Run for their lives
A benefit race to help Ukrainians defend themselves from drone attacks
I ran a race yesterday. It was for a cause. They usually are. That's part of the fun: the sense of doing good.
Today I have a race to promote: to raise money for anti-drone defense in Ukraine. It will be run in Kyiv (!) on 27 November, but you can run it remotely from anywhere. I will put the link to sign up here and a button below.
But I also want to take a step back and consider how extraordinary it is that such a race is being held.
Consider this chain of events.
In February, Russia invades Ukraine and begins a genocidal war of destruction, involving the destruction of cities, the deliberate targeting of civilians, the deportation of millions of people, and the murder of civilian leaders and people regarded as Ukrainian patriots.
Despite almost everyone's expectations, Ukraine resists, forcing Russia to abandon its drive on the Ukrainian capital. In the terrain Ukraine de-occupies, death pits and torture chambers are discovered.
Russia proclaims that it will now conquer the Donbas. Instead, the Ukrainian counter-offensive continues, and Ukraine retakes most of the Kharkiv region. In the terrain Ukraine de-occupies, death pits and torture chambers are discovered.
Russia announces mobilization in late September. The Ukrainian counter-offensive continues, liberating much of Kherson province and Kherson city, the only provincial capital Russia had taken. In the terrain Ukraine de-occupies, death pits and torture chambers are discovered.
As of today, Ukraine has retaken more than half of the territory that Russia conquered in February and March. Russia escalates its genocidal rhetoric and continues all genocidal practices on the lands it still occupies. It uses missiles and Iranian drones to destroy infrastructure throughout the country, denying millions of Ukrainians access to water and electricity. That is the state of affairs right now.
And now my extremely modest role in which we see one more example of Ukrainian creativity, generosity, and courage...
President Zelens'kyi's fundraising platform, United24, asked me to be an ambassador and to raise funds for anti-drone defense, which I am honored to try to do. (By the way, we are about 1/10 of the way there. Your donations are going through. If they are not, make sure you have selected the correct currency when you use your credit card.)
And the the group Run Ukraine, which organizes lots of great races, just announced a race to be run in Kyiv this coming Sunday, 27 November: the "United by Bravery Charity Run." They also announced that "70% of the profit from the run will be donated to UNITED24, an initiative of the President of Ukraine. Together with historian Timothy Snyder, the fundraising platform has launched a fundraiser for the Shahed Hunter, an anti-drone system."
So in a city where they lack electricity and water, Ukrainians will nevertheless themselves organize and run a charity race to raise money to defend against the drones that are denying them electricity and water.
Ukrainians ask me to help raise money -- and then in dreadfully challenging conditions have organized the fundraiser themselves. This is typical of Ukrainian civil society. Ukrainians keep doing more than anyone has a right to expect of them.
So what can we do?
The least I can do is run. I am hugely humbled that the people I am supposed to be helping are helping me. The race will take place in Kyiv, but you can run it anywhere. I have signed up to run 10k, and will run the distance in Connecticut and report my time.
And I can ask you to run. The official timed distances are 10k and 21k, but if you don’t care about the competition you can run any distance you choose. If you are not a runner, sign up for a distance that makes sense to you, and walk it. If you are American, by Sunday you might very well need the exercise!
And please share this with the runners in your life. This week something like a million (yes, a million) Americans will run a Turkey Trot in some form or another. It would be wonderful if they would all register for the United by Bravery race. Runners who have already registered for a race and don't want to run another: just register for United by Bravery anyway and enter your time from the other race. It's the equivalent of 25 dollars to register (with a medal), half that without a medal. The “United by Bravery” t-shirts are great, too -- you can buy one if you register.
Turkey Trots are great. I ran one yesterday. They are a light bit of holiday fun. If we are thinking seriously about giving thanks, though, the Ukrainians have certainly given us much to be grateful for. Their having organized a fundraiser when I am the one who is supposed to be raising funds is a small example of a general phenomenon. They are doing so very much for us that we could not have done by ourselves, and taking great risks to defend the values we say are important to us, such as democracy.
And they are now in a situation where a little bit of our money will make a great deal of difference in how they live through this winter. When I finished my race, I came home, turned on the light, and took a hot shower. And I thought of the ten million Ukrainians who, right now, cannot do those things. And about how that is just one of many horrors, horrors that we can help to stop.
So let's make the United by Bravery race something to remember. Let's flood the race with runners from beyond Ukraine. Sign up and share the link. It will feel good to contribute to a good cause -- and to get some exercise. I'll be doing it with you.
21 November 2022.
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