Cambridgeshire athlete wins global 'Wings for Life' running challenge

Cambridgeshire athlete Michael Taylor, the first Briton to win the 'Wings for Life' World Run Credit: ITV News Anglia

A Cambridgeshire athlete has spoken of his shock in becoming the first Briton to win the Wings For Life global running challenge.

RAF worker Michael Taylor, who lives in St Neots, was one of seventy-seven thousand runners world wide who took part in the virtual version of the charity event at the weekend.

Usually the Wings for Life World Run is staged at various venues across the world, with athletes all starting at the same time.

But the COVID-19 pandemic meant it wasn't possible to do the same for this year's event, the seventh time it was held.

Instead runners used an app which allowed them to cover their own course simultaneously.

There is no finish line. Instead, 30 minutes after the start, a virtual Catcher Car begins pursuit, passing the runners and rollers one after the other. Results aren’t measured in time, but in distance achieved.

Michael covered almost 70 kilometres to win (69.92km), beating twice global champion Aron Andersen of Sweden (68.15km) by over a kilometre.

"I wasn't expecting to run it because I'd been out and done a long run at the start of the week. But I got the option to go and do it, and yes it was fantastic. Just started out and give it a go. "I thought 'There are not many races going on worldwide at the minute, went to a nice quiet route... and just ran."

Michael Taylor

Wings for Life is a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation with the single mission to find a cure for spinal cord injury. 100% of entry fees and donations goes directly to spinal cord research.

Michael, who's competed in cycling and triathlon events, had already planned to take part in the Comrades Marathon event in South Africa before it was postponed due to the Coronavirus.

And winning the Wings for Life World Run was a double bonus, as he was told about his victory by the event ambassador, former Great Britain athlete and Olympian Colin Jackson.

Michael Taylor being told by event ambassador Colin Jackson that he'd won the Wings for Life World Run Credit: Wings for Life

"As I crossed the line and the car caught me and informed me that it was always going to catch me, my phone rang and i got interviewed by Colin Jackson at the finish line. "He told me that I actually won it globally, which was a shock. "It's quite an honour to be honest. It was brilliant. I grew up with athletics when I was younger. "So to be contacted by Colin Jackson, who was a hero, and watching him break the Men's 100m hurdles in Stuttgart was amazing. "But just to be able to run with those athletes and take them on was fantastic... the race itself went really well. I'd have liked to have carried on had the car hadn't caught me."

Michael Taylor