A leading Ukrainian ultrarunner has died after collapsing during an ultra marathon at the weekend.
Kateryna Katiushcheva, 33, nicknamed the ‘Iron Lady’, suffered heat stroke and dehydration six miles from the finish line of the 42-mile Odessa Ultra-Trial Kuyalnik race in Ukraine.
The athlete was alive but in a serious condition when she was finally found in the early hours of Sunday morning after an eight-hour search by organisers, volunteers and local police.
There were initial fears that Katiushcheva had been kidnapped when she didn’t reach the finish line in the expected time window. Police eventually located her due to her mobile phone signal.
It was hoped she would survive, but sadly later on Sunday she suffered a stroke in hospital and died.
The Odessa Ultra-Trial Kuyalnik takes place close to the Black Sea atß Ukraine’s most southerly point. The event has been described as 'merciless' by one of the organisers. Irina Dashkova said the course was ‘in some places impenetrable jungle, swamps, reeds, stones, steep ups and downs’.
‘The sun is merciless, the salt that is everywhere on your body will penetrate deep inside, and with every breath, from thirst and fatigue, you feel your pulse and rapid breathing,' she said. This year’s event was run in temperatures of up to 100F (38C).
Katiushcheva was a regular member of Ukraine’s ultra distance national team, and had won several races from 50K up to 24-hours. She was also a successful long-distance triathlete.
The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) said: ‘Kateryna was fantastic runner and great person. We will always remember her for kindness and great smile.’
Nadeem Khan, President of the IAU, said: ‘Kateryna was one of the top ultra athletes on the Ukrainian National Team who never missed an opportunity to proudly represent her country at the IAU Championships. We could always count on her grit and determination. She was one of the athletes on the team that I counted as a good friend. I will miss her ever-present smiling face at our events. Rest in peace.’
In a previous interview with the IAU, Katiushcheva had said: ‘Believe in your strength and do not listen to anyone. If you want to run, run! Even if something goes wrong, at least you tried.’
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