KYIV – More than 33,000 people have signed up to run a marathon around New York that no one wants to run, according to the organizers of the event.
Maybe that’s because the marathon is connected to the village of New York, which is just a kilometer from the war zone in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
The organizers of the event use the marathon to raise awareness and support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression.
While the organizers of the marathon used the Ukrainian village of New York as part of their advertising campaign for the event, starting November 7th, anyone could register and run a symbolic distance anywhere in the world to support Ukraine. The project has already gathered more participants than the New York City Marathon. In fact, the event exceeded the organizers’ expectations and they had to close registration although they can still attend the event by visiting the website for the marathon.
âThe world’s attention to the Russo-Ukrainian war is waning every day. To get it back, we’re starting another race, the No One Wants to Run marathon in the Ukrainian village of New York, âsaid Yaroslava Gres from the PR agency Gres & Todorchuk, which is co-organizing the event.
It has been seven years since Russia forcibly annexed the Crimean peninsula and started a war in eastern Ukraine that continues to this day. It has de facto occupied two Ukrainian regions, a territory of over 6,000 square miles, forcing more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes and 3 million to seek humanitarian aid on a daily basis. These facts about the war are written on bib numbers that participants wear while running.
âI ran the route in Paris. My sticker says that 1.5 million people have lost their homes and been displaced. The first runners overcame the distances in Istanbul, Berlin, Vienna, Dubai, Ankara and New York. Let’s make ourselves visible. Let us all remember our war, the endless marathon that the Ukrainians have been conquering for eight years, âwrote Ms. Gres on her Facebook page.
âFor the Ukrainian people this is an everyday run to survive with no finish line in sight. Without any support, it’s a grueling task, âsaid the organizers of the marathon on the event’s website.
Because of this, the Ukrainians decided to start their own marathon in New York, in a small Ukrainian village in the Donetsk region, less than a mile from the frontline. The city, which today has 12,000 inhabitants, was named Novgorodske by the Soviet authorities after the Second World War. City officials fought for a name change for years, and on July 1, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine decided to settle the matter and officially name the village New York.
The settlement originated in the 18th century, and at the end of the 19th century the Mennonite Germans established a larger colony there. The tsarist authorities invited Protestant Christians to cultivate Ukrainian land and other parts of the Russian Empire. The Mennonites named one of their colonies New York. Machine and foundries as well as a school were later established in the city.
For the first five runners in the marathon, this war has become an inseparable part of everyday life. A soldier, a volunteer, an army medic, a war correspondent and an internally displaced person (IDP) urge the world to join them in their escape.
In order to support Ukraine, the organizers called on all interested parties to register for the New York No One Wants to Run marathon on the event website at www.marathonnoonewantstorun.org/en.
The organizers urged individuals to do it anywhere, anytime, and to spread the word about the situation in the areas occupied by Russia. Everyone who signed up received a marathon âstarter kitâ that contained a collection of facts about the war. In addition, each participant received a marathon medal with an inlaid bullet from Eastern Ukraine as a token of appreciation for helping the Ukrainians to reach the finish line and feeling like they weren’t going to run their marathon alone.
Among the first five participants was journalist and special correspondent Andriy Tsaplienko, who has been reporting on events on the Russian-Ukrainian war front for seven years. In March 2014, when Russia occupied Crimea for the first time, its film crew was arrested by armed men in Sevastopol. You, Mr. Tsaplienko, took his equipment out of his car, set him on the asphalt and started firing guns to put the man under psychological pressure. A short time later, the correspondent and his colleagues were released, but then Mr. Tsaplienko realized that a turning point had been passed.
âWhen the war lasts seven years, news of it becomes a given. Every day we have the dead; Every day we have the wounded. It’s scary that everyone is used to it. Let’s get tired of running this marathon, but we can’t stop. If Ukraine falls, the whole civilized world will fall. We have no choice but to maintain this front for everyone, âsaid Tsaplienko.
Paratroopers from the 81st Airmobile Brigade of Ukraine also took part in the marathon.
“To raise public awareness of the war in eastern Ukraine, our paratroopers took part in the marathon and ran it in the village of New York in the Donetsk region, one kilometer from the front line,” said the air mobile brigade press service.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it supported the project. The Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Vadym Prystaiko, took part in the project and ran a marathon in one of London’s parks.
âWe are receiving applications from Germany and New Zealand, Great Britain and Peru, New York in America and New York in Ukraine. Whole families, companies of friends and colleagues have registered for the race, âsaid Ms. Gres.
âThere are participants who plan to run 42 kilometers and those who can cover 1 kilometer. Some participants plan to run 427 kilometers together – that is the length of the demarcation line and those that run from city to city. At the same time, we have participants who have run on different continents, in different time zones, migrants, volunteers, military, doctors, writers, managers, lawyers, students, schoolchildren, retirees. They are running to make the world community aware of the war in Ukraine, âwrote Ms. Gres on her Facebook page.