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Journey Of A Lifetime. Diary Of American Who Ran 300km Through Belarus

Tomorrow at 9:00 I will set off from Minsk and run over 250 km to the village of my grandfather and his father. This is a journey about running to the roots, self-exploration, making new friends and seeing where new roads lead.

Follow Jared Goldman’s story as it unfolded as he advanced from Belarus’ capital to Kažan-Haradok. These are the notes from the 300km trail reported by Jared himself each day during his record-breaking thru-hike.

Day 1. Minsk to Fanipol

Packed up and ready to roll and meet the film crew at 8:00. I don’t know why but I feel completely relaxed. I put a lot in the training and my bag is packed. Now I just have to take that first step.

I was greeted by three bikers and three runners. One of them, Jaŭhen, would be joining me for the entire journey. We had never met in person, only chatted on Instagram. I wasn’t nervous about it but the first meeting was a bit awkward.

Running out of Minsk took most of the day. The vast sea of the urban landscape never seemed to end. Eventually, the sidewalk turned into a small road, and before I knew it, we were running through someone’s farm.

It was a perfect start to get used to the pack and just get settled in. We were surrounded by people the entire day, then the camera crew left and there were no one around to translate for us.

We were left on our own eating the watermelon and trying to figure out how this was going to work.

Day 2. Fanipol to Uzda

We started the day with a big bowl of pasta and hit the road. It was the first day Jaŭhen and I ran together alone. We fell into position, our pace matched, we found our rhythm and it felt like we had done this before.

This was a magic day as large country roads turned into smaller ones and I felt like we had Belarus to ourselves. It was the first time Belarus started to show me its beauty.

 

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What a day! I experienced some wonderful villages, met the storks of Belarus, and drank water straight from the wells. 41km for rhe day and 75 over the last two days. The people we encountered had such warm hearts. Although we had no language to share, there was a deep respect for one another. It was so hot after lunch that I was slowed to a run / walk method and I may be slightly dehydrated. I have to give a deep gratitude for my running partner @_bearded_runner. There was no mistake that that we are sharing this experience. Please head over to his account give him a follow and check his stories if mine are not long enough. #1run1photo #berlintobelarus #roadtobelarus #findingmyfamily #runningtotheroots

Публикация от Jared Goldman (@jareddanielgoldman)

I saw my first stork nest and observed these mysterious birds which had not yet left for Africa. I was excited to see the blue wooden houses and admire their craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Our map was slightly off and we were lost for a while but found our way back on track. What we could not escape was the burning sun.

After a while it took its toll on me, forcing to slow down and do employ a run and walk method. Surprisingly, ice cream helped, actually, it was the only solution for this situation.

Day 3. Uzda to Kopyl

In Kopyl, we were met by running instructor and ultra runner Dmitry and a minibus full of runners of every age. For us, this was a pleasant surprise that gave Jaŭhen some people to talk to in his mother tongue.

Besides, I was happy to let the minivan take my backpack for a few kilometers. Also just having company on the open road was extremely motivating and really helped to keep us moving forward.

This was the first day we had covered over the marathon distance and it was my very first marathon in Belarus. We celebrated with a pasta dinner home-cooked by Jaŭhen and a bottle of kvass.

2 days break in Uzda

I had planned a two-day break in Uzda. Dmitry had a program all lined up for us, including a leg massage followed by a tour to the local paper in Kopyl.

It was very exciting to meet all these people in their small offices and witness each edition being hand-folded in real time. Later that night we were taken to the house of the minibus driver for an authentic meal.

This was the first time I actually dug up potatoes from the ground, cooked them and ate them. Tomatoes and cucumbers all came from the garden and we had a real feast till well after sunset.

Day 6. Kopyl to Slutsk

In the morning, we hit the road and I wasn’t sure how long we would be joined by our new runner friends. They kept us company for about 16km till at some point the road turned to gravel.

Once again I and my bearded friend were left on our own. We were running in silence, deep in thoughts until my phone suddenly went off and I had lined up two interviews.

After a long day, we checked in the hotel and I got an upgrade at no extra charge. The room was spacious and pretty amazing. We quickly showered to wash away dust and sweat and headed out for dinner.

Day 7. Slutsk to Salihorsk

We had a substantial breakfast, check out and hit the road. The day was going to be interesting since our route passed near so-called Belarusian mountains.

The large rock piles are formed from the potash mining in the region. The clouds were also exceptionally low and fluffy so we had plenty of visual stimulation.

I played music from my handy to help the time pass by but it was my co-runner’s knee that brought him to a walk and run kind of day – I could tell he was in pain. The day X was in jeopardy.

My map took us right through one of the mines and by the looks on the face of a security man, he was not happy to see us. He made us move to the field and I am pretty sure that he took it easy on us.

Day 8. Salihorsk to Lenin

The big day that I longed for, the reason for my sleepless nights was almost there. We had 64 km on the running plan. I had never run more than 60km and that was when my legs were fresh.

We were once again greeted by three runners. They ran us out of town before we caught up the film crew and my fellow John who had biked all the way from Minsk the day before.

The day was spent by slogging out long stretches of road in the sun and a bit of off-roading with large puddles. It was our first ultra marathon together, and also the furthest distance in my life.

To end the day we stayed with a local woman. She was a real character and took us into her house, fed us, and took us on a two-hour tour of a museum she was in charge of.

Passing by a Jewish cemetery in Lenin (the agrotown in Gomel oblast – BelarusFeed note) gave me the first hint and hope to believe that we were getting closer to my roots.

Day X. Lenin to Kažan-Haradok

The last day came bringing more enthusiastic runners in my life and a feeling of sadness that the road I was running last eight days was going to end very soon.

We set off with the last day excitement in our legs. I knew we were close enough to start slow down but we had people waiting for us. My mom was at the finish line.

As we took our last photo next to the city sign it was now the final stretch. Honestly, I didn’t want it to be over, all I wanted is to just keep running with my new brother and running partner.

I grabbed Jaŭhen’s hand – we had achieved something great together. It was no longer a story about me and searching for my roots because it was the story of all those people who made #runningtotheroots possible.

Many people ask me “Have you found what you were looking for?” The answer is that it was never about finding a concrete answer. That would be too easy and would not leave any mystery.

It wasn’t about meeting my family from my past, it was about meeting the one from my future.


Text and photos by Jared Goldman

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