Israeli ultra-Orthodox marathon runner Bracha “Beatie” Deutsch said she may not participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics even if she eventually qualifies, after organizers announced that the race had been rescheduled to take place on a Saturday.
The mother of five from Jerusalem, an immigrant from New Jersey, has been running for the past four years, and once completed a marathon while seven months pregnant. She has won the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem marathons, as well as the national championship.
In May, Deutsch became the first ultra-Orthodox woman to win an international athletics competition, finishing first among the women in the 21-kilometer (13-mile) half-marathon race in Riga, Latvia, clocking at 1 hour, 17 minutes and 34 seconds.
She had next set her sights on the the coming Olympic Games. But in recent days, it was announced that, for various scheduling reasons, the marathon would be moved be several days and is now set to take place during the Jewish Sabbath.
“I felt like I was punched in the stomach,” she wrote in an Instagram post.
“When I decided to pursue my Olympic goal in January, the first thing I did was check the marathon date to make sure it wouldn’t conflict with Shabbos,” she said. “It was scheduled for Sunday August 2 and so I knew I could compete. When they announced the World Championships would take place on Shabbos, I remember not even feeling disappointed because I knew I had the Olympics. There have been several other competitions that were on Shabbos, but it’s never even been a question for me.”
Deutsch said she had invested a lot of herself in the Olympic dream by now. She said she believed “it might be possible to change the date” and promised to continue to train hard regardless.
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“It’s hard to fully invest myself when I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to run but life isn’t always about the results, sometimes the journey is even more important.”
Deutsch has not yet made the standard to qualify for the Olympics, but is believed to have a real chance at doing so.
“I may not make the standard or I may not be able to run a race that is on Shabbat. But one thing I do know is that I will continue to proudly represent what it means to be an Orthodox Jewish women and professional runner for Israel,” she said.