‘I’m addicted’: 86-year-old completes Jerusalem marathon with grandchildren

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‘I’m addicted’: 86-year-old completes Jerusalem marathon with grandchildren

Reuven Stein ran his first marathon at the Sea of Galilee in Israel in 1973 and has completed dozens since

Reuven and Yarden. Courtesy: Stein family.
Reuven and Yarden. Courtesy: Stein family.

It’s not every day you see an 86-year-old running a marathon with his grandchildren. But for Reuven Stein, running has been an integral part of his family for decades, and age isn’t going to stop him. 

This year, Reuven competed in the Jerusalem Winner’s Marathon along with his grandchildren, all of whom have been or are still doing reserve duty in the IDF following the October 7 massacre.

“Sabba Reuven” as his grandchildren call him, ran his first marathon at the Sea of Galilee in Israel in 1973, and has completed dozens of marathons in the Holy Land ever since.

Born in Long Island in 1934, Reuven lived half of his life in the United States, until he met his future wife, Nicolette, in a Kibbutz in the 1970’s. Reuven spotted the dutch-born Nicolette in their Ulpan.

From right to left : Yotam Gavish- grandchild Yarden Gavish- gradchild Keren Gavish- daughter Reuven Stein Yael Maoz- grand daughter Itamar Maoz- grand daughter. Courtesy: Stein family

“I was in the beginner class, I told the teacher that if I was in the advance class it would be faster for me to learn Hebrew. The teacher of course saw I immediately sat next to Nicolette. We have been together ever since,” Reuven told Jewish News in an interview.

A back injury in the mid 1980’s put a stop to Reuven’s “addiction” to running, as he calls is, but he eventually recovered and made sure to pass on the tradition to his children and grandchildren.

Reuven’s granddaughter Yarden recalls how the family used to visit him and Nicolette in Israel every summer, where part of the activity was to go for a run together

“I remember having the best conversations with Sabba Reuven when we were running. The whole time he would be talking and I could barely breathe. It makes me forget about everything. It’s very special to run and bond like that,” Yarden told Jewish News.

Reuven Stein running Tel Aviv marathon in 1982. Courtesy: Stein family

“Even now he was very competitive but it’s very healthy to have something you care about and want to win,” she added.

Yarden grew up in the United States but moved to Israel when she was 18 to join the IDF. On October 7, Yarden was called for reserve duty like most of Israelis. Serving in the IDF Home Front Command, Yarden was responsible displaced Israelis who were forced to stay at hotels in Jerusalem.

This year, as all the grandchildren were doing reserve duty at the same time, Yarden suggested they come together as a family and run with their Sabba Reuven one more time.

I ran every day for an hour in the weeks leading up to the marathon,” Reuven said. He was among six other people over the age of 80 competing in the Jerusalem Winner’s Marathon this year.

“I really enjoyed running with my grandchildren, in particular when we ran over the finish line and the announcer mentioned us as a family,” he added.

The passion for running and doing it together as a family is something Reuven’s granddaughters say they will continue.

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