Veretska fled to Poland with 11-year-old daughter while husband stays behind to fight in Ukrainian army

Valentyna Veretska, who escaped Ukraine with her 11-year-old daughter last month, has won the 11th Jerusalem Marathon in a remarkable show of strength.

The 32-year-old raised both the Ukrainian and Israeli flags at the finish line, after taking victory in 2:45:54 on a wet course which included a 2000ft ascent along the 26.2-mile route.

It is fitting that such a victory took place in Jerusalem given that just last week Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed that peace talks between Ukraine and Russia could take place in the Holy City.

Veretska left Ukraine for Kraków, Poland, with her daughter before flying to Israel to take part in the race after she received an invitation from the organisers to compete in the Jerusalem Marathon.

“When we reached the border it was very cold and there were maybe one million people there,” Veretska said. “All ages. Women and children, cold and frightened. We spent the night at the border, it was so cold, maybe minus 5. Some people didn’t wake up!

“I have not trained for almost a month but when I saw the marathon in Jerusalem I thought I need to run. I need to show the world that peace and love is the most important thing.

“I hope this can show the world that we can participate together not just in running but in life. I hope for peace in my country very soon.”

Veretska led from the front and went through 10km, 20km, 30km and 40km in 37:52, 1:16:24, 1:56:41 and 2:37:00 respectively. The Ukrainian was the only female athlete in the race to go under three hours with Israeli triathlete Antonina Reznikov runner-up in 3:02:12.

It is a week after Ukraine won two medals at the World Indoor Championships – Yaroslava Mahuchikh taking gold in the high jump and Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk silver in the triple jump.

Agadi Guadi (Tomer Feder)

The men’s race was won by 33-year-old Israeli Agadi Guadi in a time of 2:37:17.

The event has been postponed for two years due to Covid and Israel only opened its borders to visitors on March 1.

READ MORE: Mahuchikh wins gold in Belgrade

The marathon is the country’s biggest sporting event in terms of participants and the course covers much of the new and 3000-year-old city of Jerusalem.

It is considered one of the more challenging courses in the world marathon calendar due to that 2000ft ascent.

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