Tragedy interrupted the most recent runnings of the two most famous long-distance races in America. The bombing at the Boston Marathon in April shook the entire nation. And the New York City event last fall was canceled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In a gesture of solidarity, a longstanding institution at the NYC Marathon is reaching out to honor its visitors from Boston on November 3.
The 43rd New York City Marathon, with its field of 48,000 entrants, is expected to attract as many Jewish athletes from around the world as participate in the quadrennial World Maccabiah Games. And for the 30th straight year, the International Minyan for NYC Marathoners will be there to accommodate them. The outdoor morning services are held in a designated tent at the Fort Wadsworth staging ground on Staten Island, just minutes from the Verrazano Bridge starting line. The minyan has become a tradition at the 5-boro road race, and is now the oldest religious service at any sporting event in the world.
The inaugural service, in 1983, drew 26 participants, and over the years, the minyan has attracted thousands of Jewish runners from all across the United States and six continents. As many as 200 runners are expected to participate in three services this year, scheduled for 7:15, 8:15, and 9:15 a.m., to accommodate those assigned to the four starting waves of the race.
This year, for the fourth time in the marathon minyan history, the NYC Marathon will be run on rosh chodesh, a semi-holiday marking the start of the Jewish month. This will necessitate a longer service, to include reading from the Torah. Minyan organizers have announced that aliyos and other service honors will be offered first to mourners, and then to anyone who ran in this year’s Boston Marathon.
The NYC Marathon was previously run on rosh chodesh in 1986, 1993, and 2010. 1986 was also the year the NYC Marathon was moved from October to early November, a switch made by Fred Lebow, the late President of the NY Road Runners Club, at the request of the minyan, to avoid a conflict with Simchas Torah that year. The later date for the event has remained a fixture ever since, and this will be the last time this century that the first Sunday in November will coincide with the beginning of a Jewish month.
The minyan tent is located just two blocks inside the entrance to Fort Wadsworth, and is identified on all the site maps and in the race program. Runners are encouraged to bring their own prayer books, tefillin, and prayer shawls.
Because marathon officials now offer an incentive for runners not to check baggage with them at the start, JRunnersClub, the logistical manager of the minyan, will provide its own checking service, respectfully transporting these personal religious items to a secure location in Manhattan, close to the finish line. (This service extends only to religious items, and not to items of clothing or other personal belongings.)
The pickup location will be at Cong. Shearith Israel, the famed Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue at the corner of Central Park West and West 70th Street. Continuous minyans for Minchah will also be available for runners on the portico of the synagogue facing Central Park.
Join this truly unique experience for Jewish runners at the NYC Marathon, in celebration of the historic 30th International Minyan, and help salute those who ran in the Boston Marathon this year. For more information, contact minyan founder and director Peter Berkowsky of Livingston NJ (firstname.lastname@example.org, 973-477-7908) or JRunnersClub in Brooklyn (email@example.com). v