Sisterhood Blog

The Triathletes Leading the Pack

By Rebecca Honig Friedman

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We Jewish women tend not to be known for our athleticism (my junior high yeshiva basketball team’s championship record in the prep school league notwithstanding. Go Rams!). So it was particularly exciting to see so many Jewish women participating in the New York City Triathlon on Sunday.

Yes, I said triathlon! As in a Lance Armstrong-worthy competition. Sort of. Triathlon is a sport that combines swimming, biking and running in one three-part race. Armstrong announced he’ll compete in the crazily difficult and long Iron Man competition; the New York City Triathlon on Sunday was a more modest, but still grueling, Olympic-distance race, comprised of a 1.5K swim in the Hudson River, a 40K bike ride along the river, and a 10K run across W. 72nd Street and through Central Park. The point is most of us mere mortals wouldn’t attempt it. But the point is also, as I learned, many of us mere mortal Jewish women could do it, with the proper training and preparation.

Here’s some inspiration for you. Judging by the admittedly imprecise criteria of last names, two of the top three winners of the women’s Pro level race are likely Jewish — #1 Rebecca Wassner and #3 Margaret Shapiro. But perhaps more inspiring is the amateur-level group of women, and men, that was my reason for being at the race: Team One Family is a group of men and women who raced to raise money for the One Family Fund, an organization that helps victims of terrorism in Israel, and about which I am doing a story for The Jewish Channel’s “Week in Review.”

With 34 members, Team One Family had almost as many women (16) as men (18). And, compared to the fastest times for men and women in the race, Team One Family’s fastest woman (at 2:52:50 compared with the women’s winning 1:58:25) was relatively faster than its fastest man (2:50:59 compared to the men’s winning 1:48:50).

To be sure, most of the amateur-level competitors were less concerned with achieving a fast time than with just finishing the race at all, and watching them finish, I was struck by the diversity of those racing — not only in terms of gender and age (Team One Family’s members range from 23 to 49, and the age range of competitors generally was even wider) but also in terms of size and shape. There were certainly those with the chiseled, lean physique you’d expect from an athlete in peak physical condition, but more often the competitors looked pretty normal. Clearly in order to get as far as they did they had to be in good shape, and to train for weeks (Team One Family’s official training course lasted 16 weeks), but you wouldn’t know it to look at them.

Which made me think, if they can do it, I can do it.

So look for me at the finish line of next year’s New York City Triathlon. I probably won’t be there, but I like thinking that I could be.


Rebecca Honig Friedman writes about Jewish women’s issues on the Jewess blog at www.Jewess.Canonist.com and is a producer for The Jewish Channel.


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