Running season is officially under way, and I had the opportunity to come out swinging on May 8th (Mother’s Day) to participate in Red Bull’s Wings for Life Run, set in Niagara Falls. This run is truly like no other- the race is set worldwide, with all runners kicking off at the exact same moment on a race that is a totally different experience than anything else I’ve run. Wings for Life has NO finish line- you run until the Red Bull pace car passes you, and well, you’re out!
With no set distance to finish, runners come in two forms- those that are happy to participate and get out there (with no set finish line it there is no DNF’s or failing) and run as far as YOU can and you’re done! The opposite camp, on the other hand, is confronted by this unbridled distance and is engaged by the race, run or get caught- it becomes a thrilling race like nothing else I’ve run in. I guess you can see which camp I safely fall into…and I was extra motivated for a very special reason. Here’s my breakdown of Wings for Life!
Race Kit Pickup
The race kit pick up was a cinch. I really loved how it was held at the same park as the start line- at the scenic Kingsbridge Park in Niagara Falls. Volunteers made the process a snap, I was in and out with my racing T in no time! A handy map of the race route was also posted so I had a rough idea of where I was going. A step and repeat flanking the entrance was all but mandatory!
Shuttle buses ferried us fearless runners to the start line, with two hotels on the route picking up all the racers. The buses were pretty deluxe- certainly not the school buses I’m used to riding, instead they rented out the city’s local transport- huge coach style buses with plenty of room and seats for everyone. Transport was swift, the ride was about 15 mins long which left us plenty of time to make it to the starting line. Port-a-potties a plenty, but there’s also proper lavs as well for those not keen on hover-peeing.
The run starts off on road and doesn’t veer off- the paved streets of Niagara are in good condition, no cracks or potholes to worry about. The elevation is almost nil- there’s nary a hill or even bump to worry about. At one point you do turn onto a bridge that is slightly elevated but it’s over before you know it. All in all, the course (that I saw!) was flat and damn near close to perfection. The best part is at the start, about 3KM in you’re running down the Niagara Parkway, closed to vehicular traffic, affording you an up close and personal visit with the falls. A gentle mist was wafting in the air- absolutely perfect for running through! The pace car takes off 30 minutes after the start, gradually speeding up until all the runners are caught.
Hydration Stations were located at every 5KM marker. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable distance for drinks on the go. Volunteers were quick to hand out water, sports (electrolyte) drinks as well as Red Bull for those looking for their wings.
Since there is no finish line at all, it’s hard to pin point this one…I tapped out at 15.4KM, a decent distance coming off a miserable injury. I was pumping the tunes and didn’t realize that the pace car had actually passed me- there was a few photographer cars on the course and I wasn’t sure if it was another time to smile or if it was time to stop. In the end, I yanked out an earbud and asked if I was done. The driver dutifully replied ‘You could still keep running if you wanna….’ Well played sir!!
After submitting defeat runners were told to walk to the nearest water station for pick up- easy enough as I only over-shot mine by .4km. The walk of shame was short, but the mood jovial. I grabbed a Red Bull and a banana and hung out with fellow runners and waited for our lift back to the starting line at Kingsbridge Park. One thing to remember, pack a jacket- hordes of runners were amped up and warm at the start but after waiting out at the side of the road more than a few of them were shivering, and with no shelter in sight, well, be like me and layer up! My Nike Hyper Shield Light jacket was a perfect layering piece, when I was hot it was tied around my waist, and when I was chilly, up went the hood! Medals (and flowers for moms!) were handed out upon exiting the bus. The after party continued back at the park as we all tracked the remaining runners and cheered them on to the finish! With only 750 runners taking part, I absolutely LOVED not trampling people (or being trampled) and felt free to run instead of weaving through packs of people. The run is an instant fave for all these reasons, but my number one favourite thing is that 100% of money raised (including registration fees) goes to spinal injury research. ALL OF IT. That’s outstanding when you consider the logistics behind a worldwide race. Very generous Red Bull, well done!
So, what’s your move? You in for 2017?
Special thanks to Red Bull Wings for Life for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing event!