Aryeh Holtz, a mechanical engineer and father of three from Jerusalem, was one of some 17,000 people who took part in the International Jerusalem Marathon on October 29.

What made him stand out from the crowd? He ran the 10K while pushing his daughter Leah, a 24-year-old with severe physical and cognitive disabilities, in a lightweight running stroller that he made from scratch.

“I have been running the 10K at the Jerusalem Marathon for years, and I’ve always wanted to run it with Leah. But I didn’t have the right stroller, and I wasn’t sure if she would enjoy it,” Holtz said.

“After building an all-terrain stroller with the correct support, I started training with her, and it was clear that Leah loved it as much as I did.”

Aryeh Holtz pushing his daughter, Leah, in a homemade running stroller at the International Jerusalem Marathon, October 29, 2021. Photo courtesy of ADI

Holtz decided to build a chair for Leah this year because he was never able to find anything commercially available that he felt was safe, light or durable enough.

While the average running stroller weighs 34 kilograms (75 pounds), his pink version weighs only 24 kilos (53 pounds), and it can be converted into a regular wheelchair in just a few steps.

Leah is a special-education student at ADI Jerusalem, one of two ADI facilities (formerly called ALEH Jerusalem and ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran) providing residential and rehabilitative care for Israeli children, adolescents and adults with severe disabilities.

Holtz and Leah’s twin sister, Miri, participated in the marathon as members of ADI Fleet, a diverse and inclusive team of staff members, volunteers and supporters that runs races in Israel and other countries to raise funds for ADI.

“The ADI staff and volunteers have been very helpful, and we’re so happy to have great partners in Leah’s development, so it just seemed natural to tackle the 10K track,” said Holtz, 55.

He completed the race in 1:02:38. “Leah beat me by a second,” he joked, adding that “while it might seem counterintuitive, running is an activity that we can do together, and it brings us closer.”

Meanwhile, 30 fully vaccinated ADI Jerusalem residents used specially made walkers to complete the 800-meter Communities Track, and other members of ADI Fleet did the 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon tracks.

With the help of a specially made walker and some dedicated volunteers, an ADI resident pounds the pavement at the 800-meter Communities Track at the 2021 Jerusalem Marathon on Friday, October 29. Photo courtesy of ADI

Shlomit Grayevsky, director of ADI Jerusalem, noted that the marathon had been canceled the past two years due to the pandemic.

“It was thrilling to be back at the Jerusalem Marathon after all this time and so moving to see that the same pandemic that kept us all apart is now bringing us back together,” she said. “Our ADI residents have always felt welcome at this wonderful event, but it’s clear that the last two years have made people more caring and compassionate than ever before.”