But the night was not yet over. After some downtime to enjoy the pool, arcades, and other amenities the hotel offered, everyone gathered together for an amazing pasta party. Six hours before it was time to get up for the 6 a.m. marathon, the dining room was flooded with excited teenagers, loud and fun music, a colorful assortment of food, and loads of orange and blue – Team Yachad’s colors. Everywhere you looked, there were orange T-shirts, caps, headbands, and sweaters – even an orange tutu. The excitement was contagious, and everyone was getting pumped for the coming marathon.
At 4 a.m., after a few hours of sleep, everyone gathered again in the dining room for a healthy breakfast and to hear important information and instructions from Coaches Jaz, Melissa, and Yoav. Then it was off to the buses that took us straight to the American Airlines Arena, site of the marathon.
We arrived at the arena when it was still dark outside, and were greeted with the sight of thousands upon thousands of people preparing for the marathon – stretching, walking, talking, screaming, and jumping up and down. The excitement, the adrenaline, the rush that everybody seemed to have was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There isn’t anything quite like the hustle and bustle of 25,000 people getting ready to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles at 6 in the morning. There just isn’t!
After getting into our designated sections and walking quite a bit toward the starting line, it was time to begin! I had the privilege of running along with Aaron Winston, a Dallas Yachad member who was competing for the second consecutive year with Team Yachad. Aaron explained to me exactly what was going to happen since he had been there before, and shared with me some of his memories of the last race.
The start of the race was incredible. We kept meeting our teammates and shouting, “Go Yachad!” every time we saw a Team Yachad shirt. The entire 13.1 miles had fans and supporters lined up along the highway, the streets, and the sidewalks – cheering us on. Every few miles had water stations set up, where eager volunteers handed us cups of water and Gatorade as we ran, without us having to stop to help ourselves. Yachad also had its very own water station at mile 11, with Yachad volunteers providing drinks for all the runners, and cheering us on as we were getting closer and closer ot the finish line.
Before I knew it, the race was over, a trophy draped around my neck. I couldn’t believe I had just completed a half marathon with Team Yachad, something I never dreamed I would ever attempt to do. The feeling of accomplishment and pride that one feels is unparalleled, and I recommend that everyone go out and run a half marathon with Team Yachad, if only for that exhilarating feeling at the end. There is truly nothing quite like it.
After meeting up with the rest of our teammates at our designated Team Yachad tent, we were all treated to massages by experienced physical therapists, as well as plenty of snacks and drinks, provided exclusively to Team Yachad members. We then headed back to the hotel where we all showered and changed, and then gathered again in the dining room for a delicious barbeque. We were all on a winning combination of exhaustion, exhilaration, and physical soreness, but hey, that’s what running a half marathon will do to you! Awards and certificates were given out, more food was brought out, photos were taken, and before long, it was time to leave for the airport and head back to New York City.
Running the half marathon with Team Yachad was something I never thought I would be able to do. The unity, the inclusion of every single team member, including 15 Yachad members with disabilities, was something I have never witnessed before. It was truly humbling to run hand in hand in support of inclusion, which is precisely what Yachad represents. I am so grateful to the incredible staff at Yachad for encouraging me, supporting me, and being there for me every step of the way. It was my absolute honor and privilege to partake in this experience, to be part of a bigger whole, and to be a part of Team Yachad.
Shaindy Urman is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She can be reached at email@example.com. To learn more about Team Yachad and to sponsor a runner, visit www.teamyachad.com. All proceeds, no matter the sum, benefit Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities.