While some of us might be enjoying the recent UK sunshine, flying for summer vacations, or simply trying to find the coolest spot in the house (and a staycation in the weekends), Olga Stignii has planned a very different summer.
On Monday 25th July, she started a challenge of running 31 kilometres every day for 31 days to commemorate the Ukrainian Independence. Born in the Ukraine and based in London, Olga is no stranger to long distance running and fitness. She wears many hats a day as a body transformation and running coach, personal trainer… and inspiring ultra-runner!
How did she get caught herself in this new challenge? Why will she run a total no less than 961km? We caught up with Olga one week into the challenge to discuss her goal, and how she has planned to stay injury-free for the next 31 days.
Hi Olga! How did your running journey started?
My running journey started way back!
I’d like to tell you a little childhood memory that I treasure a lot. Unfortunately, my dad passed away before I was born. When I was a child, I used to run around fields around my grandparents’ village pretending that he was trying to catch me. Then, at school, I picked up running as my main sport. I was striving at 5km and 10km races. I was quite bad at anything that involved sprinting 100m and 1200m. I couldn’t sprint as fast as I would have liked!
Then in my mid-twenties, I picked up running as a coping mechanism after my cycle accident. It helped me to recover and built me as a stronger woman and runner. I am now in my mid-thirties and don’t see myself ever stopping to run.
What would you say is (to date) your greatest achievement in running?
In ultra-running, we achieve performances that are huge and outstanding. First, we think that they are the biggest challenges of our lives. But when we tick a box and realise it is possible, we suddenly even want to do crazier challenges.
Up to date my biggest achievement has been running a 100km over Table Mountain in Cape Town in 2018. Now, I have started the biggest challenge of my life, running 31 kms a day for 31 days. That’s a whole different game ball. Ask me the same question in 31 days! I will probably have a different answer for you.
You are about to run more than 900km over 31 days. What was the spark that motivated you to do this challenge?
There are several things that have motivated me to run over 900kms in 31 days.
One of them is that I secretly always wanted to do something like that, but I never really had a purpose. I would always look up to similar challenges people are doing all around the world - running crazy distances in many consecutive days.
Now I have purpose! I am doing this to challenge myself but I also want to raise awareness about the ongoing war in Ukraine and raise funds for people in Ukraine affected by this war.
I am also inspired by amazing people around me, who celebrate incredible achievements and lead by example in their daily lives. This drives and inspires me to do more, to be better and to constantly grow and develop in many ways.
Why running it now?
Very good question!
I was planning on doing something like that for a while. When war started on 24th February, I met with a group of friends as they didn’t want me to be by myself. I was very scared, emotional, and stressed because all my family was still back in Ukraine. I said to them: “I am going to run every day, starting from now. I am going to run every day and I am going to talk about what’s happening in Ukraine. I am going to do this; I am going to run.”
I usually run to cope with anything that happens in my life. This is what I do. At this point in time, I was so stressed, scared, and emotional. It would have been the wrong moment to start and a few friends of mine thankfully talked me out of it.
Now everything has fallen into place, I reached out to the same group of friends, and they responded: “Yes, Let’s do it!".
The first person who said “Go for it, you’ve got this” was my boyfriend Sam who I am very grateful for. I also have an amazing support group who is helping me to put this challenge together.
Besides this, I am running for Ukraine and Ukraine Independence. Everyone keeps on asking: “why 31?” 31 is the number of years the Ukraine has been an independent country and I am running 31 days for 31 kms a day to celebrate it. I will be finishing on the 24th of August. This is the date when we have been and are celebrating Ukrainian independence every year for 31 years.
This is a question we all wonder: how will you not get bored running? Will you be running on your own?
It is difficult for me to get bored of running: I just purely love it! Sometimes it is tough, or hard but I don’t think I ever thought of running to be boring.
However, I won’t be running all by myself because mentally, it would be very hard to do so. I have incredible running communities that I am a part of, such as Midnight Runners, and I have amazing running friends who are always there for me.
For this challenge, we have planned different routes every day. They are scheduled runs one week ahead so people know when I will be running and where to join me. So far, I have been running with different communities on throughout the week and meeting hundreds of people. That’s an excellent opportunity to talk about 31 for 31, about Ukraine, and what’s happening there. I get so much support from people, it is such a beautiful feeling to know that people are giving you their time, their support and people really care about what’s happening in Ukraine.
But I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of running. I am now starting to worry about what I will be doing when these 31 days will be over!
Can you give us a sneak peak of how your recovery routine looks like?
Having a recovery routine is one of the most important things throughout any challenge like this one.
Firstly, I make sure I get as much sleep as I possibly can.
Secondly, I eat well: nutritious food with high quality carbs. I have also added one meal to my normal diet so my body can sustain the energy I need to run 31km every day. I also take supplements to compensate the load of running in my body, mainly magnesium, vitamin C, omega 3, vitamin D, zinc and iron. I usually take BCAA after every single run too.
But this is not all! I use my Theragun after each run, make sure to stretch and foam roll. I am also a fan of Tiger Balm for when my knees or ankles are buzzing/tender after being on up on my feet a long time. Lastly, I put my feet up the wall anytime I can during the day and have ice baths or ice my ankles and knees.
Do you have a specific tip for runners to stand on any start line injury-free?
Make sure that you do strength training for running – at least twice a week! There are specific exercises that every runner should do to make sure that their body is strong enough. Running is a high-impact movement because you’re constantly pounding on your feet on concrete. Having a strong body, strong bones and strong joints is very important. That’s what strength training will give you.
A lot of runners run but overlook this part of their training. That’s where a lot of injuries occur, which can ultimately put us off running. We think: “I’ve now got shin splints”. But this could typically put us off running for a long time. If you do strength train, you’re essentially thinking ahead and protecting your body against injuries.
Also, make sure you eat well, and you sleep well. That’s extremely important!
How can runners (and the Enertor community!) support your journey?
Runners and communities and communities can support me in many ways.
One of which is to run with me any day of the week, for as little or as much as you can and would like to. I am very keen to meet as many running communities as possible during these 31 days. They can really bring people together and create some amazing positive energy.
People can also share my social media posts. Every day, I run for a different city and share its story on Instagram. The ones I picked are very thoroughly thought of as each has been badly affected by the war. Some cities have been partially destroyed by Russians but some have been completed destroyed.
I am also raising funds for people who have been affected by this war. If anyone can support and donate, it would be a huge help. Any help is appreciated!
To finish, I have 6 quick fire questions for you:
- Hot or cold weather for running? Cold water.
- Hills or intervals? Hills – not intervals.
- Trails or roads? Trails – all the way!
- Favourite pre-race breakfast? Porridge loaded with banana and peanut butter.
- One thing you can’t do without? Sadly… my phone!
- Best running tip you’ve had? Especially for trail or ultra runs, accept that it is going to be painful and hard at some point, but this is not going to last forever. Take one step at a time, one km at a time, one race at a time.