The annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon usually is probably going to be very hard for Jewish participants this year.
In order to prepare for the marathon, runners tend to eat carbohydrate-laden foods in the days leading up to the race in order to prepare their bodies for the 26.2-mile run.
The 2011 marathon, however, is scheduled for October 9, only one day after Yom Kippur. This will make the race difficult for Jewish runners who will be fasting for 25 hours just before the marathon, and will be breaking the fast the night before it.
The Chicago Tribune quoted Bank of America officials who said they have recently received calls and e-mails from concerned Jewish runners who might be forced to cancel their participation.
“To Jewish runners, you're forcing a choice,” mortgage broker Barry Stoltze, who has run in four Chicago marathons, told The Chicago Tribune. “Either sacrifice your running and don't do the marathon this year, or sacrifice your religion and cheat on the fast.”
The marathon’s organizers explained that the scheduling process was years in the making. The marathon is generally held on Columbus Day weekend and is planned with city officials so as not to conflict with other events and to ensure that area venues can handle the thousands of out-of-town visitors.
“It's not a simple date change,” said marathon spokesman Jeremy Borling. “It's really wheels that are in motion several years in advance pointing to that one date.”
As for the question of whether or not to run after the fast, Dr. Sara Brown, a sports physician in Lincoln Park, recommended that fasting runners not take part as long runs after fasting can be dangerous.
Chicago marathon Race Director Dr. George Chiampas, on the other hand, said some runners who fast can run the next day and that should a runner have the proper nutrients, the Yom Kippur fast would not harm the body enough to be dangerous.
“If they've done it in the past, and they feel they can get back to baseline, that should suffice,” Chiampas said. “It's not a generalization for every runner.”
Chuck Aron, who has participated in six marathons, plans to run his seventh consecutive Chicago Marathon despite it taking place after Yom Kippur.
“I cannot speak for every Jew, but I know I will be running the marathon this year. I know that I will be doing a form of fasting,” Aron told WLS-TV in Chicago. He added that Judaism requires helping to make the world a better place and if he does not run, he will not accomplish this.
“In my opinion, the fact that I'm raising money for these three worthy charities, for me not to run would not make the world a better place,” he said.
Meanwhile, the marathon’s organizers have said they will try to accommodate the Jewish runners.
“It's a personal choice, obviously. We are sensitive to that, and we're looking at ways that as we move to the planning phase through the spring and fall of adjusting some things that can accommodate those that decide to participate,” Marathon Director Carey Pinkowski told WLS-TV.