Running Through 3000 Years of History


By, Tamara Kahn, Current MMY Student 

On Friday morning, March 9, approximately 35,000 people participated in the Jerusalem Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10k, or 5k, and a portion of those people were MMY students. The MMY administration supported the race and encouraged students to run. They allowed organizations to come to present their charities, they hung up posters of encouragement, and they even provided a pre-race pasta party for runners.

The Jerusalem Half-Marathon was the third half-marathon in which I participated, and it was a wholly different experience from my two previous races. I ran both my previous half-marathons in my home state of Florida, one in Miami for Friendship Circle, and one in Ft. Lauderdale for HASC, and this year I was privileged to represent Gift of Life in the run through this holy city that has become my home since August. The terrain in Florida, the flattest state in the United States, does not compare to the vast hills of Yerushalayim. Since the 10k and a 5k options exist here as opposed to in Florida which only has the half-marathon and marathon options, many more people participated in the Jerusalem run than in the Florida runs. However, despite my training over the past several months for this highly anticipated race, during this race, I walked and did not run.

Training for a marathon is no easy feat, but training during a seminary gap year, especially in a seminary as focused and as busy as MMY, is nothing short of difficult. The major challenge to training aside from laziness, was the lack of time. This is our year for learning and growth, and there are always errands to run and places to be. The major struggle I encountered was attempting to balance my training with extra learning and chevruta study, spending time with friends, and fitting in three meals a day. Since I arrived at MMY, I have been motivated to exercise as often as possible, taking advantage of the exercise room downstairs and the running path by Tachana Rishona, which is where I did most of my training. Not only is exercise important to me physically, but mentally, as well; running and exercising allows me to clear my head and relieve any built up stress or tension. Since exercise is so important to me, I was never willing to sacrifice it. But as time went on and my priorities shifted, I had to keep rearranging my schedule to accommodate it, and I realized that my lunch and dinner breaks were too precious. So I began rising extra early to exercise in the mornings, before class began.

About a month before the race, I felt pain in my leg after one of my long runs, and it stalled my training process and inhibited my ability to run. I had reached my 10 mile run on my training schedule and I grew extremely frustrated, but I knew running more with my injury would only make it worse.

Although I did not run, I walked the 13.1 miles with a fellow MMYer, who also usually runs half-marathons. It was a different, yet memorable, experience. We were accustomed to the pressure and excitement of finishing within a certain time frame and seeing months of training pay off; the feelings one usually experiences before beginning the run. But this time we marveled at the throngs of people around us and were able to take in and appreciate all the views of Yerushalayim and notice the familiar streets and neighborhoods that we passed.

The night preceding the marathon, many of the organizations host pasta parties in order to provide their runners with carbohydrates before the race. In order not to compromise our Torah learning, which is why we are here this year after all, MMY maintained a regular Night Seder and in addition asked the runners to compile a list of different types of pastas and provided us with our own pasta party during dinner.

The marathon involved the majority of MMY students, even those who did not actually run themselves. The half-marathon and marathon route passes MMY, so some girls cheered, made posters, and provided some first aid assistance on Derech Chevron. Additionally, many girls attended a mishmar that I gave at the beginning of the week regarding running and the marathon.

In my mishmar, I discussed the benefits of exercise, including some excerpts from the Rambam in his Mishnah Torah Hilchot Deot regarding living a healthy lifestyle. Then I brought examples of people in Tanach running for matters of importance, especially to report news. The main essence of the mishmar was the idea of Zrizut, loosely translated as "running for Mitzvot", and I brought sources that developed and explained this concept and how to practically apply it to our lives, including many excerpts from the Messilat Yesharim. Running is not inherently good or bad so I discussed how we can potentially run towards evil as well, which is why we have to focus on channeling our efforts for the good. Running also conveys a message of strength; not only physical, but also in overcoming laziness and strengthening ourselves to do Mitzvot. My final two points were to know your body’s limits and to go through the proper process, not overextending and not skipping the necessary steps to achieve a goal - which relates to both Torah study and running. Rabbi Emmett pointed out that the name of Hashem equals twenty-six, which is the number of miles in a marathon. Ultimately, we run for things we consider important to us, and by valuing Judaism and Mitzvot, we should come to run for them in order to properly serve Hashem.


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