Ukrainian Refugee Wins Girls’s Race on the Jerusalem Marathon

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Valentyna Vereteska, 31, didn’t even pack garments or different belongings. She and her 11-year-old daughter fled their hometown, Mykolaiv, which has since come beneath Russian bombardment.

They waited on the Polish border for 15 hours in frigid temperatures, with restricted entry to meals, she mentioned, earlier than having the ability to cross.

Ms. Vereteska’s ordeal mirrors these of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, but it surely has a singular postscript: On Friday, she crossed one other marker, successful the ladies’s race on the Jerusalem Marathon — and ending behind simply two males — with a time of two hours, 45 minutes and 54 seconds.

To say the feat appeared unlikely a number of weeks in the past could be an understatement.

Ms. Vereteska, an expert runner and physiotherapist, and her daughter have been staying with a household in Poland that responded to her husband’s pleas for assistance on Fb. Her husband, Pavlo Vereteska, a fellow skilled runner, stays in Ukraine and is preventing within the conflict, she mentioned. Her mother and father and siblings are nonetheless there, too.

Her dwelling in Mykolaiv has been destroyed, she mentioned, and the conflict had made her depressed and she or he was unable to coach.

However she longed to get again to the game she loves, so she obtained in contact with officers from the Jerusalem Marathon and was in a position to get a spot within the occasion lower than two weeks prematurely.

She was shocked by her victory, Ms. Vereteska mentioned in an interview, particularly as a result of she was solely just lately in a position to resume coaching — in clothes and sneakers collected by her Polish host household.

This was the fourth marathon she had run. Earlier than the conflict, she had positioned first in a marathon in Albania on Oct. 17, and she or he got here in third within the Gutenberg Marathon in Mainz, Germany, in Could 2019, in accordance with the World Athletics web site.

She mentioned she thought concerning the conflict all through the Jerusalem race, and people ideas fueled her victory.

“I’m harassed, in fact I’m nervous about every part that’s occurred in Ukraine, but it surely helped me,” she mentioned of pondering of her dwelling nation, including, “It was a really troublesome race, it was very hilly, actually very hilly.”

The comparatively sluggish successful instances mirrored the difficult course, which encompasses a handful of steep climbs. Friday’s situations didn’t assist issues: it was windy and chilly with occasional rain. Ageze Guadie gained the boys’s race in 2 hours, 37 minutes and 17 seconds.

Ms. Vereteska mentioned her win made her smile for the primary time for the reason that conflict began. “This victory is for peace, for peace, in my nation, and never solely in my nation — for peace in all of the world.”

She is not sure of what’s subsequent. She worries about her husband and household in Ukraine, and longs to go dwelling. However for now, she plans to go again to Krakow to reunite along with her daughter.

She’s already eyeing her subsequent marathon, maybe in Mainz, Germany, in Could.

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