Orthodox marathon mum with her eye on the 2024 Olympics

Champion runner explains how she juggles childcare with competing professionally for Israel


Most Olympians have more than enough to worry about in the run-up to the 2024 Paris Games: training, diet, getting enough rest and avoiding injury. But Beatie Deutsch, who hopes to represent Israel next year has one additional concern − that the women’s marathon will fall on Shabbat.

“Unfortunately, this was the case during the 2020 Olympics, so I couldn’t take part. My focus is now on making it to the Paris Olympics”, says Deutsch, an Orthodox Jew.

The 33-year-old mother of five, who always races in a skirt, started running eight years ago simply to get out of the house. She certainly did not imagine then that she would go on to compete in 12 marathons let alone win Israel’s national championships four times.

“I’d had four kids. I was an out-of-shape mum, and I was working full-time,” Deutsch says.

She made it her goal to run the Tel Aviv marathon and threw herself into training. Not only did Deutsch enjoy the physical gains, she also felt the mental benefits: “Running got all my endorphins going. It also made me a calmer person and a better mum. I realised I needed it for my mental health,” she says.

The fledgling athlete had expected to complete her first marathon in 4.5 hours but was “blown away” when she crossed the finish line in three hours and 27 minutes: “It was a life-changing moment, and it gave me such a strong feeling of empowerment. I thought, ‘I’m, not stopping here,’” she recalls.

While training for her second marathon, Deutsch, who moved to Israel from New Jersey in 2009, discovered she was expecting. She consulted her father, an obstetrician, on whether she should continue training. “He said that as long as I wasn’t new to running, which I wasn’t, it was fine.”

Deutsch completed her second marathon, in 2017, while seven months pregnant in just a little over four hours: “Another runner took a photo of me and shared it on social media. He wrote: 'This Orthodox, pregnant woman just beat me by 20 minutes'."

In 2018, Deutsch was the fastest woman at the Jerusalem marathon, with her signature running attire earning her nearly as much attention as her race time: “People were shocked that a mum of five, racing in a skirt and a headscarf could win the race,” she says.

Since then, Deutsch has competed in the Berlin, Tokyo, Seville and Cape Town marathons. In 2019, she gave up her job at a charity to become a professional athlete.

As Deutsch’s profile has grown, so too has her army of fans, which enthusiastically absorbs motivational Instagram posts from the “Marathon Mother” on how running can enhance all areas of life, including religion. Her reach extends far beyond Israel, with her videos and articles forming part of the charity Aish UK’s educational programme for young adults.

“When you are running, you are using your mind to really push your limits,” she says. “This can be applied to Jewish practice, as well as to character development.” How does she juggle her children, who range in age from six to 13, with the demands of being a pro-athlete?

“I run early in the morning, and I’ve finished by 10am. But all mothers have to find a balance between pursuing their passion and being there for their children,” she says.

Shabbat affords Deutsch precious quality time at home in Neve Michal, near Beit Shemesh.

The prohibition on competing in races on Shabbat applies, she says, because running is her job. While a gentle jog within her neighbourhood would technically be permissible, her rabbi advised her to err on the side of caution.

Observing Shabbat means that Deutsch will miss the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in August, but the Berlin marathon falling on Erev Yom Kippur won’t deter the Marathon Mother from running. She plans “to get a good IV in straight afterwards” to get some fluids into her body.

Deutsch is determined to use her platform as a force for good, and has raised around 450,000 shekels (£97,000) for Beit Daniella, the charity she set up in memory of her cousin to support youth who are struggling with their mental health.

She also sees herself as a role model for other mothers, and hopes she can help spur them on to take up running.

“Part of the problem is that people don’t think sports is compatible with having a family, ” she says. “I hope that if girls and women see me, they will want to do sports for themselves.”

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