Race Recap // Wings For Life - Cambridge 2017

5/09/2017

This past Sunday was Wings For Life! I've been looking forward to it for a while! Wings For Life is global charity event with a twist. It's a worldwide race that starts simultaneously. The unique thing about Wings For Life is that instead of having a set distance to run like a 5K, 10K etc, the finish line is actually behind you. 

Everyone in the world sets off from the start line at 11AM UTC, no matter if it's morning or night. Half an hour after the start, a moving finish line, the Catcher Car, departs to chase the runners along the course, getting faster over time until eventually everyone is caught. Sounds fun right?!

All entry fees go directly into the Wings For Life foundation to fund for life-changing spinal cord research which is amazing!

The Morning Of..
For the first time ever, there was no ridiculously early start for me which I bloody loved! I mean.. I still had to wake at 7:30AM but it wasn't 5AM, so I was happy! I was a little worried about fuelling for this race as it started at 12PM which is lunch time for me. I just ate breakfast a little later in the hopes that would be enough.

I live about 30 mins from Cambridge, so no hour+ journey! We went to Newmarket Park & Ride to get into the city centre which was an absolute breeze and a short walk from the bus stop to Parkers Piece which is the race village.

I must say,  I expected maybe some running brand vendors or something similar in the race village, instead, from what I saw, there were a few food stalls and the rest was registration tents and a small baggage tent(I'll talk about baggage later), if there were any other stalls or vendors, I didn't see them, so they weren't well displayed.

There was a big screen in the middle of the green for spectators and runners that had finished to watch the race and see what was going on in different countries.
After a long wait in the baggage queue that took up most of our pre-race time, we managed to grab a quick selfie with the catcher cars after dropping off the bag and then headed into the pens which were split into 4 based on bibs and were very crowded.

The Race
As I mentioned at the beginning, the race start is world wide, so it was bang on 12PM when we started. It was pretty stop start at the beginning, there were a couple of 90 degree turns right at the start of the race causing bottlenecks and shaving precious time off getting further ahead from the catcher car which isn't ideal!
My legs right from the off were sluggish and I knew I probably wouldn't get the 8-10 miles I wanted. Phillip and I had done way too much that weekend instead of resting like we would typically.

I expected more of the route to be through the city centre and around the University buildings, however, I was a little disappointed! Cambridge is a beautiful city and I feel like it missed out a lot. We headed past the Grand Arcade, past the markets and St Mary's Church with a quick glance at Kings College Chapel. up past St Johns College and then we were headed out of the city centre starting with a hefty hill!

The crowd support in the city was great but there wasn't too much on the main roads heading out of the city. The good thing about heading away from the city centre though, was that the route opened up a bit more and wasn't as congested and narrow.
Not far after the big hill, there was a sign for refreshments and the first bus stop, but it didn't seem to come for a long time, it was pretty warm out and I think a lot of people wanted a drink, the refreshments were way off the sign and everyone gunned for the tables, it looked very busy so I decided to skip it.

The refreshment tables had water, red bull and what looked like orange and banana pieces.. the red bull and water we're in cups, I've never seen a refreshments station with cups before, I'm used to bottles, it looked like everyone was spilling the contents everywhere, I don't think I could run and drink from a cup at the same time without covering myself with it.

From here on out, I had no idea where we were on the route, we headed through a couple of villages(Girton and Oakington) which had some great support and crowds which was great, between villages it was quite lonely though. I had absolutely no idea where the catcher car was at this point, people were talking about it but no-one really seemed to know where it was. There were a couple of motorbikes and quad bikes that passed us along the route, which made me think it was close.. and then nothing happened, so I just had to keep running!

The route eventually headed onto an airbase, which had no crowd support at all, except for a couple of spooked cows that we're cheering mooing away. I'm not sure, but I don't think people were allowed in there to spectate and we had to stick to the route.
Not sure what happened to my camera here, but this is the 11KM mark and the cows!
Just after 7 Miles, I head a lot of commotion behind me, I was then passed by some cyclists who confirmed the catcher car was on it's way. There was suddenly a surge of people speeding up to get as far as they could before getting caught.

At 7.3 Miles(11.73KM), the catcher car passed and I stopped to walk along with everyone else as we cheered for David Coulthard passing in the car.
I had a lovely chat on the walk to the bus stop with a lovely bloke called Adam who had managed to get to the same distance as me, having only ever done parkrun's prior to the race, which was amazing!

Bus stops were supposed to be located every 5KM or so near the refreshment stations and you could either go forwards or backwards on the course depending on how close you were to either direction.. but no-one really had a clue where they were so we all moved forwards.

I passed the refreshments tables, grabbed my first cup of water which was bliss.. and took a quick pit stop i the portaloo's for a much needed wee that I'd been needing since the start!

Afterwards, I just kept walking until I eventually found a bus, which quickly filled with lots of other sweaty runners and was transported back to the race village.

Picking up race packs was fairly quick and easy. Inside the goody bag was a couple of leaflets, a can of Redbull, the medal, a t-shirt and a plastic water bottle. T-shirts were gender specific, but geeeez the women's t-shirts were TINY. I went for a medium and it was SNUG(later swapped it for a mens small as they were the only t-shirts left).

Baggage was horrendous. The sun wasn't shining after we'd finished and had gone into hiding. The wind was making it fairly chilly and there was ONE baggage tent with ONE queue for 3000 odd runners to collect their bags(it was the same dropping them off). Who thought this would be a good idea? After freezing my arse off waiting in the queue, I handed in my baggage tag to collect my bag and was asked what my bag looked like.. err, what the f*ck? It was organised chaos! Black Rucksack please.. looks like the 1000s of others in the tent that haven't been organised! Ta!

The only thing left was to wait for Phillip to finish.. which he did an hour and a half later having covered 23.3 miles! So proud of him!

Overall Thoughts
So, I loved the concept of the race. I like that you can really be in charge of your own race. You can run as far as you want or you can challenge yourself to run as far as you can and the excitement of being chased down by the catcher car was quite fun.

It was all for a good cause, with the £25 entry fee all going to the charity. The entry fee wasn't bad considering!

I'll definitely do the race next year, I want to beat my distance from this year in next years race. I do hope they change some things for next year and take in mind some of the feedback that people have been saying. Here's some points I think could do with improvement:

Baggage really needs sorting, more tents for baggage drop off and collection so there isn't a humongous queue to drop off and collect bags. Heaven knows what it would have been like if the weather wasn't great!

The medal.. Im not gonna lie, I was most disappointed about this! Ive seen race medals from previous years events and the MEDALS in other countries that look way better than what we received this year. I pretty much do races for the race bling! Not to be ungrateful or anything.. as I know this race is for charity, but it's like the UK took budget cuts on medals compared to other countries ;). I'd have rather have had a better medal and not received a t-shirt.
The bottlenecks at the start of the race weren't great and really took minutes off a headstart from the car which is disappointing!

Get some more brands/vendors involved with the race village and give people a bit more to do than just sit around waiting for the start/waiting for people to finish. They seem to go down a treat at other races I've been to.

Apart from these points, I really enjoyed the actual race and the event, if you're considering doing it, definitely do! The points I've raised don't take away from the actual race and the cause that people are running/rolling for(there's lots of wheelchair participants too)! I'm also surprised the event isn't aired on the TV, I bet it would be a great watch to see the event taking place all over the world. I'd definitely watch it if I wasn't running it!

If you wanna see a race vlog of the day, you can see that below!

Question: Have you ever run Wings For Life before? Have you ever done any races that have a unique twist to any other race?

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