May 25, 2019

Marathon Mother ‘Speedy Beatie’

Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch.

With a cascading brown sheitel, long sleeves and five young children in tow, 29-year-old Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch looks like 95 percent of her female neighbors in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof. Yet Deutsch is anything but orthodox. Having completed five marathons, Deutsch was crowned Israel’s champion when she won the Tiberias Marathon earlier this year with a formidable time of 2 hours and 42 minutes. A remarkable feat for anyone, much less a woman who stands at only 4.9 feet tall, is a mother to 5 children under the age of 8 – the youngest of whom is not yet 2 – and who only took up running some three years ago.

In 2015, Deutsch, or “Speedy Beatie” as she’s now known among friends, felt that something was missing in her life. “I had lost touch with who I was,” she said. She had always loved sports but hadn’t done any exercise since the birth of her firstborn. She wanted to start running and knew that the only way to motivate herself was to set her heights high. So she signed up for the Tel Aviv Marathon and finished it in 3:27, unheard of for someone who had started running only four months earlier.

“It was a very empowering experience. We have no idea what we’re capable of and what inner strength we have,” she said. Still, she says, her success isn’t down to her. “My natural athleticism is clearly a gift from God and I can’t take credit for that. I fully acknowledge that my strength is coming from Him.”

“Bracha Deutsch’s next goal — with the encouragement of her rabbi — is to represent Israel in the 2020 Olympics. However, making an impact on other people’s lives, breaking down barriers between Israel’s secular and religious communities and creating Jewish unity is the real finish line for her.”

Deutsch immediately became hooked. She began running a few times a week, waking up at 5am and sometimes accompanied by her husband, a yeshiva teacher and amateur cyclist whom she calls her “biggest cheerleader.”

She is happy for her children to come and cheer her on in races, and in the process, be exposed to people who are not religious. “I want my children to be loving and tolerant,” she said. She added that motherhood is her most challenging undertaking to date. “Being a mother is ten times harder than any race.”

Even though she said she “never had plans to become a famous runner,” Deutsch quickly caught the Israeli media’s attention – not least of all because her unusual sportswear comprising an over-the-knee skirt, long-sleeved jersey and head covering. A year and a half after her first marathon, Deutsch completed another in 4:08. The reason for her “slow” finish time? She was 7 months pregnant.

Deutsch made aliya in 2009 from Passaic, NJ. She works full time for a non-profit called Olami but is phasing out of her job in order to concentrate more on her training and being there for her children. “I don’t think you can do it all,” she said. “You have to decide what you are going to make time for and what not. Learning to say ‘no’ is one of my biggest challenges, but I’m learning.”

Deutsch’s next goal – with the encouragement of her rabbi – is to represent Israel in the 2020 Olympics. She’d already beat the 2016 criteria of 2:45 but it has since changed to 2:29. Deutsch is equanimous about her chances. “Most people who run in the Olympics, their whole lives are defined by that. Mine isn’t so if it doesn’t work out that’s okay.”

For Deutsch, making an impact on other people’s lives, breaking down barriers between Israel’s secular and religious communities and creating Jewish unity is the real finish line.

Deutsch is disarmingly candid about her relationship with God. “I’m a very spiritual person but in a very grounded way.” Every run is spent in constant conversation with God, she says, so hearing that she had inspired a young woman to begin talking to God was the greatest win.

“Making it to the Olympics is a side point,” she said.