The Shachnovitz family of Fair Lawn at the Miami Marathon. From left, Yitzchak, Sura, Sivan and Batsheva. Photo by Abe Fishweicher

At Mile 18 of the ING Miami Marathon, 19-year-old Sivan Shachnovitz of Fair Lawn wasn’t sure she’d make it another step, let alone to the finish line. Just in time, her grandmother and a family friend bypassed the sawhorses and handed her energy-boosting jellybeans. Her mother and siblings met her around mile 24, walked beside her awhile, and cheered her on to the finish line, where her father awaited. It took her six and a half hours, but she made it the whole 26.2 miles.

Shachnovitz – and her 13-year-old brother Barak, who completed the half-marathon despite an earlier ankle injury – were among 250 marathoners running in support of Chai Lifeline at Miami Beach on Jan. 31. “Team Lifeline” garnered $1.2 million for the international organization, which aids seriously ill Jewish children and their families with programs including the medically supervised Camp Simcha.

A whole contingent of Bergen and Passaic runners and supporters flew down for marathon weekend. In exchange for a commitment to raise at least $3,600 each, or $3,000 each for a family team, marathoners received plane tickets and accommodations at the Eden Roc hotel, including kosher pre-race pasta and post-race victory parties.

For the Shachnovitz kids, the marathon doubled as a gesture for their seriously ill father, Yossi. “Most of you know that my father is a very proud man who does not take money from anyone, under any circumstances,” wrote Sivan in a fund-raising message. “But … when we told him we were raising the money purely for someone else, in the hopes that in its merits he will be granted a full and total recovery, my father was thrilled.”

Sivan and Barak Shachnowitz of Fair Lawn raised $30,000 in pledges for Chai Lifeline. Abe Fishweicher

That thought kept the siblings going throughout the tough training period. “It got hard when it was snowing outside. One time it hailed during our training run. I don’t know if you get extra points for that,” Shachnovitz joked. “We did think about giving up, but the fact that we were raising money was a great incentive. If we didn’t run, we’d let everyone down.”

Encouraged by Abe Fishweicher, president of Cong. Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn, the Shachnovitzes raised a total of $30,000 in pledges and were recognized as top team fund-raisers. Fishweicher and his wife, Renee, came down for the race, as did other Shachnovitz supporters, including siblings Yitzchak, 17, and Batsheva, 10 1/2.

Shachnovitz said she and Barak, a student at YBH in Passaic, are already psyched for next year’s run. “But I think next time I’ll do the half-marathon,” she said with a laugh.

Mother of five Eva Rothberg completed the half marathon and raised $13,610 for Chai Lifeline, placing her in the top 10 individual fund-raisers for the day. “I made it in 1:57:20,” the Teaneck resident reported. “I would have considered doing the whole marathon, but I had a stress fracture in the summer. I was running eight miles a couple of times a week and then had to start all over after healing.”

Rothberg’s husband, Mordy, was once a Camp Simcha counselor and now is on the board of Chai Lifeline. Many of his colleagues – Jewish and gentile – in the insurance industry contributed to the cause.

“There was 90 percent humidity that morning,” Rothberg related. “During the first hour, from 6:15 to 7:15, it was bad, but then we had a light, misty rain and some cool breezes.”

Aviva Mouldovan of Teaneck, a special-ed and gym teacher at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge, started training in July for her maiden marathon. “Chai Lifeline was actively involved in helping the family of a friend of mine, who unfortunately lost her nephew,” said Mouldovan. “They were looking for some way to give back.”

Although halfway through the run she “wanted to call a cab and get out of there,” she finished the full marathon in about five and a half hours. “When it begins, you’re on this high. It feels wonderful to know you are part of something so big,” Mouldovan said. “At the end, there is this feeling of hearing people cheering and knowing you’re almost there.”

Jonathan Tiger, a 33-year-old father of three from Bergenfield, said he ran in memory of his aunt, who passed away from cancer more than 10 years ago. “A couple of my friends from Florida had done it, and exercise is not a bad thing,” said the first-time marathoner. “I got the feeling in my legs back sometime this week,” he reported with a laugh, one week after the event.

According to Team Lifeline official Raizy Poll, Chai Lifeline began its relationship with the Miami Marathon five years ago. Just 25 runners participated then.

Additional participants from North Jersey included Yoni Schwartz and David Ashendorf of Bergenfield; Rena Rosenberg of Englewood; Benji Weintraub, Esther Greer, Jeffrey Ruttner, Judith Elk, Laura Frayman, Michal Arieh, Rabbi Pesach Sommer, and Tehilah Kaplan of Passaic; and Tova Cohen-Jacob, Brenda Kenter, Dahlia Friedman, Ephraim Feman, Jonathan Stavsky, Shifra Shafier, Tamar and Uri Edell, Avri Szafranski, Tamar Lowe, and Banji and Jack Ganchrow of Teaneck.

Ashendorf said he was most impressed that Jack Ganchrow, a Yeshivat Noam eighth-grader, organized an afternoon prayer service for the runners at the airport.