Running Kiev, Ukraine in August 2014

Runners in Kiev - June 2014

Volodymyr Dehtyarov is the Founder of Kyiv Running Tours , CEO of Newsfront PR Agency, an amateur marathoner, ultrarunner, long-distance triathlete, and writer of the following report. For more info on his company, and running in Kyiv, visit http://kievrunningtours.com/.

Life has been hard in Kyiv and Ukraine overall over last 8 months, but the running community keeps growing, and number of runners, bikers and active people involved in various events is expanding rapidly.

Location
Located in Ukraine, on the banks of the Dnieper river, Kyiv is quite hilly. Nothing like
Boulder, but not as flat as Vienna, for instance. The city is rich in parks and forests, and
one can find places to run virtually in every district of the city. Some of the most popular
running locations are the downtown parks, river banks, two botanic gardens, a huge island
in the middle of the city, and several larger parks and forests on the city borders.

Bet you didn't picture this in Ukraine

Video: Route through Kiev

Kyiv Running Tours has been offering a number of downtown sightseeing running tours.
While previously we’d focused on historic sights, building and urban legends, right now
we’re getting more and more requests to run past Maidan and the sights where the city
fights with police were taking place. Although the fighting was quite intense in the last
month of the standoff, it was all concentracted in one square kilometer in the center of
the city. I believe that street fights with riot police were unique in Ukraine in that over
3 months of the Maidan only one store was burnt down – one next to the barricades. No
damaged store windows, no burnt cars, no looting – and right now most of the city streets
have been restored, with protesters’ tents staying only in the Maidan square, where it all
started initially. So the Revolution-related routes have been on the rise – both with foreign
journalists and regular tourists.

All's quiet at Rodina Mat'

This bridge below was burnt down by riot police to disable access to the Parliament, and restored overnight by construction workers from the Western Ukraine once the ex-President Yanukovych fled the country.

Back in action!

The ex-President’s notorious out-of-city residence Mezhygirya was opened to the public,
with runners and bikers enjoying the many kilometers of forest and park roads.

A big park in the southern part of the city hosts an exhibition of old houses from villages
throughout Ukraine, displaying the village lifestyle. This is another big tourist attractions
boasting many kilometers of roads great for running.

A casual jaunt around town

The city still remembers the World War 2, with plenty of monuments referring to the war and its victims. Virtually every family in Ukraine has had multiple members killed or hurt
in the war, and the cult of post-war memories has been very strong in the Soviet Union.
For most foreigners, the number of war-related monuments is a surprise.

Rodina Mat, a memorial to the veterans of WWII

Community and Events
The running community has been growing rapidly over last 4 years, with running clubs
popping up here and there, and sports brands investing and promoting athletic events. One of Kyiv’s largest amateur running clubs KM Running Club has over 150 regular members, and during any training run at least 60 of them show up. Nike+ Running Club, New Balance running events, Adidas-sponsored races and Salomon trail running cup have all been components of the community buildup, and Kyiv’s largest and oldest running event, a charity Chestnut Run, had over 12 thousands participants in 2013. Triathlon events, aquathlon, Tough-Mudder-like events, Urbanathlon city runs – you name it.

Some of the largest city running events are:
- Kyiv City Marathon (April) and Half-Marathon (September) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR2EtkmtCDI
- Chestnut 5K Run (September)
- KM Running Club Open Cup (5 and 10k quarterly running events)
- Kyiv Triathlon Cup (which hosted ETU European Triathlon Cup in 2014) https://vimeo.com/100895832
- Road Bike Horizon Park Race https://vimeo.com/96970734

War & Politics
While Kyiv and the central and western part of Ukraine live a «usual» life, the Eastern part
of the country – to be more specific, several cities and districts next to Russia’s borders -
are in what we call a hybrid war situation. Terrorists backed by Russian money, headed
by Russian mercenaries and equipped with Russian weapons are taking cities and villages
as hostages, using heavy artillery, antitank and antiaircraft missiles and tanks to fight off
the Ukrainian army. Although we have never thought of Russia as an enemy, and the army
was being destroyed over the last years, we’re facing a very rapid development of the new
Ukrainian army. This has impacted the whole community, as people volunteer and join
the Army ranks throughout the country – in the East, West and Kyiv. My good friend and
sports doctor who healed many of my running friends has recently sent me a photo of
himself sitting in a bunker with a machine gun and granades, still wearing his NB sneakers.

Those staying behind are organizing into volunteer groups to collect funds and equip the army troops with what they are lacking, to back up the new government which is trying to
recover economy from the collapse organized by the ex-Presidend and his family.

Overall, we are very optimistic. We’re on our way to signing the Association agreement
with the EU, we’ve got one of the most experienced and professional governments in the
history of independent Ukraine, the country is facing a rise of patriotism and unity.

