By Sara Lesczynski
19-year-old Temima Pancer, a student at Stern College for Women (’26) and an athlete on the YU Women’s Cross Country Team, finished her first marathon, the New York City Marathon, on Sunday, November 5, 2023. Temima completed the 26.2 excruciatingly long miles in 4 hours, 31 minutes, and 49 seconds.
Temima describes to the YU Observer her experience preparing for and running the New York City Marathon. As Temima walked into the 11th-floor gym at Beren, she had a smile on her face as she sat down next to me on the floor. “Welcome to my office,” I said jokingly. “Thank you, thank you. It’s a beautiful office,” she responded. “How is recovery going?” I asked. “I’m a little sore, so I’ve been taking the elevator. I’ll probably go running on Friday. I need to prepare so I can absolutely obliterate my entire family at our Turkey Trot.”
What inspired you to run the New York City Marathon?
When I was in the 10th grade, I would run with my dad every single Friday, until I was in the 12th grade. There’s a lottery for the marathon. You have to be 18 to enter the lottery. When I was 14 I wanted to run this half marathon called the NYC Half. You had to be 16 to run it, but since I was not old enough I was not happy about it. So when I was 18, I was like, now I’m old enough to run a marathon. So I entered the lottery as a joke, because it’s really hard to get into. There’s a 12% chance you win…and then I won.
How was training for the marathon?
It’s really hot in the summer! But it was good. I like going on long runs and I love running through Central Park, so I enjoyed it. Generally in the summer I would go on a long run on Sunday and then I would run shorter distances during the week. So I usually would just come to practice and I ran whatever [the rest of the cross country team] ran. There were a couple times the week of Conference Championships [a championship meet] they had the race on Sunday, so I couldn’t do my long run on Sunday. I have a three-hour lunch break during the week, so one day during the lunch break I ran 13 miles, and that was a little stressful.
Do you plan on running the marathon again?
I am! Oh my gosh, I was running and I was going for under four hours. It didn’t happen. I got really nauseous at mile ten, [but I still thought], “I’m just gonna finish.” And then, as I was running, I [thought] “I’m never doing this again.” But then, I [realized] I have to do it again because I didn’t do as well as I wanted to.
How are you feeling about the half marathon you’re doing in March?
I’m very excited about that. I did it already in the past. It’s a lot of fun.
Can you walk me through your experience the day of?
It was really cool. I woke up at five something. The marathon starts in Staten Island, so you have to get into Staten Island before they close the Verrazano Bridge. It’s the only way in and out of Staten Island. The runners go over the bridge, so when the race starts you’re not allowed on the bridge. We took an Uber to the start, and our Uber driver dropped us off in the middle of the highway, so we got to walk across the highway. There’s a Start Village before the race, and the guy who founded the New York City marathon is Jewish! So, they have a minyan tent before the marathon! I was in the minyan tent and I was meeting all these Jewish people that run marathons.
Were there a lot of religious Jews or mostly secular Jews?
It was a mix of both. They were all a lot older than me and they didn’t think I was running. They were all like, “You’re running the marathon?!” and I [answered], “Yeah!”
Did you run with anyone?
I ran by myself. My dad ran as well, but he started earlier and he’s faster than me.
Did it get lonely at times?
Not really because there are 50,000 people running the marathon and there are two million people that come to spectate.
Did you encounter any anti-semitism at the race?
While I was running the marathon, people were shouting “Free Palestine” at me.
Why were they shouting “Free Palestine” at you?
I look [like a religious Jew], I wear a skirt and long sleeves. I also had a tiny Israeli flag pin on my shirt. So either they saw that or I look Jewish.
Was it other runners or people on the side?
No, it was people on the side. They were holding the flags.
How did that make you feel?
I was like, “Excuse me?” I’m waking up early to run a marathon and they’re waking up early to [condone] the murdering of [Israeli] people. So I ran past them. People were saying that people might block the course of the marathon in protest, so I was nervous about that, but it didn’t happen.
Temima Pancer’s incredible achievement of completing the NYC Marathon at the age of 19 is something she should forever be proud of. Her accomplishment is an inspiration to many young people and I wish her the best of luck in all future races.