[KHTS] – Out of 35,397 runners for the Red Bull-sponsored Wings for Life World Run on Sunday, the Santa Clarita Valley male and female winners finished in the top 600 as part of a worldwide effort to raise money and awareness for spinal cord injuries.
The race was scheduled to start simultaneously in 32 countries on six continents. Santa Clarita was the only city on the west coast of the United States to participate in the race, which started at 3 a.m., PST.
Calum Neff, of Houston, British Columbia, came in first in the Santa Clarita male division, running a total of 34.56 miles and finishing as #22 worldwide.
Jeannie Rutherford, of Newhall, ran a total of 21.05 miles, the first female to finish in Santa Clarita, and #577 of all the Wings of Life runners.
The race employed a unique moving finish line. Half an hour after the race started, a chase car started following the runners, increasing speed simultaneously with other chase cars around the globe. Runners were eliminated when the car caught up with them, and the winner was the last runner to be caught–the runner who ran the longest.
“Not seeing the global runners, but knowing that they were right there with me in the race, I had to keep pushing myself, and it came down to personal drive,” Neff said. “I knew I had to get to the crest of the hill, and that if I did I could put a gap in it because at that point the race was head-to-head with Florida. That downhill portion that I worked so hard to get was what gave me that win today.”
Lemawork Ketema, from Ethiopia, who ran 48.83 miles, and Elise Selvikvag Molvik, from Norway, who ran 34.04 miles finished first worldwide in the male and female divisions.
As first-place winners, they will receive a month-long trip around the world to prominent cities like Salzburg, Istanbul, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Sydney, Fiji, Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles.
The Wings for Life World Run was the first of it’s kind and raised more than $4 million worldwide, which will go towards research to cure spinal cord injuries.
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Wings for Life is a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation. Its mission is to find a cure for spinal cord injury. The organization funds world-class scientific research and clinical trials around the globe aimed at healing the injured spinal cord. The driving forces behind Wings for Life are two-time motocross world champion Heinz Kinigadner and the founder of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz. In 2003, Kinigadner’s son Hannes had an accident that left him tetraplegic. Moved by the dreadful injury, Kinigadner and Mateschitz founded the Wings for Life research foundation–with the goal of finding ways to cure all people affected.