Friday, May 20, 2011

JRunners Genesis

JRunners Genesis
Martin Bodek

In the beginning, there were just a few of us. There was me, and my dad, and Yossi Pancer and Ariel Kohane. There were a handful of other clustered groups of tribemembers scattered about the five boroughs whom we encountered on occasion at races, and thirty or so of us would meet annually at the New York City Marathon Minyan.

And we loved running, and partook of the races on the NYRR calendar, and ran our marathons and piled up big numbers and fast numbers, but our little club never grew beyond the few of us. It was a bit lonely out there on the roads, surrounded by fellow runners with whom we parted ways after races.

Oh sure, occasionally someone would say “shalom” and wish us Happy New Year before Rosh Hashana. We’d wear our yarmulkas like beacons but we were like lighthouses in the fog, unheeded, unseen and ignored.

We kept on though, piling up the numbers, 16 marathons for Ariel,15 for me, 9 for Yossi, 5 for my dad. Hundreds upon hundreds of local races in total, but no matter how much we ran together, we really ran alone, and waited for the day our friends would catch on, and join us. We would run together, dine together, partake together in each other’s lives and enjoy the fine bread of brotherhood.

The day came in the form of a flyer: a 125-mile 30-leg relay race from Brooklyn to the Catskills. A club called JRunners. There’d be music, there’d be food, there’d be camaraderie, there’d be adventure and excitement. They were running to raise funds for a friend stricken with ALS. They were looking for a few good men.

And before I could take my eyes off the flyer, the e-mails started pouring in from the people in my life who knew I’d been at this for a while and knew I’d be interested.

And before I could finish processing all these e-mails, I received a call from Matt Katz – one of the three founders of this nascent club – and before I hung up the phone, I was sold, I was running this thing.

There was a pre-race expo soon after in Brooklyn - the home I’d left for greener pastures - in the building where I worked more than a decade and a half before, and the floodgates of old friends opened up, and poured forth like a might stream. There was Martin Maltz, and Chesky Rand and Aaron Rosenfeld and dozens of others I had not placed my eyes upon in years and years and years. I was enveloped, I was back home, it was a reunion that nearly brought me to tears, but I held back; there’s no crying in running.

And the race was afoot a week later.

And we ran through the stifling humidity and the encompassing darkness and the rising sun and the pounding rain and the hot, hot heat of the day.

But neither sleeplessness nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

We finished amongst a flurry of palpable energy, as all of Brooklyn and its environs had turned out to cheer the runners on at the finish line.

Yet I was not there, having bailed after my last leg to return to Brooklyn in time to attend a friend’s wedding. So exhausted was I from my journey that I literally fell asleep in my soup, and smiled when I did so, knowing that I would return next year to experience that finish line that people talked about for months and months and months.

A week after the race, we gathered together for an appreciation event. The captains of each team told their amazing stories and held their audience in rapture. I learned that many fellow runners had run 7, 8, 9, 10 marathons, but all in the past two or three years! I praised G-d that I and Ariel and Yossi and my dad were not yet too old to enjoy this renaissance. In a short time, my total number of races run would no longer stand out in the crowd, but instead I would just be one in a collective, running with my band of brothers, breaking bread with them, rejoicing with them, enjoying life with them, gathering with 140 of them at the JRunners-revitalized International NYC Marathon Minyan.

And JRunners put on a 5k race in December of that year, and I partook, and I enjoyed. And JRunners put on a 5k race in the following April, and I partook, and I reveled. And JRunners has more races coming up, and the second relay races looms mightily in the approaching distance, and I will partake of this wonderfulness, and I will run with my brethren.

For we have climbed highest mountain, we have run through the fields, and we finally found what we were looking for.

For I see every thing that JRunners has made, and, behold, it is very good. And it was evening and it was morning, a new era.
Martin would be grateful if you sponsored his upcoming JRunners relay run benefiting the Ohr Meir Foundation:


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