JERUSALEM (VINnews) —When Beatie Deutsch sets her mind to something, she does it. This has been empirically proven over her meteoric career as a marathon runner. Just four years ago she had never even run as a hobby, let alone essayed to complete marathons. Yet she has not just regularly completed marathons since then, she has actually won them in style, making her one of the top three marathon runners in Israel at present. This would be a remarkable statistic in any circumstance, but Deutsch is even more unique because she is a mother of five (even running a marathon while she was pregnant with her fifth child!) and because as a Chareidi woman she runs in a knee-length skirt, leggings, a shirt with sleeves past her elbows and her hair covered.
In Michael and Beatie Deutsch’s home, her name has even become a figure of speech. “It’s a verb — to ‘Beatie’ something means to just force it until it goes,” Michael says. “Beatie sets her mind to something, and she does it.”
Whether she is tackling training runs in full clothing in 90-degree heat or entertaining her children — ages 9, 8, 6, 4 and 2 — at the beach while also squeezing in a workout, Deutsch is driven by a forceful willpower which enables her to successfully juggle her responsibilities as a mother and as a professional runner. She is even dreaming now of participating in the 2020 Olympics.
Deutsch wasn’t an athlete growing up, save for youth gymnastics and taekwondo (she earned a black belt). Her deeply religious family didn’t own a television, so she didn’t watch sports either. Giving birth to four children in five years didn’t help her maintain an interest in sports. But one day in 2015, she started running to get into better shape. “I just totally transformed. I was a better mother and wife,” Deutsch says. “As moms, we sometimes put ourselves last, thinking we’re doing everyone favors, but we do a much better job when we take care of ourselves first.”
Now Deutsch, who after her remarkable marathon success has won a sponsorship from Nike, is hoping to compete for Israel in the 2020 Olympics.
Deutsch immigrated to Israel at age 19 and met her husband soon afterwards. Although both were born in the US, they preferred to live in Israel as “it’s considered the holiest place you can live,” as Deutsch puts it.” Originally Deutsch worked for a nonprofit international Jewish organization but as her running career developed she gradually phased out her work until she turned professional last summer.
Deutsch only started training just five months before her first marathon in Tel Aviv in February 2016. She and Michael had initially guessed a four-hour, 30-minute time. She ended up at 3:27, finishing as the sixth woman overall. “It was really empowering,” Deutsch says.
She then set two goals: to run a marathon while pregnant and to win the hilly Jerusalem marathon. She achieved the first feat in Tel Aviv in 2017, at seven months pregnant and after a frantic scramble on a rented city bike to make the race after a transportation mishap. She still finished in 4:08.
After taking a few months off following the birth of her youngest daughter, Deutsch joined a running group. The coach often remarked how she “must be boiling” in her full attire. But others told Deutsch how encouraging it was to see her running in full clothing, balancing her dual passions of faith and fitness.
Recently she hired former professional runner Amit Ne’eman as her coach. He was concerned that Deutsch’s long sleeves and full skirts would slow her down and cause her to overheat, but he respected her wishes. “This is Beatie, dressed as she is, built as she is, with five children, OK. OK! Let’s go on and work with what we have,” Ne’eman says.
They have plenty to work with. In March 2018, Deutsch set an Israeli course record in the Jerusalem Marathon at 3:09:50, completing her second goal. The feat was even more impressive considering that a month and a half prior, she had learned that she was severely anemic and was diagnosed with celiac disease. She quickly adopted a gluten-free diet and worked to increase her iron levels.
She dedicated the Jerusalem victory to her cousin, 14-year-old Daniella Pardes, who had committed suicide three months earlier after suffering from anorexia. Deutsch continues to raise funding and awareness toward Beit Daniella, a rehab center for youth with psychological disorders founded in honor of her cousin, which she talks about after every race.
This summer, she turned professional and is hoping to qualify for the Olympics. She spent several weeks training at altitude in Mammoth Lakes, California, with her family joining her. While there, she met Olympic medalist and American record holder in the marathon, Deena Kastor.
“The traits of Beatie’s success can be attributed to many things, but the support from her family and her own determination stand out as superior,” says Kastor. She also says Deutsch could well make it to Tokyo: “The standards to qualify are high, but she has no limits.”
She runs 90 miles per week, typically completing two workouts a day. Beatie runs at 5:30 or 6 am while Michael watches the kids and then schedules her second workout for either late afternoon, with one of her children riding a bike alongside her, or late evening after her children are asleep. “Motherhood itself can be a full-time job,” Michael says. “Being a pro athlete definitely is.”
She has a few small sponsorships and she also receives funding from the National Olympic Committee, but the total doesn’t equal what she would make working a full-time job.
Through it all, Beatie smiles and encourages those around her, both in person and via her active ‘marathonmother’ Instagram account — where she’s open about the difficulties of her dual life.
“I’m a little bit disadvantaged [due to clothing], but every marathon, I’ve totally exceeded my expectations,” Deutsch says. “I feel blessed to do something I love, and I don’t know when I’d have this opportunity again.