The youngest female marathoner is propelled by Jewish pride

Magen David-wearing teen didn’t let Palestinian flags put her off the London Marathon


The youngest female London Marathon runner, Maya Woolf, turned 18 just five days before the race, but her confidence is far beyond her years.

With a large Magen David visible above her running kit, Maya said: “It’s right there so everyone can see it. I’m proud of it.” Her father bought Woolf the necklace shortly after her Bat mitzvah, and “I have not taken it off since,” she said. “It’s a very big one, and I’m glad,” the West London sixth-former added.

Woolf asked her dad before the run if it would be safe to wear the necklace. “He told me to do it and be proud.”

Along the 26.2-mile course, Woolf’s necklace stood out.

Around 10k into the race, the young Jewish runner started noticing Palestinian flags, “about one every 20 metres until the end. There were loads around Canary Wharf. It was difficult […] I was by myself, and it upset me.”

The teen called her dad via her wireless headphones, and he offered moral support. She spotted her devoted family – parents, sister, friends and boyfriend – seven times along the route.

In a touching moment after the race, Woolf met the oldest marathon runner, 81-year-old Eileen Hieron. A video of the interaction went viral on social media and Woolf has been subjected to some antisemitic comments. Under a post on TikTok, she received a barrage of Palestinian flags.

“It was strange to me because my post had nothing to do with being Jewish. It was just about running the marathon,” she said.

“On the other hand, I received so much support from people telling me how brave I am to have worn my Star of David,” she added, and she loved seeing someone waving an Israeli flag along the track.

Woolf, who attends West London synagogue, describes herself as “the most religious member of my family”. She volunteers for her community and runs the Jewish Society at Godolphin and Latymer School, where she has helped to organise the school’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day events.

In her final year of school, running is essential to Woolf’s revision process and has helped her mental health as she prepares for her exams. “Running brings me a positive release.”

“Sport has helped me mentally so much. Running helps clear my mind. As someone who has been running for a while, I feel safer running around than I do being still,” she went on.

Woolf chose to raise money for Greenhouse Sports and has gathered over three times the £2,500 required of marathon runners, raising a whopping £8,000 for the charity. Greenhouse Sports helps disadvantaged children through mentoring and coaching to improve their life chances. “I went to one of their basketball coaching sessions and saw what a positive impact it has,” she said.

The energy on the marathon motivated Woolf, “One girl stopped to help me stretch my calf cramp. Left and right, people were asking if runners were okay. People were so kind.”

Propelled to run the marathon again, Woolf would like to try New York and Paris next.

Until then, the teen is preparing for her first International Baccalaureate exam and deciding between university in America and a gap year. In between revision sessions, she is off for another run around her racecourse – Hyde Park, Battersea and Hammersmith. “Marathon training has taught me I can run anywhere.”

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