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The Last Word

The Great Russian Race
Irina Sheldukova

Dirk Vlierboom

T
he Great Russian Race (www.theworldrace.com) was organized by The World Race Trust in association with Dmitry Shparos non-profit Adventure Club. The race covered the whole route from Vladivostok to Moscow in a relayed run by 255 official participants, joined on the way by more than 3000 local volunteers and inspired individuals. This marathon, which lasted all summer season and is the longest in history, was aimed to promote a healthy lifestyle and awareness of the problems of Russian homeless, abandoned and orphaned children. US$250,000 were collected through corporate sponsorship and individual fundraising. All funds will be allocated to areas adjacent to the Races route.

Dirk Vlierboom, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Renaissance Moscow Hotel and Eric Therond, the Hotels Chef, participated in the Race: they run 120 km each and managed to gather an additional US$2500, as the Hotel was already one of the corporate sponsors of the race. Dirk Vlierboom agreed to tell Passport readers about his adventurous contribution for this good cause.

What happened in the race?
It was amazing! We did not really know what to expect. We knew that we would run 20km per day for 6 consecutive days and we would be fed and transported. The hospitality shown by everyone was simply overwhelming. This really made the cold showers, wooden floors for beds and very limited facilities all worthwhile.

How and why did you get involved?
One of my colleagues plays in the Expat Football League. They were going to run the opening sector of TheGreat Russian Race the Race and were one runner short. I ran 100km in China for charity, and they wanted to know if I could join their team. I met with one of the organizers, Richard Haldene. The race took 3 years of planning, and 15 weeks (105) days of running from Vladivostok to St Petersburg. Richard was present during most of the sectors, ran over 1000 kilometers, and finished this amazing event by running the Moscow marathon on the 11th of September! We agreed that if possible I would lead the Expat team in the second sector, as the first sector had enough runners already. But when I found out we would be running with Bruce Tulloh, former European 5000 meter champion, and one of the first men to run from the West coast of America to the East coast in a new record time, my fellow runners and myself agreed he should be the captain. I also convinced the Hotels executive Chef Eric to participate. He had only had 6 weeks to prepare and did a really great job getting fit in such a short time.

Where did you run and what did you see?
Our sector started 120 km south of Khabarovsk and ended in a small town about 100 km from Blagoveschensk, total 720 km in 6 days. Every sector was covered with a minimum of 2 Russian runners and one Expat runner. We saw many green forests, beautiful purple wild orchids, ran over the Amur River, and crossed a time zone! It is truly a beautiful country.

A few words about your life in Russia:
My life in Russia is great. I lived here once before, from October 96 until July 99. I received a call in November last year, asking if I would be interested in coming back. This call was totally unexpected, but came at the right time for me. I finished my previous job in the UK on January 7th and started here on the 11th. I have a great team working for me, the hotel is absolutely fantastic. I have been learning Russian since May, so now I am starting to understand what is being said. I made a commitment to my colleagues that after one year I will hold all sales meetings in Russian.

Are there any other charity events that Renaissance Moscow Hotel has been involved in or has plans to support?
Marriott International, of which the Renaissance brand is a part, actively supports many charities around the world. In our case we currently support an orphanage and have been involved with the Aral Sea Project. For the year of 2006 we have decided to link up with the Charity Aid Foundation which allocates funds from the Great Russian Race. We will contribute to their Gift for Life Program, designed to support children who need life saving operations. We plan to work closely with the Foundation through various fund raising events, as we are also celebrating our 15th anniversary next year.







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