Saturday, May 3, 2014

Red Bull Wings for Life Race

Anything having to do with Red Bull has turned me off since I mistakenly accepted a cup of the stuff at mile 10 of the run leg of the Pacific Crest 1/2 iron triathlon.

But I'm coming around, starting with the guy who jumped off a balloon at 100,000 feet above the ground.

This race nearly has me convinced.  It is a world-wide event with everybody starting at precisely the same time (10 am GMT) and running at a set minimum pace until they cannot hold pace any longer.  Sort of.

Here are the rules in short form:

The Wings for Life World Run is a unique running concept with a unique set of rules.  Please make sure to carefully read and understand the rules to ensure your successful participation in this great event!  Below are some highlights as well as a link to download the full detailed rulebook:

  • The Wings for Life World Run will start simultaneously around the World at 10 AM UTC (6:00 AM ET).
  • The Catcher Car will begin its pursuit of runners in each race simultaneously around the World 30 minutes after the start (10:30 AM UTC / 6:30 AM ET).
  • Runners will reach their individual "finish line" once they are overtaken by the Catcher Car.
  • A runner's local and global result is determined by the distance they were able to cover before being overtaken by the Catcher Car.

  • Participants will be divided into Men and Women with winners in both categories.  There will not be participant divisions based on age or other similar factors.
  • All runners must be at least 18 years of age on Race Day.
  • The man and woman who are able to cover the most distance before being overtaken by the Catcher Car will be the global champions of the Wings for Life World Run.

A fuller read of the rules (at this link) shows how diabolical this is.  Runners start 30' before the follow car.  When the car starts, it begins at just slower than a 6'/mile pace.  It speeds up every hour until, at 3:30 pm GMT, it reaches a top speed of 21.75 mph -- under a 3' mile.  When the car catches you, you are out.  The winner, of course, is the one who lasts the longest.

You can calculate how the car will progress:  in the first 1/2 hour it goes nowhere; then it covers 15 kilometers between 30 and 90 minutes; then 16 kilometers from minutes 91 to 150; and 17 kilometers from 151 to 210.  At 2 1/2 hours the car is 31 km (17 miles) in, at 3 hours it is 39.5 (25 miles) in, and at 3.5 it is 48 km (30 miles) in.  Then the car goes on a sprint to catch the leaders at 20 km/hour -- thus hitting 58 km (36 miles) at 4 hours, 68 km (43 miles) at 4.5 hours and 88 (55 miles) at 5.5 hours -- and finally running people down at 35 km/hour if anybody survives until 3:30 pm.  

Where would you be when you got caught?  Where will the top athletes be?  Even if the courses are flat and the weather is good, I am guessing the top talent falls before the final sprint begins at 3:30.  Don Ritchie (Britain, 1983) holds the 50-mile world record in a blistering 4:50, and he lacked the psychological challenge of not knowing when he would be done.  Holding a 6'/mile pace in the face of uncertainty seems just short of possible.

Why is this so cool?  For the regular amateur athlete you just get to run until you get overtaken, which is at least unique.  For the competitors the rules are the same, but you have no way of knowing how your competition -- which may be in an entirely different forum -- is faring.

1 comment:

  1. I was about right -- the top runner came in at 46 miles and change.