The family that runs together stays together.
Or so say participants in the Rubin Run, a family tradition that stretches back to 1982, when Leonard Rubin introduced the yearly event – at that time a 10k and a 5k run – at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly.
Since then, the run has evolved to include a full morning of activities including stretching, breakfast, and a children’s carnival in addition to the two running competitions, which remain the focus of the day.
There is also the option of “spinning” – or stationary bike riding – outdoors (weather permitting).
The event, which takes place on May 8, draws hundreds of families, according to event co-chair Saul Scherl.
“Every mother gets a rose and every kid under 9 gets a medal,” said Scherl. “It’s a family day.”
This year, the event is expected to draw 1,000 participants, and organizers say their goal is to raise $75,000. All funds raised will go to programming at the JCC, including programs for special-needs children.
“The Rubin Run is one of our community’s favorite events,” said JCC Executive Director Avi A. Lewinson. “Almost everyone today is trying to achieve healthier lifestyles, and bringing our community together on Mother’s Day to connect as a family was a real stroke of inspiration. I think we have ignited a new tradition of family bonding through fun and fitness.”
Lewinson added that this year, in celebration of the run’s 30th anniversary, he plans to participate for the first time.
Family togetherness, Jewish community, and fitness were important to Leonard Rubin, the founder of the event and president of the Kaplen JCC from 1964 until 1968, according to his son, Daniel.
“My father was interested in sports and fitness,” Daniel Rubin, a JCC past president, told the Standard. “The JCC was a very important institution to him and he felt that the race was one way of bringing [its] benefits to the whole community. The course hasn’t changed from the beginning. It goes through Tenafly, Englewood, and Englewood Cliffs – three core communities the JCC serves.”
The family participated in the race most years, and, said Rubin, “my father participated in very many of these till he passed away four years ago. Six years ago he went from running to walking, but he was out there at every one of them.”
Rubin added, “We will all do it again this year – four generations of us. My mother will walk and her great-grandchildren will run till they can’t run – and then walk.”
Nor are the Rubins the only family for whom the event has become a Mother’s Day tradition.
Sharon Danzger of Tenafly says she and her husband Neil and their four children – ages 8, 10, 12, and 14 – have run together for the past six years, and that participating as a family is the “highlight” of her Mother’s Day. It is not just for hard-core athletes, Danzger says.
“I’m not such a great runner that I need to finish with a great time,” Danzger told the Standard. “It’s just a good feeling to complete it.”
The first year her family did the 5k – the equivalent of 3.2 miles – her daughter was only 3.
“Once a kid can walk it’s not a big deal,” said Danzger. “My daughter finished it skipping and singing alphabet songs. Too many people are intimidated by it, but they make it so family-friendly.” She added, “You feel no guilt about having a nice Mother’s Day brunch after you do the 5k.”
Volunteers are stationed along the route of both races to provide water and moral support. Those who do not wish to run or walk in the races can participate in other activities, including craft-making. Babysitting is available.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the run, cash prizes will be awarded to the top three male and female winners: $750, $500, and $250 for the 10k; $500, $250, and $100 for the 5k.
Suzette Josif of Tenafly, who will participate in the run, decided to start a raffle for special-needs programs at the JCC in conjunction with the Rubin Run. She and her children, Melanie, 10, Eli, 8, and Sydney, 4, have been selling tickets in the lobby of the Kaplen JCC. So far they have raised $1,200. The winner, to be announced at the event, will get a bicycle.
Participating in the Rubin Run’s day of activities is especially beneficial for Melanie, who is autistic, said Josif.
“Children and young adults [with special needs] are at risk because in many cases they don’t go out to playgrounds and have typical recess like other kids do,” Josif said. “They tend to have more sedentary lifestyles. I want a more active lifestyle for my daughter, and she enjoys it. She is a physical kid.”
Josif, whose family recently moved from Manhattan to Tenafly, says that since the event is a fundraiser for programs Melanie and other kids with special needs benefit from, it builds social conscience.
“We have been doing these kinds of events since each of the kids was born, and we want to keep that tradition in our family,” she said. “We want them to know it’s important to help.”
Spots are still available for participants to register in the Rubin Run at www.active.com. The cost is $20 before May 2, $25 after. To register for spinning, e-mail Irene at Irene@jccotp.org or call (201) 408-1472.