Make sure you put Ukraine on your running destinations, and we’ll make sure that you’ll
get an unforgettable running and interaction experience.

Reach out to us for more advice.

Best regards,
Volodymyr Dehtyarov,

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Emerging Running Destinations – Yaroslavl, Russia

Yaroslavl Half Marathon - September 2014

Few people can say that they’ve ever run a half marathon in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you head to Russia in September 2014, you may have your chance.

Yaroslavl - Emerging Running Destination

On the 14th of September the first annual Yaroslavl Half Marathon will take place. This event, the premier race in the RussiaRunning Race Series, will take you past gold-domed churches, ancient narrow streets, and panoramic views of the Volga River. “Yaroslavl is the city of warm atmosphere, and history all around you,” says RussiaRunning’s Arthur Zagidullin, international director of the race.

And increasingly these days, Yaroslavl is the city of runners. Mr. Zagidullin estimates “5-7%” of Yaroslavl’s 600,000 people has taken up the sport. As in other parts of the world, some people started up the sport for health reasons. But today, Russians see running “as a way of meditation, to get out of routine,” he says. Running numbers are on the rise, as are numbers of running clubs – doubling and tripling their participants on a regular basis.

This is different from routine

To feed the competitive fires of these runners, RussiaRunning will be holding five other races in coming months in other cities along the Golden Ring. These cities are easy one-day escapes for Moscow travelers who want to explore a different side of Russian culture. The eight Golden Ring cities were pivotal in the formation of the Orthodox church. While Moscow is now better known for its hustle and bustle, these cities have often been called “open air museums” and are great places to really be able to see, experience, and contemplate Russia’s great legacy.

Russia's Golden Legacy

And why not do that, and get a good workout in while you’re at it? Check out http://yaroslavlhalfmarathon.com for more information and to register. Happy trails!

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BTG is back for 2014

My apologies to all time
For all the world I overlook each moment

Silvershield Trail - Ouray, CO

My apologies to all readers
For three years of absence.

It’s tempting to disappear into the mountains.
It’s good to return to what I love

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BTG Running the World with Matador Network

BTG is in the news again! Check out our following roundup on obstacles you might encounter while running the world. It was published last week on Matador Network, the best resource for independent travel ideas and stories. Happy trails!

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Beer: Burlington’s Sweet Reward

You’ve probably heard the rumors swirling the athletic community about whether one of the world’s most popular beverages – beer – is actually a good performance recovery beverage. The jury is still out on that one, but you should take the time to do some personal research the next time you are in Burlington, Vermont. Vermont has the most microbreweries per capita of any state in the U.S. When in town you’ll have ample opportunity to hit up a local establishment and sample some of their varieties.

Beer #9, a popular brew from Magic Hat Brewing Company

Magic Hat is a local brewery that ranks high among BTG’s Burlington-based researchers. A tour of their premises takes about five minutes, and is followed by unlimited sampling of the beers. While we highly enjoyed their #9, a not-quite-pale ale, the Single Chair was our favorite. This golden beer is sold only in Vermont, and is named for the U.S.’s last single-chair chairlift, which operates at nearby Mad River Glen ski area. The Single Chair’s warm flavor instilled in us a deep feeling and commemorative love for old ski lifts and the good days we’ve had out on the slopes.

Switchback is another well-known brew from the area. Its brewery is located right in downtown. This reddish-amber ale goes down smoothly at the end of a long summer day.

In addition to these better-known brands, however, there are many up-and-coming breweries, and innovative young brewers, in the area. Keep your ears open and tastebuds primed for the work of Tudyke’s Brewing Company. Tudyke’s fresh honey ale and crisp Belgian witbier are infused with a special ingredient – love – that fills you with a warm contented feeling. The ladies who craft this beer make sure you get a good shot of that stuff in every glass you get.

Although we're not gonna lie - the brewers are a little crazy.

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Rollerblading the World: Quebec, Canada

Salut de Quebec! Terrasse Dufferin in Quebec City, stop number 5 of seven on Blaze's 2011 research odyssey.

“Have you really run every route on the Blaze website?” I get these questions all the time, whether I’m on a research trip or at home in Colorado. Well, I confess: I haven’t. I’m an avid runner, but my body can’t take the ceaseless pounding that would be required to run the world. And to be honest, my brain couldn’t either – I need to spend at least a minimal amount of time soaking up other aspects of culture while on my travels.

Of the places I’ve researched, I’ve probably run 70% of the runs I’ve published. But I have personally researched all of them. What does it mean to research? In many cases, I’ll head to a running spot and spend 2-3 hours walking it, exploring it, getting a feel of the stretch and the territory so that I can advise my readers of what sort of run to expect. Often I conduct this work on a bike, which is nice, because I can cover three times as much ground as I can on foot in one-third of the time, and give my joints a break in the process.

