Jerusalem Marathon starting line
Jerusalem Marathon starting lineצילום: Sportphotography

Tragic wars and events always bring with them inspiring stories. One such story, written several days before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, ended today (Friday) and the best possible way.

Assaf Shaked, owner of Sparks Digital, which has been the digital support service of the Jerusalem Marathon for several years, received a message on the race's Instagram account in early February.

The announcement was from a Ukrainian girl named Valentina who wanted to enter Israel to participate in the 11th Jerusalem Winner Marathon.

Shaked saw the message only a week after it was sent, two days after Russia invaded Ukraine.

"I immediately sent her a message that we would be happy to help her," Shaked said on his Facebook account.

"She told us that she had fled Ukraine and had just arrived with her 11-year-old daughter in Poland and that her dream was to come and run the Jerusalem Marathon. I could not remain indifferent. I asked for her phone number and personally promised to help her."

Together with his half-Ukrainian and half-Russian partner, the two began trying to help the Ukrainian runner and her 11-year-old daughter enter Israel.

"I forwarded her request to Itzik Kornfein, who is director of the Jerusalem sports department and in charge of the marathon. He got wheels turning, and Valentina arrived on Wednesday as an official guest of the Jerusalem Marathon and the Jerusalem Municipality. She arrived without equipment and with barely the clothes on her back, but with passion and fire in her eyes. The sponsors of the marathon showed considerable support to provide what she needed."

At a pre-race meeting this morning, the Ukrainian runner said that the house where she lived until a month ago, in Mariupol was bombed, her husband, an athlete by profession, was banned from leaving the country. He was referred to the front lines of the war, while she made her way through training and to israel.

"I told her to run with her heart. I knew it would lead her to the finish line," Shaked wrote.

Today Valentina finished the Jerusalem Winner Marathon in first place in the women's event, with a record time of 2:45:54 and finished the marathon by waving the Ukrainian flag alongside the Israeli flag proudly and calling home with tears in her eyes to tell them about the victory.

"In the freezing Jerusalem cold of 5 degrees, in the rain, in the middle of the mud of the Saker Garden, I looked at it with the medal around my neck and said to myself: there are things that are worth more than money, there are moments when help, even the smallest to another person, makes you very happy."

"Valentina came to Israel to fulfill a dream and win a marathon. This is for me the story of this marathon. This is a moment for which we worked so hard," Shaked concluded.