Interviewing two people who are just about to run a big race together isn’t necessarily that tough a thing to pull off. Unless of course, they’re on different continents at the time—as they would be when they simultaneously take part in the Wings For Life World Run. But somehow I managed to cobble together voice- and data-based input into the following…
Did you run the inaugural Wings For Life World Run last year?
Kimberly Delafuente: I did not, but I was aware of it. I had a conflict. There is another race that day and I was already registered for that. I actually considered doing both, and I thought, “You know, with a start time of four o’clock…” But I didn’t know that I would be in shape to do the second race.
Martin Stohl: Yes I did and I really loved it! I run here in Bratislava and the atmosphere was truly amazing, even though there were some minor glitches.
How did you first hear about the W4LWR?
KD: I’m trying to remember how I found out about it. You hear about races when you’re at other races. Or you pick up a flyer at some race expo—that’s usually how I find out about these things, so that’s most likely how I found out about this particular event.
MS: Ah, this was all over our local media, but the first time I heard of it was through my local Facebook running community site called iRUN. I loved the idea and even convinced a couple of colleagues of mine to join up.
Do you consider yourself a serious runner or casual one?
KD: You know, that’s an interesting question, because I used to hate running so much. I was not athletic in high school or college, but I got into cycling for a while. And I have a friend at my work who recruited me into doing a triathlon relay. Even after I started running half-marathons I would say, “No, no, no. I’m not a runner. I’m just somebody who runs.” To me there was a distinction between somebody who just happened to do races and somebody who identifies as a runner, and it took me a long time to identify that way. And now this is a big part of my life. In fact, I plan my vacations around running. Whenever I think about somewhere I’m going to go, I try to look up what races are going to be in the area for the timeframe I’m going to be there.
MS: Running was never a religion to me, but it became an important part of my weekly routine. Last year I did some 700km in all which comes down to some 14.6km or 9 miles per week. Not much maybe, but to me, just enough to get rid of all the excess work-related stress, stay fit and keep my energy level high enough. Not a religion but a good prayer to be in touch with heaven nonetheless
Do you personally consider the W4LWR a run or a race? How do you feel about having no finish line?
KD: When I think about where this fits on my schedule, it’s a run for me. But I think about the gimmick of the Catcher Car, and I think once you realize that car is behind you, you’re going to make this into a race. You don’t want that guy to catch you. It’s going to be a different mentality then.
MS: Well, I am glad this event is being attended by a few real runners, doing some really awesome times and giving the whole thing some real credibility. Having said that, I believe this is a multi-layered community run that gives a chance to anyone. Honestly speaking, I would never have dared to attend if it was a race
I wish I knew who had invented the concept, because it was one brilliant idea indeed! Having no fixed length of the run to the finish line means that the run is open to just about anyone, whether it is an experienced marathon runner or a beginner who just felt compelled to support the idea of fundraising this way for those unfortunate among us with spinal cord injuries.
How would you categorize your participation in the event? On a scale of 1 to 10, where “1” is that you are running exclusively to support the cause, and “10” is that you’re exclusively out there to run, where would you say you fall?
KD: I put myself at five. I mean, I do love the fact that there’s a cause involved. I believe they’re saying it’s 100% going toward spinal cord injury research. Then, of course, I’m going up there with a friend, and to me it’s unique enough that I want to do it at least once. I know it’s crazy…I’m a night owl. I usually don’t go to bed ‘til one. So my likelihood is that I will get no sleep for this run. I will stay up the entire night. But I’m fine with that, because I’ve done that before. I think there’ll be enough adrenaline going.
MS: I would give it 5/5 because to me, one can hardly separate one from the other.
California is a long way from Slovakia. How did you two connect?
KD: I have some connections in Europe because I’m in a network similar to CouchSurfing, where you go meet people and hang out with them in other destinations. On my profile on the website, I said something about how I’m into running and is anybody doing this Wings For Life Run. And Martin pinged me and said, “Yeah, I am, over here in Slovakia.” So we’re keeping up with each other’s running on WhatsApp. I heard from him a couple of days ago and he said he’s been sick with the flu. His family, they’ve all been sick, so he’s had to cut back on his running.
MS: I have attended many other runs here in Europe but this is what clearly makes a difference to me – this event makes you feel the world comes together for one common cause at the very same moment. There are no borders here within the EU so I do not feel all that special keeping in touch with my friends running in Holland, Austria or Slovenia. But being in touch with someone like Kimberly in beautiful California with a 9-hour difference, running at 4am local time in Santa Clarita, is just something special that makes me realise this is truly one global village we live in and we all strive for the same goals. Meeting Kimberly on the web was a sheer happy accident; how lucky we are to have this opportunity to interact on a global level, sharing our experiences!
What are your thoughts on just kind of the global enormity of this thing – that you’re going to be running with over 90,000 people around the world at precisely the same time?
KD: I think that is really interesting. I don’t know that it will hit me, because…I don’t know what the setup will be in Santa Clarita, if they’ll have any big screens that show, oh by the way, all these other people are running. Presuming I have cell reception, after I’m finished I’ll probably send some photos to Martin and say “Hey, I’m over here!” and he’ll respond and say “Yay!” That’d be really cool.
MS: This is just awesome…you know, there are so many troubles in the world these days we listen to from all the media. That is why global good-cause events like this are so comforting and important at the same time – they bring us closer, they make us realise we are all just the same, whichever obscure corner of the globe you choose, including Slovakia
In your opinion, is the W4LWR just a single thing, or do you think that there’s some legs to truly international, simultaneous competition outside of just this particular event?
KD: Boy, that’s hard to answer. I think that it’s something that could maybe unite a continent like Europe. I think it would take a little bit longer and maybe a little bit more marketing to get that to take hold here stateside. You know, I’ve traveled enough recently outside of the country to make a conclusion that we’re still really insular here.
MS: Speaking for myself, after my first run last year I really fell for the event. It is a magic combination of global and local, social and personal. All for a very noble cause. I believe the event is still in a stage of getting established and recognized. But judging by the numbers of runners (the demand has exceeded the limit of 2500 runners here in Bratislava), I am sure the event will continue to grow year by year. The event is unique in its adopting a broad range of runners able to participate – it simply does not matter anymore whether you are a professional or a beginner. It also became accessible to an unprecedented number of participants because chances are one can find a participating location relatively close around the globe. And having those tens of thousands of runners start running at the very same moment around the globe is something really unique. It is a single event but in its spirit it comes back to the spirit of the Olympic Games, using sports to bring nations closer together. And there is no doubt in my mind we have a need for that in today’s world.