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Wings for Life World Run draws hundreds to Santa Clarita

35 cities around the globe host simultaneous race

Posted: May 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Women's and Men's Division race winners Jeannie Rutherford, of Newhall, and Calum Neff, of Houston pose after the race on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Red Bull.

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In the dead of the night, more than 1,100 runners gathered at Westfield Valencia Town Center to compete in an event embraced simultaneously by runners in 35 cities around the world, all to raise money for research into spinal cord injury.

At 3 a.m. Sunday, when most Santa Clarita Valley residents were still sleeping, runners showed up to participate in the Wings For Life World Run held at the same time on six continents.

Santa Clarita was the only host city on the west coast.

“It was amazing,” said event spokesman Aaron Baker, a quadriplegic man who over the last 15 years rose above a debilitating spinal injury suffered in a motorcycle crash.

“It was 3 in the morning and there were well over 2,000 people that filled the parking lot, with music blaring,” said Baker, who competed in the run with the help of a walker. “The vibe was high, then we all funneled out, all of us with glow-in-the-dark glow sticks.”

Winners of the Santa Clarita race were Calum Neff, of Houston, in the Men’s Division of Houston and Jeannie Rutherford, of Newhall, in the Women’s Division. They ran distances of 34.56 miles and 21.05 miles, respectively, and by doing so earned, a spot in any race venue for next year’s Wings for Life run.

Thirty minutes after the race began, a “chase car” set out along the same course. Each runner’s race ended when they were overtaken by the chase car.

As run sponsors from Red Bull refer to it: “The finish line chases you.”

“It was awesome,” said City of Santa Clarita spokesman Evan Thomason. “It was great energy and a lot of fun. To see that many people in the middle of the street was a sight to behold.

“There was a lot of positive energy out there,” Thomason said. “People chanting and hollering as they went down the street.”

Bill Boyd, of local firm aerospace firm Triumph Actuation Systems - Valencia, convinced more than 30 company employees to show up at 2 a.m. to volunteer by handing out water bottles to runners.

“Our own company (participation) program is called ‘Wings’ which promotes uplifting the human spirit,” Boyd said Sunday. “So ‘Wings For Life’ was a perfect fit.”

Triumph volunteers manned the first three water stations on the run route.

Worldwide, the event raised more than $4 million in support of finding a cure for spinal cord injury, according to organizers.

According to organizers, at least 50,100 registered participants from around the world simultaneously ran in the inaugural race.

Global winners were Ethiopia’s Lemawork Ketema (Men’s Division) and Norway’s Elise Molvik (Women’s Division), who ran 48.83 miles and 34.04 miles, respectively.

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 a tragic accident, which left him tetraplegic.


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