Fastest Woman at Westwood Day's 5K is Now Training for Chicago Marathon


Photo courtesy of Galina Yatsenko. The Westwood Day 5k First Place Female is Galina Yatsenko, who sits with her dog, Mia, and her daughter, Helena, who is holding the winner's plaque.

Galina Yatsenko is a physicist turned stay-at-home mom and the fastest woman in Westwood Day’s 5K race this year. She finished the race on Saturday, September 17, 2022 with a time of 22:27. 

 “The 5K was a huge confidence booster because I have never ever run so fast in my life," says Ms. Yatsenko. "It was almost 2 minutes [improvement for] a personal record, and for a 5K personal record, it’s a lot.” 

Last year, her time on the same run had been around 24 minutes. This year, the weather may have helped her run time, and running on hills with faster friends helped her training.

Ms. Yatsenko was in climbing shoes before she was in running shoes. Once an avid rock climber, she switched to running only after a doctor advised her to stop climbing, due to arthritis in her hands. About five years ago, while living in Florida, she took up running to lose some weight and get in shape. She found that she loved it. Now a Westwood resident for about a year, she has continued running.

“It brought me calm. I’m a busy mom of three kids and it was time for myself. It made me feel better after, as well. You just go and don’t have to think about anything. Look around, see the beauty around . . . It was a meditative state for me.”

Another attraction for Ms. Yatsenko are the friends she has met in the running community. “Meeting people is a joy of running. All come to the sport with different life stories,” she says.

Ms. Yatsenko also has discovered that she loves racing. She calls it a “celebration of running.” She entered her first race soon after taking up the sport. It was an event organized by a local running store. She placed third in her age group, and the performance motivated her to continue.

But winning isn’t the goal, says Ms. Yatsenko. Rather she wants to simply continue improving her personal record. “It’s not a competition with other people, it’s always a competition with yourself, I would say,” she remarks.

Ms. Yatsenko completed her first half-marathon in 2018, finishing in 2h:2m. She has steadily improved since then, and in her last half-marathon in New Bedford, she cut her time to 1h:49m:30s.

Her next challenge will be running in the Chicago Marathon on October 9th, just a few weeks away. It will be her first major marathon. She gained entry to the race through a lottery. 

Training for the marathon is a journey, lasting about four months, she says. It involves running five times a week, often at 5:00 a.m. with a group of likewise dedicated runners from her running club, GNRC. Ms. Yatsenko tries to swim or cycle on her “days off.” She has been advised to train on flat ground, similar to what she will experience in Chicago. “But I think our Westwood hills make us stronger,” Ms. Yatsenko says.

Training can come with obstacles. Ms. Yatsenko has had a minor injury which kept her away from running for a few weeks. Her family has had COVID-19, and there have been other interruptions. A lot can happen in a person’s life, she notes.

But the biggest running challenge for Ms. Yatsenko has been to manage her excitement in a race and to keep calm. “I get very excited about any race. . . to go out as fast as I can. But the longer the distance, the greater the price of overexcitement,” she observes. The challenge is not to go too fast. A marathon requires a very easy pace for a very long time in order to complete it.

On her goals, Ms. Yatsenko shares, “I secretly probably want to achieve the Boston [Marathon] qualification because I’m very close to it on my last marathon. I was five minutes off. So, five minutes spread over 26 miles – it’s a little improvement that I need. I hope I got it if weather is good and I’m healthy.”

Then she adds, "I'm just a mom of three who likes to run."

Congratulations to Galina Yatsenko on her Westwood Day 5K win and thanks for speaking with Westwood Minute. Thanks also to Jen R. for facilitating.

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