When Polina Kitsenko was a school student, she was exempted from physical education classes. However, that didn’t prevent her from launching the largest charity marathon in Russia. Three years after being launched, the marathon breaks records and collects 100 million rubles. Professional sportspersons, actors, and heads of major companies join them. Marathons are held within the framework of popular platforms and thanks to that attract more participants. At the Synergy Women Forum, Polina Kitsenko shared about the origin of this project and about how it had obtained popularity. 

After having thought about sport from a different angle, she decided to provide marathon with special purpose. She started developing a charity marathon together with Natalia Vodianova, founder of the Naked Heart Foundation. The marathon’s goal was fund-raising for creating centres of early assistance to children with special needs. In fact, Russia didn’t have such initiatives before that. The project was a big challenge for Polina Kitsenko despite she had rich experience as PR and Creative Director of the Podium Market, a network of Russia’s department stores selling clothes. 


Gorky park was the first platform to host a race. It took 2 months to prepare it for 1500 participants (the topography of the park didn’t allow more). According to the speaker, that was a top-level track-and-field event. The focus was made on high level of the organisation. The participants were provided with entertainments, photo session, concert program, and timely information for good navigation at the event. Such outstanding sport figures, as figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, six-time Paralympic athlete Roman Petushkov, and cross-country skier Alexander Legkov joined the action. 

“It is important for us to impart the culture of inclusion, to show athletes and press that persons with disabilities are often unfairly forgotten. We show that there is no enough tolerance in society, and a special environment for people with health limitations is still not available in our country”, said Polina Kitsenko. 


Different people including actors, singers, almost heads of magazines, and others joined the race. The participant spent the whole day in the fresh air. 

“The most important thing for me is to motivate people around. This is such heartfelt networking! It is impossible to list all those who worked hard to contribute to the project. The contribution of each is extremely valuable. It is like a link in the chain without which no chain is possible. The power of women's leadership helps in building spiritual and emotional relationships. It creates close contacts with people and unites them to achieve a global good goal”, she commented. 

The first marathon went great despite bad weather. Without thinking much, Polina Kitsenko announced her readiness to clear the streets and organise next marathon for 10000 people. In fact, implementing such a project in the capital city is very expensive. However, she kept her promise. “Aim at bigger goals. Then it is easier to hit the mark”, she voiced her motto. 


Next year, the marathon was supported by Sberbank. The company organised races simultaneously in more than 50 cities of Russia. It took 9 months to start a project Green Marathon Running Hearts. According to Polina Kitsenko, the company managed to attract new sponsors, such as Coca-Cola, Megafon, BMW, Bioterm, and Nike. Together with such huge brands, it managed to organise such a large-scale marathon. It involved 10000 participants and attracted 40 press teams. Viktor Sadovnichy, permanent rector of the Moscow State University, and Viacheslav Fetisov, Honored Master of Sports of the USSR, professional ice hockey player and coach, supported the project. The marathon also attracted such world models as Naomi Campbell and Izabel Goulart. Russian bands ‘Zveri’ and ‘Uma2rman’ gave their concerts at the event. Thus, people from different fields of life made their contribution to this charitable action. 


The project brought together the largest number of Olympic champions and medalists taking part in an organised run. It became the main recreational project of the capital of Russia and was awarded by the Government of Moscow. In addition, the marathon won Team of the Year nomination from Glamour Russia. The Naked Heart Foundation is especially proud of its cooperation with Nike, as this company not only sponsored the marathon, but also provided a special digital platform.  Thanks to this app, any person who was unable to join the marathon for some reason could run a race anywhere in the world. Nike paid money for every kilometer people ran. Thus, the Running Hearts green marathon had 9500 extra participants in 55 countries. 


Polina Kitsenko knows how to find sponsors for such projects: through contacts and social networks. We live in an open society where anyone can be interesting, become famous, and contribute to the society. “One should find new contacts, talk to people and motivate them. After my today’s presentation here, I believe, I will have new friends”, she said. 

However, dreams don’t come true before you don’t make efforts. Polina Kitsenko’s team is working at full capacity. The next Running Hearts marathon will take place in the Vasilievsky Slope square on May 27. People running with purpose will start their marathon from the very heart of the Russian Federation. Registration is already open! 

Marina Kachkalova, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov