The Medal of All Medals

By Jill Abel

Jewish Federation of Jacksonville


On March 4, eight American runners from Jacksonville, Richmond, Charleston and Chattanooga will meet ten Israeli runners in Israel for the first-ever Israel Partnership Running2Gether Program. Runners from all different backgrounds - some who have run marathons and some for whom this is their first organized race - will meet and spend a week together in our Partnership community of Hadera-Eiron before traveling together to Jerusalem for the running of the Jerusalem Half-Marathon.


One runner in this delegation is Jacksonville's own Rachael Rice. Not a novice to running, Rachael has run over 60 half-marathons and an impressive 9 full marathons. We had a chance to sit down for coffee a few weeks ago, and I asked Rachael about her passion for running, when it started and why she is so excited about this particular race in Jerusalem.


Rachael shared that she started running because she was about 60 pounds overweight and once she had successfully lost the weight she wanted to lose, she needed to find a way to tighten up her existing skin. So, her friends encouraged her to start running. At first, Rachael only ran at night. She didn't want anyone to see her out there. She would run for time, not distance. After a while, she tried figuring out how far she was running during her outings and couldn't believe she was out there running 2 and 3 miles a night.


It didn't take long for her to get hooked on running. "I enjoy running,” she said. “It's a great outlet for me. I definitely feel the runner's high when I am out there running." These days she mostly signs up for races that help her raise money for special causes she likes to support.


"Running also helped me find out more about my health. Through running, I learned I had Crohn's Disease, and I also learned I had developed Colon Cancer. Without running, I might never have figured out these challenges about my health," Rachael explained.


Rachael has done well over 60 half-marathons and has completed 9 marathons in places like the Great Wall of China, Hawaii, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, Walt Disney World and the Donna right here in Jacksonville.


"But this race in Jerusalem, this will bring it all back to the beginning for me," Rachael said with a smile on her face. "It will bring me back to my roots. Running is my temple, and I find it peaceful, quiet and relaxing. It's the time when I feel closest to God. To do this race in Israel is going to be amazing."


This will be Rachael's first trip to Israel and while there, she plans to have a Bat Mitzvah, as well. "I can't wait to see the places of my ancestors and go where every Jew has ever wanted to go. For me, the medal from this race will be the medal of all medals."