In Miami last week, American-Israeli Beatie Deutsch ran the half marathon — her first race in the U.S. — in one hour and 16 minutes. Deutsch, who brands herself as the “marathon mother,” has been making headlines as an Orthodox woman who competes in a modest garb of skirt, long sleeves and headscarf.
She won that Feb. 6 half marathon, and three days later was at the University of Maryland to speak about the lessons she’s learned since she took up the sport four years ago.
“The truth is, that if you had told me four years ago that I’d be standing here tonight saying, ‘Hi, I’m the national marathon champion of Israel. I’m a candidate qualified for Tokyo 2020 Olympics and I’m a Nike athlete,’ I would have laughed in your face,” Deutsch told 70 students in the university’s Adele H. Stamp Student Union. “Because four years ago, I wasn’t running at all. The most running I was doing was running after my four kids around the couch.”
Deutsch’s first marathon in 2016 was the Tel Aviv marathon, and she ran it again in 2017 — seven months pregnant. In 2018, she became the fastest Israeli woman, running the Jerusalem marathon, known for its challenging hilly route, in three hours and nine minutes.
She said that when she first started running, she simply wanted to cross the finish line of the Tel Aviv Marathon. But her husband convinced her to push herself. She ended up finishing in three hours and 27 minutes.
“If I hadn’t taken that risk, I would not be standing here today. You know why? Because stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that was challenging, scary, uncomfortable pressure, revealed a strength within me,” Deutsch said. “And I’ve learned to see the challenges in my life as opportunities. Every time you go through a challenge, a test that God sends you, you can ask yourself, ‘What am I discovering about myself that I didn’t know before? How is this helping me grow into becoming the best version of myself?’ It’s an opportunity for growth. That was my first marathon. After that, I was hooked on running.”
She said God has helped her accomplish these wins.
“I talk to God all the time. When I’m running, especially, it’s like my me-and-God time. But in races, definitely,” Deutsch said.
She said her mantra has become the words she spoke to herself during the 2019 Tiberias Israeli Championship marathon, which she won with a time of two hours and 42 minutes.
“The words I said in my head at that time were ‘God is with me every step of the way. And anything is possible.’”
She continued to push herself to run faster and faster. “I saw there’s another man in front of me and I caught up to him.”
She cut six minutes off her projected time.
After the Jerusalem marathon, Deutsch was proud to become the fastest Israeli woman.
“But what I’m more proud of is the fact that it made a lot of headlines. Because people were surprised, like, ‘Oh my gosh, mom of five could win races.’ Or, ‘Oh my goodness, you could run in a skirt and win a race?’ Yes, you can.”
The Meor Maryland Jewish campus organization sponsored Deutsch’s appearance. Rabbi Ari Koretzky, Meor’s executive director, said he knew Deutsch before she made aliyah.
Watching her become a world-famous runner has been “pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a source of pride for the Jewish community and certainly for the people who watched her. She’s just such a likable, cheerful, upbeat, good person.”
Deutsch is trying to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but the marathon date has been moved to a Saturday. She said she will not compete on Shabbat.
A student asked, “What would it mean to you to represent Israel, if you are able to run in the Olympics?”
“When I just won the Miami half marathon, it was emotional to be standing on the podium and holding the Israeli flag,” Deutsch replied. “To go to Tokyo and represent Israel is an opportunity for the whole world to see a proud Jewish woman. A lot of the world thinks of religious moms as oppressed in the kitchen and we’re not, you know? We’re out there we’re pursuing our dreams. We’re passionate.”