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Running on Matzah

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The Associated Press reports on the challenge facing Jonah Pesner, a Reform rabbi: This year’s Boston Marathon is on the second day of Passover, which means running on a full stomach of Matzah (to say nothing of yontif) …

Jonah Pesner is looking ahead to his crucial carb-loading, fuel-up meal on the night before running his first Boston Marathon. On the menu: matzoh.

It’s not the usual choice for marathoners loading up on carbohydrates to drive their run, but Pesner, a rabbi, has limited options.

Passover begins just two days before the April 21 marathon, and the holiday’s strict dietary rules mean Jewish runners can’t eat bread and pasta, the normal staples in the days before the big race.

Besides matzoh, which is unleavened bread, Pesner plans to pound down foods such as potatoes during a rare “carb-load seder” the night before the race.

Pesner never considered breaking the dietary rules for the sake of the race, which he is running with his wife for an autism charity.

“For me, running the marathon is a very spiritual quest,” he said.

The marathon is always held on Patriots Day, a state holiday that falls the third Monday in April, and often comes within the weeklong Passover holiday.

At around the 15th mile, his stomach will probably be grumbling: If only you had gone to JTS or Y.U., we could be in shul right now.

But, really, we shouldn’t joke. Especially since the rabbi finds religious meaning in his running on Matzah:

Pesner never considered breaking the dietary rules for the sake of the race, which he is running with his wife for an autism charity.

“For me, running the marathon is a very spiritual quest,” he said.

The story also looks at the challenges facing a Conservative couple:

Sandy Karpen, a real estate agent from Scottsdale, Ariz., said he and his wife, Sharon, are changing their tradition of attending seders the first two nights of Passover to accommodate their training. The second seder is the day before the race, and Karpen and his wife wanted to rest, rather than attend a seder on what is typically a long night.

Their rabbi from the Conservative Jewish tradition advised them that Jews may fulfill their obligation by observing only the first day, and said they could do the same.

The 17-time marathoner admits to some guilt about straying from his lifelong tradition, but has no regrets.

“I guess sometimes you’re looking for justification for what you’re doing,” he said. “My rabbi said it was acceptable to do, and that was good enough for us.”

Maybe I was too hard on Pesner (after all, the Reform generally don’t believe in second-day yontif) … It’s the Karpens’ Conservative rabbi who’s got some explaining to do.

UPDATE: Judging from the first comment, I should make it clear … I was just teasing.

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