Running Reflections; How Running Transformed My Life

Eight months ago, if someone would have asked me if I would ever consider running 10 km (6.2 miles) I would have laughed at them! But, about six months ago an opportunity came my way — a relative of mine, who had started running, told me about a program called “RabbisCanRun.” Looking at myself in the mirror, I realized that the “quarantine 15” hadn’t evaporated and had, in fact, increased to a point where I knew I had to do something active. So, I took the hardest step of all and signed up for the program. 10K. 3 months. In my mind, there was no way. But I started training. Coach K, the coordinator of the program is incredible. During my first 10-minute run, I got to about 4 minutes when I decided I couldn’t run anymore. But then my brain said, just get to the next tree, the next driveway…and to my astonishment, I made it 10 minutes of jogging/running! Slowly, slowly, twice a week, week by week, with unbelievable Siyata Dishmaya, my runs got longer. And longer. Until January 11, 2022, I ran 10K in Florida with 29 other Rabbeim (some were running 13.1 miles and Rabbi Nachi Klein of Young Israel of Northridge and a Rebbe at Valley Torah Girls ran an inspirational 18 miles). I noticed that without any intent to do so, I smiled the whole run! And the best part? As I crossed the finish line the words “Ain Od Milvado” (there is nobody but Hashem) were pumping through my headphones!

Something very important I learned early on in this program is that running is not simply a physical endeavor of putting one foot in front of the other. It’s not just a form of exercise to keep our body in shape (which in itself is a fulfillment of a Mitzvah to care for one’s body). It becomes a very spiritual activity that we can use to increase our connection with Hashem – our appreciation for everything He gives us. Most of all, when you’re at that point where you feel you just can’t go any further, you learn the ability to reach deep within your Neshama and Daven with all your heart to Hashem to give you the strength to accomplish your particular goal.

As crazy as it sounds, I have come to love and enjoy running – the alone time to clarify my thoughts, make a Cheshbon Hanefesh regarding my Avodas Hashem, listen to a Shiur, or even be inspired by some incredible, pumping Jewish music! (I’m happy to share my Apple Music playlist!)

There is so much to unpack here that we can apply to other areas of our lives – once someone takes on a commitment like this and actively works toward achieving it, the words “I can’t do it” start to disappear from one’s vocabulary – the words only come out when the Yetzer Hora REALLY wants to get you. It teaches us the importance of slow and steady growth through consistency, to reach any goal that we set for ourselves, and then surpass it. Life is a down escalator, so upward growth requires immense effort and application. Distance running is also a competition against oneself – yes, marathons have winners but the reason why tens of thousands of people enter them is for their personal achievement.

I have grown in many areas (well, also shrunk physically) through this journey that I have just begun, and I, Bli Neder, plan to keep up. If you are looking for a challenge feel free to ask more! If we have enough interest perhaps a Valley Torah marathon is warranted…!

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