David Craig has a house just outside Kyiv, but he’s not flying home just for a visit.

The avid Spartan racer is hoping to use his sporting connections to get resources — clothing, medical supplies and a popular request, yeast — to the people of Ukraine.

On Tuesday he flew out of Jackson Hole Airport with a dozen bags, destined first for Warsaw, Poland, before Spartans there can get him through the border to Ukraine. At a time when hundreds of thousands are driving out of the country as refugees, Craig will join the handful of volunteer soldiers and humanitarians driving in.

Spartan racers compete on obstacle courses that test their mental and physical endurance, but Ukraine will be a different kind of test. Russia’s war on the country continues to intensify, with forces launching missiles in the western part of the country near the border with Poland.

Ukraine Relief

Craig secures and labels bags. Donors kicked in $15,000 for his trip, and United waived his bag fees.

Craig’s reasons for going aren’t entirely clear — his Kyiv property is more of a layover house for international travels than a family home — and his son, an East Coast financier, is struggling to understand his father’s decision. But Craig isn’t a guy to sit idle when he hears a cry for help.

The 64-year-old said he’s not afraid of Russian soldiers because “they won’t want to cross me.”

Craig is inspired by Ukraine’s cohort of Spartan racers who, like other volunteers, have bravely stepped up to slow Russia’s invasion. He said they call themselves the “300 Spartans of Ukraine,” alluding to the legend of 300 warriors who took on the Persian army at Thermopylae.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for his part, told his country: “I don’t want Ukraine’s history to be a legend about 300 Spartans. I want peace.”

Whether from bravery or unbridled optimism, Craig believes “Russia doesn’t stand a chance.”

When he first spoke to the News&Guide on March 2, Craig had already booked his plane ticket, confident he’d still be able to make it into the embattled country in two weeks.

He wasn’t blind to the brutality there. Instead, he was incessantly refreshing a Telegram page of gruesome war footage and reposting for his own audiences after running the Ukrainian captions through Google Translate.

On social media he found encouragement through old friends — people like Italian race director Angelo Zomegnan and Alexi Vovk, the Spartan franchisee who brought the popular obstacle courses to Ukraine.

David Craig departs for Ukraine

After checking 17 bags full of supplies David Craig walks through the Jackson Hole Airport to security in March, beginning his journey to Ukraine.

Craig isn’t a veteran of the niche sport, but since his first race in 2018 the unlikely athlete has proved himself in races across the world, frequently taking the podium for his age group.

Last December he ran in Abu Dhabi. He competed in the Ultra World Championship in Telluride, Colorado. And in Kyiv he raced a trifecta weekend.

To fund his travels, Craig has secured sponsorships from Jackson businesses like Eleanor’s Bar and Grill, The Bird, and Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream.

For this humanitarian mission, Craig said, his friends in Ukraine asked him one question: “How big of a truck are you going to bring?”

“I will do everything I can to help these people,” he vowed.

Donors backed Craig’s mission with $15,000 and United Airlines waived his bag fees.

He was still asking for a drone the day before his flight, going off a request from a Ukrainian soldier he said he knew.

David Craig departs for Ukraine

After unloading 17 bags full of supplies David Craig checks in with United Airlines at the Jackson Hole Airport as he departs for Ukraine on Tuesday. Craig, a competitive Spartan racer who lives in Jackson, plans to personally deliver the supplies using his connections in the global Spartan obstacle racing community.

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

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