Haredi Orthodox mother of 5 may have to give up Olympic dream over Shabbat

(Beatie Deutsch/Instagram)

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A haredi Orthodox mother of five may have to give up her dream of running in the marathon at the 2020 Olympics after the race was scheduled for a Saturday.

“I felt like I was punched in the stomach this morning,” Beatie Deutsch, 29, wrote late last week in a post on Facebook.

According to the post, when Deutsch first decided to pursue her Olympic goal nearly a year ago, the first thing she did was check to make sure she would be able to participate. She was relieved to learn that the marathon was set for the last Sunday of the games.

The women’s marathon was rescheduled after Tokyo Olympics organizers decided to relocate the race, news reports last week said.

Deutsch, the winner of the 2018 Jerusalem Marathon, wrote that she had skipped the World Championships and several other competitions because they were held on Shabbat. Asked recently about the challenges she faces as a haredi female runner, Deutsch said there really weren’t any and that running was “very compatible with my religious lifestyle.”

Not anymore.

“Suddenly things got real very quickly,” Deutsch, who ran the Tel Aviv Marathon in 2017 while seven months pregnant, wrote in her post. “Because I’ve been pretty public about my Olympic dream … and I’ve invested a whole lot to get myself there … and what if, what if after all that I make it and I can’t even run?!”

But Deutsch said she is not giving up.

“I will continue to train and push myself to the best of my ability to try and qualify,” she said. “Regardless of whether the race is switched or not, I’m not letting go yet. I am a fighter, I don’t give up easily and I will do whatever I can to get the Olympic marathon date changed.”

Deutsch, who moved to Israel from New Jersey in 2009, is known for running in a skirt, sleeves that fall below her elbow and a headscarf.

In May, Deutsch was the top female finisher in a 13-mile half-marathon race in Riga, Latvia, reportedly becoming the first haredi woman to win an international athletic competition.

She won the Tiberias Marathon in January in a time of 2 hours, 42 minutes, 18 seconds — the fifth best for a woman in Israeli history but short of the tougher new standard of 2:29:30 needed to qualify for the Olympics. Only 80 women will qualify for the games, with a cap of three per country.

“I may not make it to the Olympics,” she wrote. “I may not make the standard or I may not be able to run a race that is on Shabbat. But one thing I do know is that I will continue to proudly represent what it means to be an Orthodox Jewish women and professional runner for Israel.”

View this post on Instagram

About four years ago, I signed up for my first race ever, the Tel Aviv marathon 2016. . . It was a decision that changed my life forever and transformed me as a mother and wife. . I think one of the most powerful aspects of racing is the opportunity it gives us to get out of our comfort zones and stretch ourselves beyond what we ever thought possible. It’s the chance to reveal the deep strengths we have within, that we may never know existed. A race is so much more than the physical act of running, it’s the mental challenge that helps us develop and grow as human beings . I never imagined that when I signed up for my first marathon it would lead me to the path I’m on today… I had no idea what I was getting myself into either. All I wanted was some consistency in my life when it came to exercise, something to motivate me to get out the door and make time for myself and my body, despite all the craziness as a working mom of four young kids . When I registered for Tel Aviv, I didn’t even think I could run the marathon in 4 and a half hours. The only goal had for myself was to cross the finishline. And yet 4 months later, after slowly building up and following a training plan, I finished in 3 hours and 27 minutes. The most powerful lesson I’ve walked away with through all my marathon cycles and races is “YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU KNOW!” If you haven’t signed up for a race yet…@themiamimarathon is your chance! It doesn’t matter whether you have serious running goals or not, whether you’re an amateur or pro. Give yourself the gift of self-discovery, push yourself to do something a little beyond your comfort zone, set a goal and watch yourself accomplish it. . I’ll be running the Miami half Marathon in February and I want to invite you all to join me. There are going to be some amazing Jewish organizations running, hundreds of other runners and an awesome atmosphere. Don’t miss the Cyber Monday deals that offer great discounts for the race…I can’t wait to see you all there ❤️❤️ #raceday #timetofly #justdoit

A post shared by Beatie Deutsch (@marathonmother) on Dec 1, 2019 at 12:27pm PST