Ukrainian refugee wins Jerusalem marathon

Runners take part in Jerusalem Marathon, after Israel eased COVID-19 restrictions on tourists entering the country
Runners pass Jaffa Gate as they take part in the Jerusalem Marathon, which includes international competitors, after Israel eased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions on tourists entering the country, in Jerusalem March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

March 25, 2022

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Ukrainian refugee was the first woman to cross the finish line in Israel’s Jerusalem Marathon on Friday, the municipality’s spokesperson said.

Valentina Verzka completed the run with a time of two hours, 45 minutes and 54 seconds, less than 10 minutes after the winner, according to the spokesperson’s statement.

“It was a very difficult marathon but we did it,” Verzka told Reuters as a person nearby draped the Ukrainian and Israeli flags over the thermal blanket around her shoulders.

About 25,000 people took part in the marathon, the spokesperson said. The race runs through the Eastern part of the city, which Israel annexed after capturing it in 1967 in a move not internationally recognised, citing historical and biblical ties.

Verzka asked to participate after fleeing Ukraine to Poland with her daughter, leaving her husband behind to fight, said Ze’ev Yanay, the head of a company handling public relations for the event. She is flying back to Poland on Saturday, he added.

“I hope very soon everything is finished and we laughing and smiling again,” said Verzka, speaking in English about Russia’s invasion.

(Reporting by Amar Awad and Sinan Abu Mayzer; Writing by Henriette Chacar; Editing by Toby Davis)