After months of training and fundraising, our five-person New England team joined 120 Team Yachad participants in Miami for an action-packed weekend, culminating in the marathon and half marathon.

IMG_2016
Becca, Tara and Ilana representing New England at Havdalah on Saturday night.

Our team consisted of a full-time Yachad staff member (me), two peer participants, a high school volunteer and a parent of two of our members.

We would not have been able to get there without the help of our friends, family and extended community. Our New England team worked hard and was able to raise $15,606! This will go directly to our inclusive programming to serve our community on a daily basis.

It was an incredible, challenging, whirlwind experience. We arrived at our Miami Beach hotel after an early morning flight and immediately knew we were not in Boston anymore. With a temperature change of over 50 degrees, it was a welcome change from the weather we’d been used to over the past few months.

Before Shabbat, we had the chance to explore the Marathon Expo. In addition to the free swag and runners’ gear for sale, our runner and frequent Yachad volunteer Tara Gordon was especially excited about a pair of sneakers on display.

“I was so excited when I saw the Nike Vaporfly 4% at the expo! One of my running heroes, Shalane Flanagan, was wearing those shoes during her historic win of the New York City Marathon this past year,” Tara said. “Naturally, they are now very popular among athletes. Too bad I couldn’t walk away with a pair of my own!”

Tara shoe
Tara poses with the Nike Vaporfly at the Marathon Expo.

We were privileged to spend Shabbat in beautiful (and warm!) Miami Beach with people from Yachad chapters all over North America. The Shabbat experience was especially meaningful to high-school student Eliezer Ehrenkranz, who serves on the Maimonides Yachad Club’s board as well as Yachad’s national high school board.

“The Shabbaton helped me connect with old friends from Yachad and create new ones as well!” Eliezer explained. “I knew that when I was running, I was not only doing it for myself, but for my whole Yachad community.”

DSC_0032-2
Eliezer finishing the race.

After Shabbat, a pre-race pasta party was followed by a surprise magic show, and then it was off to bed. Sunday would be another super early morning, with wakeup at 3:15 a.m. and breakfast at 3:45 a.m. Even so, we were all smiles as we put on our Team Yachad orange and blue and boarded the buses to the starting line.

While four of the five of us were running the half marathon, Ethan Corey, whose two sons are Yachad members and frequent program participants, braved the full marathon. The race wasn’t easy due to the weather with its high humidity and wind, but Ethan pushed through.

“Despite my conscious efforts to take it slowly, my calves, hamstrings and thighs all eventually began to rebel. But I pushed myself on and was able to run all 26 miles and 385 yards,” Ethan said. “That, in and of itself, was an accomplishment. The Miami Marathon was a challenge for me on Sunday. The individuals on whose behalf I ran face challenges of their own every day.”

DSC_1159-2
Ethan during the marathon.

Even though we were all going at different paces, every time a Yachad runner spotted another team member, smiles, high fives and encouragement were exchanged. This helped us through the harder miles to get to our end goal: the finish line.

As Becca Newman, another of our advisors and frequent volunteers, put it: “Crossing the finish line was incredible. I not only just accomplished a huge personal goal, but I knew Yachad would benefit greatly from our efforts. Every mile translates to more inclusion!”

Ilana and Becca during their race.
Ilana and Becca during their race.

For Tara, this was the second time crossing that finish line.

“I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity again. Yachad has given me so much, and it felt amazing to give back, especially by doing one of my favorite things, which is running!” Tara said.

Even though we were all feeling worn out, completing the race was an amazing feeling. Knowing that our efforts would directly give back to a community we were each so connected to made it well worth our time, sweat and dedication.

This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here.