New York – In what is possibly a first for the frum community, JRunners, a Brooklyn based organization is holding its first long distance relay race next week, to raise money for a 39 year old Flatbush father of five stricken with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), an incurable, degenerative, fatal condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The race, which will begin at 9 PM next Wednesday night in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park will cover 125 miles and will end at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, New York with a free carnival and a concert featuring Lipa Schmeltzer in addition to several of Jewish music’s brightest stars.
Jrunners, whose slogan is “We run for those who can’t”, was founded by Shmayie Friedman, Motti Katz and Chezky Rosenblum, all of Brooklyn, who hoped to combine the exhilaration of running with the spiritual high of raising money for a charitable cause. Jrunners was born when Chezky Rosenblum and Mutti Katz decided to pair Mutti’’s idea of a long distance relay race that was accessible to shomer Shabbos runners with Chezky’s desire to help raise money for someone he knew who was suffering from ALS.
This men’s only 22 hour marathon will be anything but typical. All the food will be kosher and not only are there two minyanim for Shachris, but they will be followed by divrei Torah from two prominent individuals, Rabbi Bentzion Shafier of The Shmuz and Rabbi Betzalel Rudinsky. Singer Shea Rubenstein will sing the National Anthem and Hatikva at the starting line and Brooklyn South Police Chief Joseph Fox, Dov Hikind and Chuck Schumer, among other dignitaries, will be in attendance at Prospect Park when the race kicks off. The 125 mile course will be split into 30 legs, with the race being run continuously by ten man teams. Each runner will run three legs of the race and will be driven to predetermined exchange spots so that they are on hand to run their leg of the race.
For those runners who need to rest, each team will be provided with an RV, which will have a bed, bath and shower. Five major exchange areas along the route will provide live music, kosher food and first aid services. The Fort Lee Exchange at the CNBC parking lot will feature a 10 PM – 3 AM kumzitz with Eli Beer while the Wesley Kosher Exchange in Monsey will be the site for both a 5:45 and a 7 AM Shachris minyan. Additionally, JM in the AM host Nachum Segal will broadcast his morning radio show live from the Monsey Exchange location.
The route for the race begins in Prospect Park and takes the runners over the Brooklyn Bridge, up the West Side of Manhattan, over the George Washington Bridge, up Route 9W along the Hudson River, through Monsey and Harriman State Park. Runners will continue through Orange County into Sullivan County, taking them through Monticello, Kiamesha Lake, Fallsburg and finally to Loch Sheldrake with the finish line located at Sullivan County Community College. Runners and volunteers will enjoy a barbeque at the finish line. The general public is invited to a gala carnival featuring Uncle Moishy, rides, games and food followed by a free concert, featuring Lipa Schmeltzer, Shloime Dachs, Shea Rubenstein, Eitan Katz, Dovid Stein, Mendy Worsch and Eli Beer.
Currently, there are six full teams on board for Wednesday night’s race. Runners recruit sponsors for the race and while each runner has committed to raising a minimum of $1000 for the cause, there are runners who have already raised over $5000. Notable corporate sponsors include Garmin, Gatorade and Jana water. Ninety percent of the runners in the raise hail from the frum community.
In an interview, JRunners cofounder Mutti Katz told VIN News, “Expenses are astronomical for someone with ALS. We have been very successful raising money, even in such a terrible economy. We are hoping to be able to raise awareness for different causes and tzedakas in future races, while promoting health, fitness and fighting obesity.”
Plans are already underway for three future races, one of which will be a women’s only event.