Charedi marathon woman explains runaway success

Mother of five Beatie Deutsch took up running four years ago. Today she is one of Israel’s fastest women’s marathoners — and the face of a campaign to get people (virtually) running to Israel.


Charedi mother of five Beatie Deutsch took up running four years ago to get back into shape after the birth of her fourth child.

Today she is one of Israel’s fastest women’s marathoners — and the face of this month’s campaign for global Jewish engagement organisation Olami to get people to run for Israel.

Deutsch, 30, describes her athletic abilities as “a gift from God.

“When I show up to a start-line of a race, I really have trust that God is going to help me get through it, no matter what,” she told the JC. “One of my mantras is: ‘Hashem is with me every step of the way’.”

Back in 2016, the “marathon mum” set her sights on the 26 mile-plus endurance test because “having that goal really motivated me to get out the door four times a week. And once I started doing it, I just fell in love with it.”

Her first race was the Tel Aviv Marathon, where she was the sixth-fastest woman. Competing in the following year’s event, she was seven months pregnant with her fifth child, Nava, which she joked “didn’t make my time any faster”.

However, in 2018, she won in Jerusalem with a time of 3:09:50, setting a course record for Israeli women. And in 2019, she triumphed in the Tiberias Marathon — also the Israeli National Championships — finishing in 2:42:18, the fifth-best Israeli women’s result of all time.

Now Deutsch has set her sights on the Olympics in Tokyo, put back until next summer because of the pandemic.

She sees the postponement as a positive as it gives her a year to lobby the International Olympic Committee to move the women’s marathon from Shabbat, enabling her to compete. A lawyer is helping to fight her case.

“Most people think I’m crazy for even trying,” she says, noting that while the Olympic charter states the Games should not discriminate on the basis of religion, Muslim athletes at the 2012 Olympics in London had to balance fasting for Ramadan with their competitive schedule.

“If there’s no reason not to, we should be accommodating to people’s religious needs and I want to make a point for all religions.”

Deutsch’s adherence to Orthodox customs also entails modest sporting attire. She runs in a long-sleeved top, below-the-knee skirt and headscarf. This “makes a huge difference in your time and how you feel [running]”. But it is “not something I would ever change”.

Nicknamed “Speedy Beatie” from a young age, Deutsch grew up in a strictly Orthodox community in Passaic, New Jersey, where she attended a religious girls’ school.

Despite always being a “really active person”, there were “way, way less opportunities in formal sports for girls when I was growing up”.

She made aliyah in 2008 and now lives in Har Nof, near Jerusalem. Her husband Michael — a yeshivah teacher and keen cyclist — has encouraged her athletic pursuits and the family turns up at races to lend support. She has said that any criticism of her running from within the Charedi community does not concern her.

Deutsch wants to be a model for young Israeli girls, demonstrating that “you can pursue your athletic goals to the highest level without compromising your values.

“There’s a lot of stereotypes about religion and in a certain way there’s a lot of negativity — from both sides. I think I’ve been able to break down those barriers through my running.”

She also wanted to show, particularly in the Orthodox community, “that it’s possible to have a career in sports and raise a family”.

To keep her own children on board, she takes them on an occasional run.

And every victory is celebrated with a trip out to get ice-cream.

She balances training with family life by maintaining a precise schedule, getting up before her children in the morning to run.

The lockdown in Israel has had one advantage, allowing her to work on her speed without the pressure of preparing for the next race.

Deutsch is eager to help Olami’s Walk to Israel campaign, having worked for the organisation as a communications officer before deciding to focus on her athletics career.

She will be challenging individuals and teams from Jewish charities to walk or run 100 miles over August, fundraising in the process. The challenge launched this week with an online “worldwide warm-up”.

Deutsch recalls being initially sceptical about the idea, as 100 miles could seem “overwhelming”. But then she considered her own experiences — and “for me, how much taking that first step and committing to training for a marathon changed my life”.

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