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How South Africa's Comrades Ultramarathon Helped Immigrant Jews Belong

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At the end of a Shabbat dinner with family and friends in May, I found myself on the phone with one of the greatest South African runners of all time. The voice on the other end of the phone was Bruce Fordyce. While he might not be known outside of the country, Fordyce is the Michael Jordan of South African running. “Joseph,” he said over the phone, “you’ve made the worst decision of your life but you’re going to love every minute of it.”

He was referring to my decision to run the Comrades Marathon—a grueling 56-mile ultramarathon near Durban that is one of South Africa’s most beloved, admired, and watched sporting events in an already sport-obsessed country. Running the Comrades is a feat that creates immediate respect among peers and family in South Africa. Many finishers even include it on their resume.

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