MOSCOW: Alex, a 26 year-old IT specialist, said he quit smoking and started preparing for the Moscow marathon last year just two months before the event. He finished in 4 hours and 15 min and was "overcome by such a rush of emotion" that he stuck with running. He now jogs 2-3 times a week. Alex said he will take part in the Moscowmarathon this year and is starting to prepare for a triathlon next year. He said he decided to sign up for the marathon after seeing a photo of his friend completing the marathon. ''I thought I am no worse than him,'' he said. Alex said he started growing his beard last year and it now reaches 17-18 centimeters.
St. Petersburg: As I jogged along a St. Petersburg street, a young Russian guy stuck out his hand as I passed to give me a high-five. He had a smile on his face. I was shocked. I don’t recall ever being randomly high-fived by someone on the streets in Russia. After 10 seconds, I decided to turn around and catch up with him. Mikhail, 23, said he grew up in Ulyanovsk, moved 7 years ago to study in Moscow, where he now works as a programmer. He came to St. Petersburg to take part in a marathon. Though he has liked running since youth, he gave himself the goal last year to complete a marathon. The longest he has run to date is 26 km, which he did a few years ago after breaking up with his girlfriend as a way to release tension.