17 year old from Ukraine to take on the Manchester Half this year

Maria, 17, from Ukraine has faced an unprecedented amount of challenge for someone her age. Over the last 18 months, Maria has seen the military invasion of her country and had to flee her hometown, which was quickly deemed unsafe as it is near a military academy. Maria and her mother moved to the UK in July 2022, having lived in Italy for 5 months previously. With her father and other family members still in Ukraine and A levels on the horizon, Maria has adapted to the challenge of fitting into a new school and the culture and community in Kendal, a distance from Manchester. To top it all off, Maria has decided to run her first half marathon at the Manchester Half this year – a challenge that is testament to her ambitious and resilient character.

“Moving to the UK was a big step for me, although I have always been a curious and adventurous person. I think that it is important to meet new people from different cultures and learn to treat people with mutual respect. So, of course, it was a challenging time, but I quickly found a very strong community at my local gym, which is really where my running journey started”.

“My mum has been running for about 3 years now, and her first half marathon was in Madrid. I do personal training in my free time and around Christmas time this year I decided to do a session with my mum, involving strength and interval training. I made it hard for her and halfway through the workout she said “why don’t you try running a half marathon! That got me thinking, yes, maybe I could, so I started building up my running slowly when I wasn’t strength training. I’ve now done a 5km and a 10km event, and the Manchester Half is next on my list.”

“I think that my relationship with my mum has become closer since moving to the UK. She has really inspired me to be career-driven, and I want to study psychology at university to improve mental health in the workforce. She of course also got me into running, although I am also really inspired by the people I have met at my gym. The owner is over 60 years old and so passionate and encouraging. As I socialise with a diverse age group at the gym, I’ve seen how important it is to be able to move your body well into later life!”

When asked about what she is looking forward to on the event weekend, Maria said the following:

“My mum and I are planning to spend some time in Manchester the day before the race. I’ve only been to the city about 3-4 times – the first time, I said WOW, this is such a cool city with so much diversity and so many friendly people”.

“For the event itself, my mum and I are just going to enjoy the moment and soak up what we have heard is an incredible atmosphere. The next academic year at school will be busy preparing for A Levels, so I see this as my moment to make the most of it and have fun!”

“Although there are bad things happening in the world, life is for living and taking on challenges like this. Many people who moved from Ukraine felt guilt, however I now try to be grateful for the opportunities I have. This includes joining new communities and learning more about the world. Overall, I want to succeed and make everyone proud”.

“At the same time, I do think that there can be more awareness about the war in Ukraine. The media doesn’t show much of what is happening, which is sad. I have a lot of admiration for the President of Ukraine, who is fighting for our country and keeping up communications. I hope that my generation of young Ukrainians – who have had to grow up before their time – will have increased humanity and awareness about the devastation of war”.