For ‘Polska’ Athletes Running is the Only Legal Drug

Members of the Polska Running Team raised $900 for Jas Karwowski, a 4-year-old fighting eye cancer. (Photo via Polska Running Team)

“The coolest thing about running is that it doesn’t matter who you are, what job you have, what language you speak or even how fit you are. The most important thing is the adrenaline, which makes you love life,” says Artur Tyszuk from the Polska Running Team, a group that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

The club counts 150 people. Most of them are from the New York area, some of its members live in other parts of the U.S. and a few in Poland. One common denominator for all of them is the passion for running and the friendship that binds them.

Members of the Polska Running Team don’t focus only on improving their running times but also on engaging in various charitable initiatives. They regularly send supplies to orphanages in Poland and for the past couple of years, together with the Children’s Smile Foundation in New York, they have organized an October race, the proceeds from which will fund treatment for sick Polish children.

Some time ago they came up with an idea to bid on their running times. “You pay $10 for each miscalculated minute. The maximum amount you can lose is $50,” says Artur Tyszuk. The proceeds from this initiative are also being donated to a good cause. The very latest one was dedicated to Jas Karwowski, a 4-year-old from Poland who has been fighting eye cancer and frequently comes to New York for expensive treatment and surgeries. “Before the Brooklyn Half we bet on our scores and ended up raising $900 for him. We were happy to be able to hand the money personally to the boy’s parents,” said Artur Tyszuk.

Members of the Polska Running Team also supported a girl from Poland, Garbysia, who needed a specialized bike for proper physical recovery.

On June 17, when the runners celebrated the 10th anniversary of their club at the Queens 10K, they also bet on their scores. This time they decided to donate the raised money to a foundation, Znajdki, which takes care of abandoned animals. “We were inspired by our friend Sebastian Wojciechowski’s initiative in Warsaw. He organized a hamster race, where the participants brought food for animals. We also wanted to do something for the animals,” said Tyszuk.

Members of the Polska Running Team also took part in the SSG Michael Ollis Memorial 5K Run/Walk in June. Staff Sgt. Ollis died in Afghanistan in August 2013 trying to save a Polish soldier, Lt. Karol Cierpica. Over 800 people took part in the run, including a large number of Polish Americans. “Michael Ollis’ parents were very moved that so many people remembered their son. The route of the race went along the streets of Staten Island, where Michael Ollis would jog whenever he was home. He was a big fan of this sport. He was also jogging the moment of the attack at the military base in Afghanistan. Despite wearing just a T-shirt and shorts, Michael grabbed a rifle and went to protect the base when the Taliban opened fire. Then, with his body he shielded the Polish soldier and saved his life,” Tyszuk says.

Polska Running Team welcomes all runners, not only those of Polish descent no matter the skin color, the language or physical fitness. The only condition is that you need to want to start running. “Every person who joins our group receives proper instructions on how to train and the support of a group of really nice people,” says Tyszuk, who started training five years ago. “One day I got off the couch, put sneakers and shorts on and just went running,” he remembers.

At that time he didn’t think that he would ever run a marathon. It seemed to him impossible. Now he has taken part in three New York marathons and recently he was accepted into the Boston marathon. “This one is the most difficult one to get into. Myself and one other person from our club – Marta – managed to qualify. It is not that it is better or worse than the New York marathon, it is just different and the atmosphere during the run is incredible. There are no poor runners there. Nobody gets there by chance,” says Artur Tyszka.

Most members from the Polska Running Team run in the New York City Marathon. This year the group will count over 60 people, much more than last year. But joining PRT doesn’t mean one has to compete in races and marathons. One can run just for fun. “Whoever likes running should join us. We will give them tips on how to run responsibly. I sometimes see people run with their faces crimson red and gasping for air. That calls for harm and injury. Problems like knee pain and others result from improper preparation. Many people don’t stretch before running, and their muscles and bones are stiff from sitting at their desks. They need to be slowly broken into physical activity,” says Tyszuk.

In order to join the Polska Running Team one just needs to show up at one of the trainings. Members of the Polska Running Team train on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. at Juniper Valley Park in Queens, and on the weekends, most often at Central Park. “The youngest members are 6 years old and I must proudly say that our kids score high in runs. The girls team also does very well. They are fifth in the second league of the New York Road Runners (NYRR). The guys are in the lead of the second league of the NYRR. We practically take part in most of the 60 runs in the season,” says Tyszuk, pointing out that freshmen don’t need to compete in runs. “The most important thing is the adrenaline. It makes you love life even more,” he concludes.

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