis, chairperson Norman Wright, and numerous other members participated, including QASA Australian Volunteers International (AVI) volunteer Lowri Williams.
Miss Wheelchair World First Princess Lebohang Monyatsi, CE Mobility occupational therapist Kat Swanepoel and Zain Bulbulia, Rolling Inspiration contributor, were also in attendance. Nick Smit and Nicole Vergos were present at the event with their team from Smergos!
Miss Wheelchair World First Princess Lebohang Monyatsi covered 19 km before getting caught by the Catcher Car
The Pretoria racers were faced with an uphill battle for the first three kilometres. After the first water station, sponsored by Budget, the run became slightly easier. Yet, in the burning heat, it remained a challenge. Even overall South African female winner of the event, Dominica Stelmach, agreed.
In an interview with Red Bull, she said: “This was my toughest race yet. The weather was brutal; it was really hot! I’m so happy to have won another country title and to have had the opportunity to race in South Africa this year.”
She ran a total of 49,4 km before the Catcher Car overtook her. She has won four Wings for Life World Run titles on four different continents. The South African male winner Admire Muzopambwa ran a total of 67 km.
The overall title, once again, went to wheelchair user Aron Anderson, who participated partly to support the cause, but also to defend his 2017 title. He covered 89,85 km before getting caught by the Catcher.
Runners finish when the Catcher Car, sponsored by Budget, catches them!
Rolling Inspiration’s Mariska did not do as well as these top runners. She ran a total of 4,54 km before the Catcher Car caught up with her.
“I was planning on jogging, but I soon realised I would not survive the heat if I ran,” she recalls, “so I ended up speed-walking the race. When I saw the Catcher Car, I started to run, but I was so out of breath because of the very steep hills, I decided it was too hard! I am sad, though, that I didn’t reach my goal of 5 km.”
A wheelchair user assists his fellow runner to pin a race to her back
But she’s vowed to go back next year, along with a few more friends and family to help support the cause. Her favourite part of the race was the water stations – and not for the reason you might think…
“I reached the first water station just after the 3-km mark. I was already very tired from the heat, but the volunteers cheered us on even though we were some of the last people to go by. I felt like a professional runner, grabbing small packets of water as I went past the cheering crowds. Hopefully, next year, I will be somewhere in the middle of the pack,” she says with a determined smile.
The team from QASA poses pre-race
The 2019 edition of the Wings for Life World Run will again take place in the first week of May.
If you would like to join the fun run/walk in 2019, register to receive the Wings for Life newsletter and receive notification when entries open or, alternatively, keep an eye out for updates on the Rolling Inspiration social media pages.
Some more highlights from the Wings for Life World Run: