Running for Spite

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28 Oct 2015
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz.
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

A number of people have been, and will be, writing about why they are running for Team Yachad in the Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon. Many of these pieces will speak of the good work that Yachad does. As you may be aware, Yachad—the National Jewish Council for Disabilities—is an agency of the Orthodox Union whose raison d’être is to promote inclusion within the greater community for those with developmental and other disabilities. I remember witnessing the founding of Yachad during my involvement with NCSY in the [decade redacted to protect the author’s advanced age] and it’s gratifying to see the incredible force that they’ve become and the tens of thousands of lives that they’ve changed.

Running for Yachad is a great thing. I applaud, support and encourage everyone who is generous-hearted enough to exert the effort of running 13.1 miles (or 26.2 miles in the case of the full marathon) for the cause. I, unfortunately, am not so generous. I’m more the petty-and-vindictive type. I’m running for spite.

I had forgotten how petty and vindictive I am until I read a Timehop yesterday. Timehop is an app that shows you your Facebook posts each day from that date in previous years. Apparently, in October 2012, I posted a status to the effect that I had been thinking about training for a half-marathon in 2014 but that reality kept sinking in. When you say something like that, you get two types of reaction (aside from deafening silence)—encouragement and skepticism. Encouragement is great but “you can do it” isn’t as powerful a motivator as disproving those who think you can’t. When it comes to motivation, saying “I’ll show them” to a handful of people trumps proving that the majority’s faith in you isn’t misplaced.

And so, I ran my first half-marathon for Yachad in January 2014. I proved I could do it; achievement unlocked. Now I never have to run again.

But life doesn’t work that way.

11261828_10153430758773270_4745102439715844035_nYou see, I do CrossFit. (Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those articles!) In CrossFit, we do every type of physical activity—weightlifting, cardio, gymnastics – you name it. I was getting much stronger, and my endurance in general was vastly improved, but my running was not where I wanted it to be. So, this past summer, I engaged one of my coaches for private running lessons. Let me tell you, the results were dramatic. I was improving but I still wasn’t yet where I wanted to be. Knowing that I work better with a goal, I decided to commit to the half-marathon again, in January 2016. And so, I became obligated to run.

This decision was not without obstacles. During the course of my training, I hurt my knee. How? The physical therapist has no idea but based on the nature of the injury, he suspects heavy lifting was more likely the culprit than running. But no matter the cause, the result was the same: for the duration of my recovery, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t lift, I couldn’t jump. But that doesn’t mean I stayed home. I modified. I can’t box jump? I do step-ups. I can’t jump rope? I do med ball chest passes. I can’t run? I row. Got to keep on moving.

Happily, my injury has mostly healed, though I do have some residual soreness when I run. And now I run nearly daily. I do three-mile runs a few times a week, a few shorter runs and, once a week, an increasingly-longer run. My training is going much better than it did two years ago—I have much more breath and I sweat far less. But there’s one thing I didn’t tell you.

I hate running.

It’s true. I really do. Even with my iPod, I find it terribly monotonous. I would much rather use the time available to lift weights or box. So why do I force myself into situations where I have to run?

Because I want the benefits of running.

Running is good for a person on so many levels. It’s great for your cardiovascular health. It’s great for weight loss. Believe it or not, it’s great for your mood. And, as mentioned, I want to do it well in CrossFit. I’m never going to reap those benefits unless I put in the effort. So I suck it up. If I’m bored, I’m tired, it’s early, it’s late, it’s hot, it’s cold—it makes no difference. I don’t listen to my own excuses. I run.

In 2014, I ran to spite the naysayers. In 2016, I’m running to spite myself.

That was the mashal (the “fable”); here comes the nimshal (the “moral”):

We all have things we want to accomplish in life. It could be something physical, like losing weight. It could be something financial, like saving up for a vacation. It could be something spiritual, like finishing all of shas mishnayos. It could be anything. Whatever it is, if it’s worth doing, it’s going to take sacrifice. It may not always be easy. It may not always be fun. And you may encounter obstacles that force you to modify. That’s okay, so long as you don’t stop! If you want to reap the benefits, you have to put in the efforts and not listen to your own excuses.

Do it despite yourself.

Do it TO spite yourself.


Rabbi Jack Abramowitz, Editor of OU Torah, is nowhere near as petty and vindictive as he would have you believe for comedic effect. You can sponsor his run for Team Yachad at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.