Mom of five has a major task on her to-do list: train for the Olympics
Beatie Deutsch only took up running four years ago, but has already qualified for the Summer Olympics.
It's not often you see a woman who's seven months pregnant running a marathon. But Beatie Deutsch is anything but typical.
The 30-year-old mother of five is ranked as one of the top women marathon runners in the world and, as of today, has qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She was raised in New Jersey, but will be representing Israel – a country where she has lived for the past decade.
What makes her story even more impressive is that, unlike many Olympic hopefuls who have been training their whole lives, Deutsch only took up running four years ago. "I think a lot of us could be going through our life not really tapping into our full potential," she told From The Grapevine when we reached her by phone, her children playing in the background. "That's why I think it's good to challenge ourselves, to do things that we wouldn't necessarily have thought we could do, but to try it out."
Why train for a marathon?
That experiment has certainly paid off for Deutsch, who took up running on a lark. "I was really out of shape after having four kids in six years," she explained. "So I set the goal for myself of running a marathon and that helped me. I needed something to be motivated to get out there and train every day. Running is great because you can do it on your own free time, you don't need to invest any money and you just get out there and do it. I loved it from the beginning and it was just great. I didn't ever, ever expect it to take me to this."
Her first race was the 2016 Tel Aviv Marathon. She finished that race in less than three-and-a-half hours, a remarkable showing for a debut outing. Toward the end of the 26-mile route, she sped past many of her competitors and, out of thousands of runners, she was the fourth woman to cross the finish line. "I honestly didn't know anything about running," she admitted.
The following year, she ran the Tel Aviv Marathon again, this time while seven months pregnant. "I don't know why people get so shocked about it," she said with a laugh. "I really wanted to stay healthy and in shape during pregnancy. I found running so beneficial – both physically and mentally. I feel like when you're pregnant, you have to take care of yourself the most, and I felt like running was something really enjoyable to me. The goal of the marathon just helped me stay focused to train because you also have a million excuses when you're pregnant."
This year, when she ran the Tel Aviv Half-Marathon, she came in first place in the women's division.
Motherhood, marathoning and a good cause
She believes that being a professional runner and a professional mom go hand in hand. "I would say it's a good job for a mom, because all the things you need to do to be a good athlete are things you should be doing to be a good mom," said Deutsch, aka the “Marathon Mother” as she’s known on Instagram. Between running, swimming and strength training, she exercises an average of two hours a day. "I believe when I run I'm able to spread a message of empowerment to women that you can go out there and do something you're passionate about and still be 100% devoted to your family, and also how important it is to take care of ourselves as moms."
Hoping to add more purpose to her newfound fame – the Israeli press has been tracking her with pride, dubbing her "Speedy Beatie" – Deutsch uses her running as a way to raise money for a charity that's close to her heart. Her husband's cousin, a teenager named Daniella Pardes, took her own life after suffering from anorexia. In her memory, Beit Daniella was born. The nonprofit organization provides a recovery center for youth who are struggling with mental health issues. Deutsch said her family wanted to create a safe space, "a transition center for kids who are coming out of the hospital if they're struggling with mental health issues and give them somewhere to ease that transition before they're ready to go back to school full time." The center offers everything from educational classes to dog and horse therapy. "They really learn to find their strengths again, because coming out of the hospital is probably the lowest point in their life," she said of the teenagers there.
That mission is helping fuel her Olympic dreams. At the Tiberias Marathon in Israel last month, Deutsch was the fastest woman in the race, coming in first place. This past September, she finished the Cape Town Marathon in two hours and thirty-six minutes. That's a few minutes shy of her personal best of 2:29, a time that qualifies her for the Olympics. She will try to shave even more time off when she competes in the Rotterdam Marathon this April. (While she is currently qualified for the Olympics and ranked #76 out of 80 open spots, the window of eligibility remains open until May 31.)
It's all pretty remarkable for someone who started her athletic career in her late 20s. "I always tell people to dream big, set huge goals for yourself. We tend to get caught up in the place we are right now and have tunnel vision and are limited in what we see of ourselves," said Deutsch, who now travels the world as a motivational speaker. "But the sky's the limit and we need to be willing to not be confined by our own perceptions of what we think we're capable of."
The diminutive Deutsch is well aware of transforming expectations. "I'm barely 5 feet," she said. "I'm 4'11" and three quarters," a far cry from the typical runner with long legs. "I always say this to people: don't be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Because when you take those risks and do things which are completely scary, you don't know whether you're going to succeed or fail. Ultimately, they lead you to discovering strengths within yourself that you didn't even know existed."
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