By: Lisa Klug (Israel 21C)
It’s not every day that Europe’s largest sportswear manufacturer features an ultra-orthodox Jew on a billboard.
But that’s precisely what happened when Adidas portrayed Israeli national marathon and half marathon champion Beatie (Bracha) Deutsch in an ad campaign earlier this year along Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway.
The 31-year-old mother of five, who immigrated to Israel at the age of 19, recently appeared in the company’s “Impossible is Nothing” campaign in her signature look – a below-the-knees skirt, ¾-length sleeves, and a headscarf. But this isn’t the first time that American-born Deutsch, whose moniker on Instagram is @marathonmother, has defied stereotypes.
Nothing about her story is normal.
Deutsch, who narrowly missed competing for Israel in the Tokyo Olympics, came to the sport only five years ago. She began running after the birth of her fourth child – the fourth in six years.
After losing too many informal races at family reunions on the beach, Deutsch decided to commit herself to training for a marathon to get in shape. Her first official race was the 2016 Tel Aviv Marathon, which she ran with a time of 3 hours and 27 minutes.
Deutsch, who is a tiny 1.5 meters (4-foot-9) tall, ran her next marathon a year later, in 2017, when she was seven months pregnant, training until the day she gave birth.
Her race time for the marathon – 4:08:16, hinting at a great deal of untapped potential.
Deutsch went on to win half-marathon victories in Latvia and Tel Aviv in 2019 and Miami in 2020.
She also took Israel’s national championship, the Tiberias Marathon, in 2019, clocking 2:42:18, three minutes faster than the then most recent Olympic standard set in 2016. In 2020, she took the Tiberias women’s title at 2:32:25, shaving about 10 minutes off her previous time.
It hasn’t always been easy. In January 2018, shortly before the Jerusalem marathon, Deutsch was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease celiac, which leads to damage in the small intestine if you eat gluten.
“I was anemic for a while before I realized. I felt really weak and had to stop to catch my breath frequently,” says Deutsch, who now maintains a gluten-free diet. “Once I stopped eating gluten, my body started absorbing [iron].”
Then in 2020, she injured her left shin, and had to take six weeks off from running.
Deutsch had hoped to represent Israel at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, rescheduled from 2020. She set a personal record of 2:31:39 at an April qualifying race in England, but came in two minutes, nine seconds shy of the Olympic criterion.
“I initially qualified through the ranking system but then with the prolonged qualifying period, I had to hit the guaranteed standard of 2:29:30,” Deutsch explains. “I trained to run that time and was in the best shape of my life but unfortunately didn’t quite make it.”
For Deutsch, running has become a meditative experience. “I find running to be an incredible opportunity for prayer and to talk to God,” she tells ISRAEL21c.
Read more at: www.Israel21C.org