As I sit here crashed on my couch at Island Time Tiki Bar, Calypso taking up most of all the available cushion space, it’s challenging to figure out where to start my recap of the Wings for Life World Run. It wasn’t a typical “race” in any normal race terms. Oh contraire, not in the least. There was the usual mix of participants – serious runners (not me), weekend warriors (also not me), people just out to see what they could do (getting warmer), and just plain shenanigators (BINGO!).
Then there were the athletes being pushed in their wheelchairs, athletes pushing themselves in wheelchairs, and even an athlete making his way along with his cane. The energy and anticipation at the start was palpable, due in no small part to the big screen broadcasting video of hundreds of thousands runners at their own start lines, 34 in all. It was….well……pretty damn amazing awesomeness.
This was the first race in a really, really long time that I had planned on going balls to the wall as much as I could. The hubs was also running with me for the first time in a couple of years, and as he was nursing a hammy injury and a lingering case of the plague, we had to take that into account for our race strategy.
Excuse me, but did you say race strategy? Who are you and what have you done with our Black Dog?
Well. If we DID have a race strategy, it probably would have looked something like this:
- run like a bat out of hell for the first 30 minutes when we knew the chase car would be starting
- incorporate as many shenanigan making opportunities as possible
- make up for the time spent causing shenanigating by running like hell again, at least until the next water stop along the route
I am happy to report this plan worked out pretty damn well for us!
After what seemed like an interminable length of time just trying to get out of the BB&T Center parking lot, (seriously, how big IS this damn lot?!), we finally made it out onto the scenic streets of Sunrise, FLA. With NO sunglasses.
Lesson #1: just because it looks like you won’t be running directly east, don’t ever trust your sense of direction that early in the morning. Ever.
Returning to the scene of the crime, we continued on our merry jaunt – happily knee pain free – for what seemed like an interminable length of time until we finally arrived at the first water stop. Now, let me tell ya, these people know what they’re doing. Mile 2, complete with Clif bars, Red Bull, H2O, Gatorade and portapotties. With a line. The dreaded portapotty line. Duhn, duhn, duuuuuhhhhnnnnnn…..
After making a valiant effort at patience – 30 seconds give or take – it was time to create a little suburban drama. After quickly surveying the scene and knowing the chase car would be hot on our collective tails any moment, the command decision was made to…..well….blaze a new trail. Right to the nearest bunch of bushes. Completely runDisney style. Hey, ya gotta go, ya gotta go.
As I not so discreetly did what I had to do and high-tailed it back to the road, what do I see but the guy who had been standing in line in front of me headed for the same bushes. With a big thank you and a thumbs up we passed like ships in the night and the hubs and I were back on our way.
No idea how the bush is currently doing….
I’d give you more specifics about the course, but since this area of Broward County is like another country to me, I can’t tell you where we were at just about any given moment. What I can tell you is this: the volunteers at the water stops were amazing. The cheering groups with their witty race signs were amazing. The cops and PSA’s of the Sunrise Police Department were the best. Not so awesomesauce? That damn helicopter.
When that bad boy was flying overhead, you knew the chase car was stalking in the near vicinity. Soon after stopping at the third water stop – complete with music blasting and a cheer squad – the hubby turns around and starts yelling at everyone to run for their lives. At this point it seemed everyone around us had entered spaced-out zombie zone and had forgotten the little fact that we were being CHASED. That is, until they saw the chase car slowly gaining ground. What quickly ensued would have made Usain Bolt jealous.
And just like that, our race was done.
Actually, after walking another almost two miles to the next water stop it was done. By then, the
partymobiles shuttle buses had shown up to take everyone back to Party Central at the start. But not before we took full advantage of the fact that our bus was one normally used for the students on the campus at the University of Miami. And if you follow college sports at all, then you know there is no love lost between Miami Hurricane fans and that other school up in Gainesville. Needless to say, we took full advantage of the situation this poor guy found himself in the middle of. Poor guy. Knew he was outnumbered from the start. Didn’t even bother putting up a fight.
Once we got back to the BB&T Center and got off our rather odoriferous mode of transportation, we were given some rather impressive bling, and were free to avail ourselves of all the bananas, oranges, water, and of course Red Bull, we could carry. Meandering over to the runner’s village, we were free to stand in more crazy lines for tacos, beer, and even champagne. The big screen was showing where the leading male and female Sunrise runners were out on the course, at that point currently battling baseball sized skeeters and some not so friendly Florida natives. (Not really but it does add a little element of danger doesn’t it?)
We didn’t stick around too long as it was getting quite toasty and the call of a nice long shower was singing its siren song. Off to the homestead we went, but we were able to follow the rest of the race on the live-stream via the Wings for Life website. Five and a half hours after the worldwide start, Giorgio Calcaterra was finally caught by the chase car outside Milan, Italy. He ran an AMAZING 88.44 km (or 54.95 miles for those of metrically challenged). The last female runner to be caught was Kaori Yoshida from Japan who was caught at the 65.71 km/40.83 mile mark, outside Takashima, Japan.
Sunrise was lucky enough to have the 10th female overall with Nathalie Vasseur from France. She managed to hold off melting in the heat long enough to hold off the chase car until she hit 54.53km/33.88 miles. Damn alligators never stood a chance against Miss Speedy Pants.
Looking back at the event now, it’s easy to see why so many people have returned each year. In the three years since it’s inception, the Wings for Life World Run has seen an increase in participation each year. The best part of all? This year set a new record in the amount of money raised for spinal cord injury research – a whopping $7.4 million (yes MILLION!) And when you see someone who has never taken a step, walk for the very first time due in part to the funds raised from this event, well, let’s just say it makes all the sweat, aches, pains, #brokeknees, and miles all worth it.
You can bet the hubby and I will be returning to this race next year, and we hope you’ll join us. We’ll be causing as many shenanigans as possible on Sunday, May 7, 2017 once again on the edge of the Everglades. The natives have promised to be on their best behavior. Just don’t make the mistake of showing up in Florida Gator crap. This time, we just may not let you on the bus. 🙂
Enjoy the ride.
Have you ever done a race with no actual finish line? Raised money for charity? Did it make the race feel more special?