LVIV – It’s not easy to run 13.1 miles. It’s even harder to do so every day for 31 days straight. But Nazar Kiryk, 22, completed his fundraising goal of running a half-marathon every day in July in order to raise money for a thermal imaging drone that he intends to give to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
In total, Mr. Kiryk ran just over 406 miles in July. By the last day of his campaign, Mr. Kiryk had gathered 272,000 hryvnia (roughly $7,400) in cooperation with the Plast branch in Lviv.
A correspondent for The Ukrainian Weekly joined Mr. Kiryk for part of his 31st straight daily half-marathon. Five people joined Mr. Kiryk during his final half-marathon, which ended in Lviv’s historic city center.
“It feels like graduating,” Mr. Kiryk said while running the final miles of his fundraising campaign. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow morning after a month of everyday running.”
The opera theater marked the conclusion of the group’s 13.1-mile jog, and it also marked the end of Mr. Kiryk’s 31-day campaign. He started alone on July 1. But throughout the month, some 40 different people occasionally joined him early in the morning for at least a few miles of his daily run.
“Running is my hobby; it’s an important part of my life. I ran marathons and half-marathons before. Well, I have never been running half-marathons each day, but I knew that I could do it,” he told this writer after rehydrating with plenty of water in a café near the opera.
Mr. Kiryk decided to use his passion for running in order to achieve a larger goal – to collect funds for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He contacted the leadership of the Plast branch in Lviv to help him choose a suitable fundraising goal.
The leadership of Plast in the city liked the idea, and they decided to raise funds to purchase a thermal imaging drone that can be used for reconnaissance. The amount needed to buy the drone – an Autel EVO II Dual – was about 260,000 hryvnias (some $7,000).
“On July 1, we published the first Facebook post about the campaign. So, I started running 21.1 kilometers each day till the end of the month. I had some doubts that something could happen to my health during this challenge, but I was sure I could do it,” Mr. Kiryk said.
He ran alone in the beginning, but then friends started to join him and helped boost his morale.
“On the first week, I mostly ran alone. Someone joined me for the first time while running the sixth half-marathon in a row. It was in Kyiv. I went there for work, and the only available time for running was during lunchtime. The temperature was 35 degrees Celsius [95 degrees Fehrenheit]. I thought we would have heatstroke, but everything went fine. A cold shower afterward helped us,” he said.
Most of Mr. Kiryk’s runs were in Lviv, but even a work trip to Kyiv or a Plast event in the Ternopil region didn’t stop him from completing his daily half-marathons.
During the first two weeks of his challenge, only two people occasionally accompanied Mr. Kiryk on his runs. But then a lot of different people started joining him. He said that half of his runs took place with someone by his side.
Vlad Shtefan was among five people who ran with Mr. Kiryk during his final half-marathon.
“I met Nazar in a park at a charity run to support the defenders of Azovstal. He told me about his campaign, and then I remembered I saw information about it on social media. I thought, ‘wow, that’s cool.’ His enthusiasm for running and helping the army motivated me, so I joined. It’s an honor for me to participate in this kind of event,” Mr. Shtefan said after the run.
“By the way, it was the first time I ran a half-marathon,” Mr. Shtefan said.
Each half-marathon gave Mr. Kiryk an opportunity to promote the fundraising campaign on social media. After the last run, he took multiple pictures for a Facebook post, filmed a video for Instagram stories and took another video to summarize his campaign and urge viewers to donate for the drone.
When this correspondent met and ran with Mr. Kiryk, the Plast scout had raised 214,000 hryvnias. Eventually, they managed to collect the entire amount, but he had a backup plan in case he couldn’t collect all the needed funds for the drone.
Mr. Kiryk said he planned to organize and hold training sessions for new runners in exchange for a donation or posts on social media about the campaign. But Mr. Kiryk never doubted that his group would collect the funds needed for the drone.
“It was just a matter of time,” he said.
After a month of constant half-marathons, Mr. Kiryk said got used to the daily jogs.
“It’s my routine because each day I ran the same distance. Each day started with 21.1 kilometers. I was mentally exhausted in the middle of the month, but people’s support helped me keep moving. I understood why I was doing this, so I continued,” he said.
“In the beginning, my friends told me that I’m crazy. My family was worried; they tried to convince me to start with smaller distances. But then they understood that this was important for me. Around the middle of the campaign, I was a bit sick for three days. I woke up in a bad mood, with a sore throat and a headache. Nevertheless, I continued running, and with the support of my friends, I managed to run half-marathons on those three days. I even considered pausing the campaign, but then I felt much better,” Mr. Kiryk said.
“Apart from collecting funds for the drone, this experience was valuable because of the support I received. People donated, reposted and joined me on my runs. It was very inspiring,” Mr. Kiryk said.
His plan for now is to recover after running more than 400 miles in a month. However, he is still thinking of ideas for new fundraising campaigns to help the Ukrainian military. He is even considering running a half-marathon backward.
His goal was not only to raise money. He also wanted to raise more awareness about Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“The war continues; each day our soldiers die. We need to remember this and keep supporting our army with equipment. And this campaign is my way of volunteering – to attract attention and gather donations for the army. At this point in my life, this is the best I can do to help,” he said.
He’s also motivated to help because many of his friends are fighting in the war.
“As a member of Plast scouting and an alumnus of the Ukrainian Leadership Academy, I belong to communities where many young men enrolled in the army. Unfortunately, some of them were killed on the battlefield. They gave their lives for Ukraine. Their deed inspires all of us to continue working. Each day I need to make my contribution to help the army. This month I tried to do it through this campaign,” Mr. Kiryk said.
One friend of Mr. Kiryk’s, Oleh Tabun, said he planned to run only 5-10 kilometers with Mr. Kiryk one day in July. But he ended up joining Mr. Kiryk and some other friends for the entire half-marathon.
“Nazar’s campaign is a systematic story; this is the kind of project that gains popularity over time. The longer you persist, the bigger the project becomes. I followed Nazar daily on Instagram this month, so I decided to join today. It’s a great story because it touched two big communities: Plast scouting and the Ukrainian Leadership Academy. It’s a significant campaign. Nowadays, you can collect funds for an important goal through stories, and this story is powerful,” Mr. Tabun said.
Yaroslav Bulyshyn, the head of the Lviv branch of Plast, said the scouting organization has been helping the Ukrainian army since the first days of the war. Many Plast scouts have joined the ranks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, while other have sought to help by volunteering in different ways.
“Many people have created small initiatives to help the army or those who need support. Nazar is a great example of what our organization does. After all, every day we wake up with the mission to help as many people as possible survive and resist the enemy,” Mr. Bulyshyn said.
On the last day of Mr. Kiryk’s campaign, after completing the challenge and raising all the funds needed to buy the drone, the Lviv Plast branch said it would buy the drone and inform the public when arrives in Ukraine and is delivered to the front.
“Ukraine’s ultimate victory inspires me,” Mr. Kiryk said. “We all want to contribute to it.”