I was wrong, really wrong. Two months ago, after starting my latest running project, I was put in touch with a guy who was starting an organization, JRunners, for Jewish runners, along with two friends. Their first event was a 200K relay race. They were hoping to find 50-100 runners to run from Brooklyn to the Catskills, a distance of almost 125 miles. All proceeds would help Mendy, a friend of theirs who has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). I thought they were crazy. With three months to go and only 20 runners signed up, I was sure the race would be a flop. Not only that, it didn’t sound challenging or fun. After all, each runner would be running about 12 miles, less than the distance run each Sunday by serious runners. Intrigued, I signed on.
The race ended yesterday. (How cool is it that I can’t write “took place: yesterday, as it started Wednesday and lasted over 20 hours?) It was an incredible experience despite the fact that I was not one of the runners.
Among the highlights:
• Watching Chaim, only 12 years old, keeping up, and passing, the old guys
• Having a runner get so into his run that he ran across the Manhattan Bridge instead of the Brooklyn Bridge
• The first race in history, I have no doubt about this one, that had a 2 hour “time out” mid-race to make sure all runners who wanted to, had time to pray
• Blood, sweat and vomit (no tears, as far as I know) poured out by 60 runners
• Getting to produce and be interviewed on a 3 hour radio show (JM in the AM with Nachum Segal, who really is an amazing guy) that was broadcast from one of the legs of the race
• Driving with my buddy Roy from exchange point to exchange point and watching tired and excited runners give everything they had
• Watching a friend, Moishe Gamms run the last two legs of his race after his foot got run over. He even sprinted the last ¼ mile to give his team the victory
• Seeing the camaraderie develop among the runners despite the differences in race, religion, level of observance and age
• Being in such a good mood that I stayed calm when my car stuck in a ditch for 45 minutes when I pulled over to man one of the exchange points
• Spreading the word about ALS in the community (We really made a difference)
• Raising lots of money for Mendy and his family
• Getting to meet Mendy
I never could have imagined the incredible success that this event would be on so many levels. I never could have imagined enjoying a race so much, when I wasn’t running in it. I never could have imagined how much could be accomplished by over 100 people (runners, volunteers and more) who cared so much about a fellow Jew, who they had never met.
What’s next for me and for JRunners? I can only imagine.
PLEASE donate in my mom’s memory to help children with cancer: