Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been rescheduled to 2021. They just announced the specific dates for next year’s games and I’m doing everything I can to try and ensure the marathon isn’t rescheduled for Shabbat. It normally is always on a Sunday but in the Tokyo Olympics, things are a bit more complicated because it will be taking place outside the city in Sapporo, Japan. Here’s a letter I wrote explaining my request to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
My name is Beatie Deutsch and I am Israel’s national champion in the marathon, an Orthodox Jewish mother of five and have been training for the Olympics for the past year. First of all, I want to commend your decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I know it wasn’t easy to make, but I am truly grateful that you have prioritized the health and safety of the athletes and spectators. I believe that this will give every athlete an equal and fair chance to qualify, train and participate in the Olympics, at the right time, once we are all past the challenges of Coronavirus.
As you begin to plan and prepare for the upcoming games, I want to make one small request. I am an Orthodox, Shabbat observant woman and I cannot run on Saturday. Traditionally, the Olympic marathon for both men and women has always taken place on Sunday and it was originally scheduled this way for Tokyo 2020. My dream is to represent Israel in the marathon and before the Coronavirus hit I was on track to accomplish this goal (I made it to the list of top 80 and I had planned on running another marathon in April to hopefully hit the qualifying standard of 2:29:30 as well).
When I decided to pursue my Olympic goal in January 2018, the first thing I did was check the marathon date to make sure it wouldn’t conflict with the Sabbath. This past year, the World Championships were Friday night and I was not able to run in them, but the Olympics looked good. I’ve come a long way to try and reach this goal, and have invested a tremendous amount of myself to make this happen.
I didn’t have any track and field background in college or high school and only started training seriously with a coach a little over a year ago. As a mom of five young children, it hasn’t been easy to juggle it all but I’ve given everything I can to get here…waking up early to get my workouts in, traveling with all my kids to do an altitude training camp, squeezing in double runs with my kids on their bikes. I’ve overcome severe anemia and dealt with Celiac disease along the way. I have continued to observe my laws of modesty throughout, running every race in a skirt, long sleeves and head covering. Despite all the challenges, the opportunity to represent my country in the Olympic marathon is what lights my fire every single day. When they moved the date of the marathon in November, I was incredibly disappointed, and yet I continued to train and give it my all in the hopes that you, the IOC, could change the date.
Now that the Olympics have officially been postponed and every event needs to be rescheduled, I am asking you to please consider my request and make sure the women’s marathon is not scheduled for Saturday. I believe that sport can and should be made accessible to all humans, regardless of religion, background or race. I believe that sports are a powerful tool to unite us as individuals and break down barriers. And I believe that the Olympics is the optimal arena for this, an opportunity for athletes from around the world to compete at the highest level, but more importantly, connect, share and grow from each other.
My story is far from the typical Olympic athlete, and as such, I find myself in the position of role model to many others (especially women). I inspire them to dream big and that it’s never too late to chase our dreams, to purse our passions and balance motherhood with it. To achieve our goals while not compromising on our values. I have used my platform on social media to encourage and support other mother runners and female athletes. I have had thousands of followers express their disappointment when the date of the race was changed to Saturday. It would mean so much to me and them for me to proudly stand on the starting line of the Olympic marathon in 2021.
Thank you for your consideration,