And sometimes, if the weather is good, the day is bright, and the asphalt is smooth, I’ll trade in my two wheels for eight, and hop up on some rollerblades.

Bladers and cyclists near Quebec's Vieux Port (Run #2).

Rollerblading is a dark-horse activity in the United States. Sure, there are plenty of people who do it. But rollerbladers often clash with other non-motorized entities around them. They don’t fit into the bike lanes, and cyclists often curse under their breath when they come upon a blader in their path. Pedestrians don’t like them either – the quiet swoosh of the wheels can sometimes be hard to hear until the rider comes flying by them at twelve miles per hour.

Here in Canada, however, rollerbladers are a much more visible part of the active culture. Credit it to this hockey-crazy country and its people, who require some sort of skating outlet during the summer. When you’re out on the paths here, you’re more likely to come across an eight-wheeling peloton than you are to find a group of cyclists or runners.

But that’s okay in Canada. One of the best things about rollerblading in the cities we’ve researched – Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec – is that you’re able to check out quite a bit more of the paths than you’d be able to if you were only running. For example, this morning I was able to string together an epic blade along the St. Charles river down to its conjunction with the St. Lawrence, and wrap the route around Quebec’s Vieux Port to continue along the coast. On my ten-mile spin I was able to check out BTG Quebec routes #2 and #3 (coming soon to a website near you) and work some different muscles in the process. You could do something similar in Montreal by combining a workout along Canal de Lachine with a loop around Parc Jean-Drapeau. And in Toronto you could check out the entire scope of the magnificent Waterfront Trail, and not wear yourself down the same way you would if you ran.

On your next trip to any of these other cities, I definitely suggest taking a couple of hours to get some rollerblades and check out two or more of our routes. Many of the individual runs I’ve written up can be linked together to create one epic rollerblading workout. You’ll be able to explore many more areas of the cities your visit, and you’ll be able to give your quads a rest in the process.

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Running Tajikistan: Jode Brexa’s Perspective

Last night, I had a run!
-
Brexa from Sarband, 6/11/2011

Boulder teacher Jode Brexa surrounded by students in Sarband, Tajikistan.

Running is a lot more than a workout. When we go for a run, we step our of our doors and make the conscious choice to engage with the wide world around us. We don’t always know what we will encounter and discover out there on the streets, but we often create connections with what we find.

This isn’t news for Jode Brexa. The award-winning teacher at Boulder’s Arapahoe Ridge High School has traveled to and taught on three continents. She’s currently in Sarband, a small town in a corner of Tajikistan, working with students and teachers on a digital story project. The project allows students from this oft-forgotten part of the world to use narrative, photos, and music to tell their stories. The finished product is a digital piece that can be shared with others in Sarband, in Tajikistan, and around the world.

In addition to exploring Tajik culture through her professional work, Jode has also been able to actively engage with the environment around her. What follows is an excerpt from an e-mail she wrote describing an evening run she took in the town:

Last night, I had a run!  The first run for three days, and Firuz, a 9th grader, took me running through the village, people out walking, kids in the street who stare at me and say Ruski, and I say Russe nastam, Amerikoi astam.  And they just stare.  At the end of the run, we had to stop because of big dogs, mongrels, who prowl and  we walked through a little orchard and he picked apricots for me and green apples, and we walked back to his house. It was late in the day, sunny,still hot but less so, and I stretched and sweated and I felt so much better.

Her narrative gives us concise insight to the benefits of running and traveling. Not only was Jode able to take some time to relax away from the school and get out on the streets, but she got to interact with the people around her. Amerikoi astam. I am American. She may have been one of the first Americans these people ever saw. And what they saw was a phenomenally inspirational woman full of enthusiasm to explore their city and understand their world. It was too bad about the dogs, but that tends to be a problem in post-Soviet republics (see BTG’s upcoming article on the Matador Network). She even got to sample some delicious fruit at the end of her endeavor.

High five, Jode. We love you!

The run Jode described was just one of many she has taken overseas, and the encounter with local culture just one of thousands of such experiences. With each step she takes, and will all the work she does to back it up, she is helping to bridge the gap in understanding between different countries, and she is helping to make the world a better place.

Jode will continue her cross-cultural digital story projects in the coming months and years. Keep track of her on her blog, at http://educatortoeducator.wordpress.com. BTG will also keep you up to speed on her happenings.

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Running The World: Montreal, Canada

“You have to watch out for people in Montreal,” said Mark, one of BTG’s two stellar researchers on this trip. “On the roads, the pedestrians think they have the right of way. But the cyclists also think they have the right of way. The rollerbladers are convinced that they have the right of way. And the cars could care less about who has the right of way – they just go.”

