The Running Rabbi, Binyomin Davis, Qualifies for Boston Marathon

Rabbi Binyomin Davis with his wife Gevura Davis (Courtesy of Rabbi Binyomin Davis)

At his Kol Nidre service this past year, Rabbi Binyomin Davis told his Aish Chaim congregants a story.

In the 2022 Philadelphia Marathon, Davis was running with his son, Ezy, biking alongside him. Ezy could see his father racing hard but slowing down. So, he called out to his old man.

“Im lo achshav, eimatai?”

It’s Hebrew for, “If not now, when?” It’s also the famous line, attributed to Rabbi Hillel, from the Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) section of the Talmud.

Davis finished the race with a fast enough time, under three hours and 10 minutes, to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“That’s true for us. If not now, when? You want to wait another year? Five years? Ten years?” the rabbi asked his Main Line congregants. “We don’t know how many years God is going to bless us with.”

The rabbi, now 45, ran when he was a yeshiva student in Israel. But as he met his wife, Aish Chaim Joint Director Gevura Davis, and started raising their family, now six kids, he stopped. Then he picked up the hobby again in 2013 because he thought he was a little out of shape. Over time, his goal became to participate in running’s most prestigious U.S. event.

On April 15, he will.

“It’s about showing my family and people I work with, you can set a goal and achieve it,” he said.

When he started running again in 2013, Davis could only complete a mile.

“If you want to change the direction you’re on, it starts with the first change,” he said. “But then you get in a flow and rhythm, and you get good.”

Soon enough, Davis could run a 7-minute mile. Then he could finish two or three.

In 2015, he moved with his family to Elkins Park to run Etz Chaim, the outreach organization that eventually became Aish Chaim. There was a park near the office so the rabbi would run on occasion.

From left: Rabbi Binyomin Davis, son Baruch Davis and Rebbetzin Gevura Davis (Courtesy of Rabbi Binyomin Davis)

But the “big change” happened two years later, Davis said. That was when he went on vacation with his father-in-law. The older man was trying to get in shape and running 5Ks and 10Ks.

“He said, ‘Come out with me,’” the rabbi recalled.

Davis stuck with him for 6.2 miles in the hot South Carolina sun.

“I started doing 10Ks on my own,” he said.

Then in 2018, Davis went on an Etz Chaim trip to Israel with a man named Ken Kurtz. The man told the rabbi about marathoning. A couple of months later at Etz Chaim’s Sukkah party, Kurtz brought it up again.

“He said, ‘You have to do a marathon,’” Davis recalled.

The rabbi went home and checked the date of the Philadelphia Marathon. It was less than two months away.

“I didn’t know you were supposed to train for a marathon for 4-5 months. I just signed up,” Davis said.

He finished in three hours and 36 minutes.

As the rabbi was “limping past the finish line,” another runner asked him what time he ran. Then Davis returned the question.

“He said, ‘I’m trying to get a Boston Marathon qualifier,’” the rabbi remembered. “I said, ‘What’s that?’”

The running rabbi had a new goal: finish a marathon in under three hours and 10 minutes.
He got there by running five or six days a week. Davis only took off from running on Shabbos because he’d have to do it after sundown. As a rabbi and father, he barely had time. But he found it.

Some days, he was not able to run until midnight…on the treadmill in his basement. He did it anyway.

“I tried to squeeze it in,” Davis said.

After so much running, the rabbi is in fine shape. It also helps him work out his thoughts for sermons or other rabbinical duties. But most importantly, he improved himself in a way that he probably never expected.

“What God wants from us is to not be static human beings,” he said. “We can constantly learn, seek, grow and improve ourselves in every aspect of who we are.”

Boston will be a victory lap, according to Davis. When he crosses the finish line, he’s going to breathe and enjoy the moment.

“We’re allowed to enjoy things for a few minutes. That encourages us to work hard the next day,” the rabbi said.

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