The Wings for Life World Run is coming to Dubai for the first time
When athlete Chris Khouri was left paralysed from a motorcycle accident six years ago, he thought his sporting life was behind him. However, it was sport that helped with his rehabilitation.
The Wings for Life World Run is a race with a cause as well as a concept. It’s a fun run that people of all levels of fitness can enter, with no finish line on the 80km course. But don’t panic. Most people won’t be running the full 80km, since 30 minutes after the race begins, a Catcher Car sets off to chase the runners. When the Catcher Car passes you, your race is over.
The event will take place on Sunday May 3, not just in Dubai, but simultaneously in 35 cities around the world. From Alanya in Turkey to Zadar in Croatia, athletes will be lining up to raise money to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. ‘It’s a fantastic cause and a beautiful foundation,’ says Khouri. ‘It’s trying in a very simple way to raise funds for research into spinal cord injuries.
It has been scientifically proven that there are ways to restore movement, so perhaps paralysis could become a thing of the past. If in my lifetime I can help this, that would be fantastic.’
The race registration fee goes directly towards spinal cord research, and partner Red Bull is covering the cost of administration. It has attracted professional athletes, from around the world, too, including David Coulthard and Dubai resident Jessica Josselin, a former triathlete who represented Great Britain. ‘Before I was told about the run, I didn’t know about Wings For Life at all. When I found out about it, and about the event in Dubai, I really wanted to be part of it,’ she says.
‘From a safety perspective,’ she adds, ‘I’d advise people to stay cool, pour water over their heads if they feel hot, stay hydrated, and if they are first timers, stay within their comfort zones.’
Khouri hopes that this event will be one of many in which both disabled and able-bodied people can race together. He describes his training for it as not so different to anybody else’s. ‘I train to row instead of run and I do some strength training, and crawl-ups,’ he says. ‘I’m in a fortunate position that everything that I do happens with three muscle groups. I only have my arms, shoulders and upper back, so it’s easy for me to train in the gym because the work I need to do is limited.’
Chris has been recovering from injuries but is hoping to cover about 15km of the race, and feels that Dubai has all the facilities for disabled people to train well and thrive in sport. ‘Dubai is a very handicap-friendly city. The problem is not the facilities, but disabled people themselves, since many do not take part in these events. Going out and being part of the social platform; I think that’s what’s missing,’ he says. ‘There are some international events organised for disabled people in Dubai – the Fazza National Championships for People with Disability, and the International Paralympic Committee World Cup for athletics, which was amazing for the city – but there’s a very limited number of local or expat athletes taking part in such events. Maybe there’s a social stigma that needs to be broken or an inhibition that some disabled people have, which needs to be addressed. That’s why it’s great to have a race like this.’
Chris hasn’t let his disability limit his ambition. He tells us that he also plans to take on a challenge crossing the seven Emirates in 24 days using seven modes of transport including kayaking, rowing and camel riding, while stopping off in local communities to promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities. ‘No matter what your challenge or problem is, how able or disabled, fit or unfit you are,’ he says, ‘There is no reason not to follow your dreams and push yourself further.’ Dhs150. Sun May 3, 3pm. Register online before Tue April 28 to participate. Dubai Autodrome, Motor City, www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/ae (no number).
Charitable challenges to take on this summer
Sunman for Rich, Thursday May 28 to Saturday 30 Raise funds for the treatment of Richard Holland, a former triathlete who suffered severe brain damage after he was hit by a car while training in Dubai. The Sunman is an honour-based half or full Ironman challenge and participants have three days to complete all three disciplines. From Dhs300. www.premieronline.com (050 873 1989).
Labour Run, Friday May 29 This 5km run aims to unite the community by bringing labourers and professional runners together. Run alongside Ismail Ssenyange, who used to be a Sonapur labourer and is now a full-time athlete. Free for labour workers. Dhs100 for all others. 7am. Muhaisnah, off Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, www.teamsportsuae.com (055 822 7324).
Gulf for Good The ‘Source of the Nile’ Uganda Cycle Challenge, Friday July 3 to Saturday 11 Get fit for this cycling tour, which will take riders through the heart of Uganda. Funds raised go towards the various good causes that Gulf for Good supports in the UAE and beyond. Dhs2,500 non-refundable registration fee. Dhs18,000 minimum sponsorship. www.gulf4good.org (04 368 0222).