Minor traffic on the paths at Parc de Lachine.

But once you’re out of traffic and on the running trails of Montreal, you’re in for a treat. The avid hill climber can get in inclines galore on Montreal’s “Mountain”, the Parc du Mont Royal. The marathoner desiring a long, flat path can hop on the one next to Canal de Lachine and take a leisurely 14K jaunt out to the Lakes. And the runner who desires both experiences can head on out to Parc Jean-Drapeau and incorporate both types of terrain into a workout.

You can then enjoy gret views of the city such as this one, taken from the Tour de l'Ile at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Running is a great way to experience Montreal, but also keep your ear open for city events that will take place during your stay. From the Jazz Festival to Formula One racing to community bike rides through the streets, there’s an active way to get out and hang out and be around the locals. Make sure you save enough time and energy to participate in them!

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Bicycling The World: Toronto’s Midweek Cycling Club

At Blaze Travel Guides we use physical activity as the means to introduce our readers to international culture. Our first series of guides is focused on running, but in many ways cycling is actually the best way to immerse yourself in new places.

I relearned this lesson during my recent Toronto research trip. Not only was I able to cover a lot more ground on two wheels than I was able to on two feet, but the social aspect of the sport allowed me to meet some locals who gave me a comprehensive introduction to the city’s sporty culture.

One of these people was Steve, an active member of Toronto’s Midweek Cycling Club. Road cycling is rapidly growing in popularity across Canada, and in the country’s largest city this group organizes numerous events that allow riders to really get into riding. In April, at the start of the cycling season, the club runs workshops that teach beginning riders how to draft, how to corner, and proper pack riding etiquette. This group work gives riders the skills they need to participate in a series of summer races, which include weekly criterium and time trial events.

This year is an especially big year for Toronto bike racers, as Midweek is hosting the Canadian Road Cycling National Championships in the city on June 23-26. Make sure you check out the event if you’re in town that weekend! You’ll be able to scope the skills of some of the world’s most elite cyclists. You’ll also be able to find a Torontonian riding buddy or two.

And no matter your travel schedule, consider incorporating a ride or two into your Ontario stay. Cycling is a great way to explore Toronto, learn about the city’s people, and have a great workout in the process.

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Running The World: Hammondsport, New York

Keuka Lake and the vineyards surrounding Hammondsport, New York.

Nestled in New York’s Finger Lakes region is one of the most remarkable small towns you’ve never heard of. Hammondsport sits on the southern tip of Keuka Lake and anchors the country’s fastest-growing wine region. There are only 730-ish permanent residents in this cozy village, and close to 70 wineries in the surrounding area. That makes for a 10:1 winery-to-resident ratio. Most small liberal arts colleges can’t boast nearly as impressive faculty-to-student numbers.

The award-winning wines and unforgettable paintings of Lime Berry Gallery and Wine Estate.

You might be tempted to spend your time here traveling from one small, welcoming, pristine winery to another, or sampling the fare at one of the nearby amazing restaurants. But if you’re an active traveler, you’ll be captivated by the plethora of running, cycling, and swimming opportunities just beyond your doorstep! Keuka Lake is perfect for cooling off under the summer sun, and a great place to work on your open-water swims. There are miles upon miles of rolling country roads that cater to cyclists of all inclinations. And the running? Well, let’s just say that this is prime hill-training territory. BTG’s Hammondsport Run #1 takes you up road 54A and towards fantastic views of the lake. For those in the mood for flatter territory, a quite lane takes you out towards Pleasant Valley Wine Company, one of the oldest establishments in the region.

And, at the end of the day, there’s no better place to enjoy the colors of the area than at Lime Berry Gallery and Wine Estate. Owners Melissa and Joe Carroll moved out to this area three years ago, and brought with them a spectacular medley of paintings, jewelry, and rugs from all over the world. Over this past year they’ve also released a selection of award-winning wines that you can purchase at liquor stores and restaurants in the area. Lime Berry’s Chardonnay wins BTG’s 2011 Award for Best Performance Recovery Beverage in our international competition. But I might be a bit biased. After all, Melissa and Joe played an integral part in the founding and formation of BTG, and without the good energy produced by their personalities and their business, I would not be here – in Hammondsport – or here – in my professional occupation – today.

There's no place like home - and definitely no place like Lime Berry!

Hammondsport is just another reminder that sport and active travel opportunties are everywhere around us, no matter how large or small our destinations. It is also a great place to remember that the most amazing people we will ever know are never far away, and always close to our hearts.

MSH, Melissa and Joe! BTG loves you!!!

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