As the day of the 9th Nova Poshta Kyiv Half Marathon approaches, all the participants who will take their first steps towards the finish line on April 6-7 hold their breath and are eagerly anticipating the grandeur of the event as well as the most exciting stories brought to you by this year’s half marathon.
And we meet your expectations as we share the story of last year participant from Sweden Axel Nordfeldt. Having become the character for the advertising picture of the half marathon, Axel shared his impressions and his experience from participation in the race last year.
As a half marathon participant and a guest of the capital city, Axel told us how the large-scale sports events in Ukraine attract foreigners, why running is the best chance to get closer with your co-workers and how a running event can show you a new angle to the city and feel like a real winner even if you are not among the first ones crossing the finish line.
Tell a few words about yourself.
I am 25 years old and I am from Sweden. My life pace turns me into an avid traveler and adventurer. As of today, I have visited 50 countries and counting. I love breaking boundaries or defying people’s expectations. When people say my ideas are crazy, I know I have to try them. I try to find the perfect balance between the “wild Swede” and “silly Swede”.
When I turned 18, with all of my the aforementioned enthusiasm, I moved to Donetsk, which created a strong bond to Ukraine, so I keep coming back. After a total of 3 years in Ukraine, I now feel more at home in Kyiv than Stockholm. In Ukraine I’ve been working with projects in the spheres of IT and education, most notably Beetroot Academy, setting up IT courses all over the country. I am fluent in Russian, still working on my Ukrainian.
How did you come to running? How long have you been running?
I’ve been running, on and off, my whole life. But I had never considered it training, never participated in competitions and never even tracked my time. In my day-to-day life I have enough of trying to become better and faster. To me, running is the opposite. It is a way to relax, to clear my head, because I am not an athlete, I’m just a guy trying to stay sane.
How many years have you been participating in large-scale sport events?
Nova Poshta Kyiv Half Marathon 2017 was actually my first big running event. I loved it! My emotions and experience from that year became a powerful motivation that drives me to continue participating.
What is the main reason for your participation in Kyiv half marathon?
My colleagues came up with an idea of putting together our own running team, and I eagerly joined in, because I love spending time with them and doing things out of office. So I thought “why not?”.
Their idea also became a great motivation for me personally to put in some more running hours that spring. After the event, I kept dedicating more time to running and pretty soon I was doing 10 km every morning. By the way, Park Shevchenko became the perfect location for that.
What did you like about Kyiv as a city and what can you say about the level of organization of Kyiv half marathon?
Ukrainians always find this hard to believe, but I really love Kyiv’s transport system, especially the metro. For example, it is much faster and more efficient than the one in Stockholm. And, as any visitor of Kyiv, I can say that the city is gorgeous! Another important thing for me is that it offers great food. But its most important advantage is that it has the friendliest people in Europe.
As for the event itself, the level of organization was stellar. It was easy to find everything and pick up the runner’s kit on the event day. Before the race there was a ton of activities going on. I joined a fun dance-like warm-up session. In some ways it felt more like a festival than a race. I never knew Kyiv had so many people interested in running.
The route itself was a really nice way to re-discover Kyiv and see some parts I wouldn’t normally go to. There were musicians and other quirky performers along the way. By the way, I’ve never been high-fived so many times in one day!
When I crossed the finish line, a medical assistance, who saw how exhausted I was, approached me right away and asked if I was feeling ok. I was fine, but it still left a great and very professional impression about the event overall. It really was a well-organized race, with no details left to chance. The atmosphere created by staff and volunteers was just electric.
Did you run alone or with a team?
My colleagues and I created our own team – «Beetroot». And as any successful team, we had our slogan «Go borshch!» As we learn from experience, events like this are a wonderful idea for a teambuilding.
Which places in Kyiv have you visited and which one impressed you the most?
I’ve been pretty much everywhere! My favorite spot is Rusanivka island on the left bank. It is like city in a city. There are few cars and very little noise, and the track that goes around the edge of the island, right by the riverside, is probably Kyiv’s best place for running. And since you have the beach right next to you, the only real way to finish the run is by jumping into the water.
Podil is also incredible. I love strolling down Andriiiskyi descent on warm summer days, finishing with ice cream by the old port.
The very best experience to be had in Kyiv, however, is spending the first warm spring day in Khreshchatyk. Somehow, it always happens on a Sunday, which is perfect because on Sundays the street is pedestrian-only. It is really magical to join thousands of people from all over the city, who come into the main street to celebrate spring after a cold winter.
In your opinion, what will international runners and city guests like in Kyiv?
Speaking about the city overall, it is the legendary hospitality of the local people. I also think the the guests of the capital city will like Kyiv metro, because it is much faster and more comfortable than in many other European cities. And when it comes to Kyiv races, from my half marathon experience, I can say that their main advantages are the impressive level of organization and the atmosphere of the event, which is especially enjoyed as you run down the most picturesque streets of Kyiv.
Will you come again? Would you recommend our event to your friends?
Yes and yes and yeeeees!!! The experience brought us closer as colleagues, and since then, it has become an office tradition to participate in all the races around Kyiv.
I will always remember this half marathon. It was a pretty nervous wait at the relay checkpoint. Hundreds of runners passed. First the elite runners, then semi-pros, then amateur runners, and so on. When my colleague Nastia finally showed up, she literally jumped into my arms, proud of her achievement and happy to share it with me. That’s what I love about doing things like this with coworkers. You always discover new sides of each other and it brings you closer than when you’re just in the office.
I took off and instantly felt the wind in my back. It really was a perfect day for running. Sunshine and clear skies, with air just chilly enough to save you from dehydration. There were musicians and other performers along the route cheering us on. This was definitely no ordinary run. Every time I felt tired, the atmosphere and the cheering took over and pushed me to keep going. I had never had so many runners around me before. I was surprised at their diversity, they really were all ages and appearances. It really felt like a place open to everyone.
I was the last one to run from my team, which meant two things: I got to pass many exhausted runners who were doing the full distance (which made me feel like a champ!), and I got to cross the finish line. The last kilometer before the finish line was very memorable. I had run the first 5km much faster than I normally would. When crossing the bridge I thought I had no more energy to give. I roared in exhaustion, as you can see my face on the poster photo. But that was when I caught sight of all the volunteers and bystanders cheering on for the last bit. There were much more of them than I had imaged. Some had awesome signs with motivating slogans, some were throwing out much-needed water splashes, some were doing high-fives. With the support like this, it was impossible to slow down. I pushed and pushed and before I knew it, I was through.
My team was waiting for me. We exchanged congratulatory hugs and went to eat, sweaty and happy. Technically, we didn’t win anything, but I can assure you: we all felt like winners.
The stories and confessions shared with us by the participants prove once again that participation in a half marathon is not just a professional sport. First of all, this is about the harmony you experience from the joy of doing something new. The joy of becoming closer with your friends and colleagues. The joy of clearing your head and practicing your endurance. The joy of supporting each other and, most importantly, the joy of being a part of something big and inspiring!
Participation in a race is an event that will have a special meaning to everyone participating. May this year half marathon become the first step for each participant and may your personal running story inspire you and the people around you to new achievements!