A run for your money

Londoner Naomi Coleman is running the Tel Aviv Marathon to raise money for a charity set up in her late brother’s name.

Runners in Jerusalem Marathon pass Old City 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Runners in Jerusalem Marathon pass Old City 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
People start running marathons for all sorts of reasons, and all stages of life. Naomi Coleman, a 33-year-old London resident, is taking part in this year’s Tel Aviv Marathon, next Friday, in memory of her older brother and also to help raise funds for a related and highly worthy cause.
Jeremy Coleman made aliya from Britain in his mid- 20s and soon settled into life in his new country. By the time he was 38 he was happily married, living in Tel Aviv, and he and his wife, Pamela, had three children, aged between six years and six months. Things seemed to be panning out nicely, and his parents also moved here to be close to their son and grandchildren, but they had hardly unpacked their suitcases when Jeremy was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
He died 14 months later and, heartbroken, his parents moved back to London five years later, where their two daughters live. Now Naomi Coleman is coming back, for a short stay, to run and to try to help relatives of other cancer sufferers.
This will be her first full marathon, having taken part in a couple of half-distance runs and doing her best to adhere to a punishing fitness regimen through the cold dark months of winter in London. “Marathon training is about being very disciplined,” she said when we spoke a couple of weeks ago. “It is very hard but there isn’t long to go now, so I’ll just have to try to stay focused. I am getting fitter.”
She is gradually getting into the long-distance mindset.
“I did my first half-marathon in November, and I did another one last weekend. I was more excited and less anxious about the second one, and I managed to run the whole way. Mind you, I am wondering how I am going to manage to double it. It’s the unexpected now. But, of course, I’m running for a cause, so that helps keep me motivated.”
Besides completing the 42.195 km. distance in Tel Aviv, Coleman is hoping to raise at least £4,000 to aid a charity set up in her brother’s name, called Jeremy’s Circle (www.jeremyscircle.org). The foundation was primarily established to help the younger members of families in Israel impacted by cancer.
As the website explains: “Cancer hits the entire family hard, and there are no existing programs today in Israel to provide support to the young members of families living with cancer or coping with a cancer loss. We would like to show the children that they are not alone, and to help them have fun with other kids like them. Cancer does not discriminate and neither do we. We invite all children, teens and their parents anywhere in Israel (or who plan to visit) – who have been touched by cancer – to join our circle of community and support.”
The initiative was prompted by Jeremy’s oldest daughter, Zoe, who expressed the need for peer-group company while her father battled the disease. “She was only around six or seven at the time, and she saw all the adults around her – we had support, and had people to talk to – and I think she wanted to know if there was someone else in a similar situation,” Coleman explains.
“Although it took a while to find a playmate for Zoe, she benefited tremendously from having someone her own age to play with.
That’s really what Jeremy’s Circle is about – bringing this community of support together.”
The organization is largely devoted to caring for young children or parents with cancer, the need for which became apparent as Jeremy’s condition deteriorated.
“My sister and I flew out to Israel regularly to be there as much as we could,” explains Coleman. “One of the ways of helping would be supporting the children – taking them out to have fun and giving them as much consistency in their lives as possible while at the same time allowing Jeremy and Pamela time and space to manage.”
Over the last two and a half years, Jeremy’s Circle has organized a range of trips and activities for relatives of cancer sufferers, including a visit to the Better Place electric vehicle visitors’ center, a sweetly gastronomic foray to the Marzipan Museum at Kfar Tavor and a challenging and fun hands-on visit to Extreme Land Park in Holon. The latter included laser tag and paintball activities for children aged seven-10, as well as a session for parents, to teach them how to help kids cope with anger in a healthy way.
There is also a horseback riding activity lined up for Passover, for tweens and teens.
While excited about doing the marathon, Coleman says it is going to be a very emotional experience for her.
“Jeremy and I would go for runs on the beach in Tel Aviv when I came over to Israel, and we’d go to the gym together, so that inspired me. Running in Israel, and especially in Tel Aviv, is not only going to be physically demanding but also very emotionally demanding.”
Coleman maintains her fund-raising efforts throughout the year, and says the venture is really taking off.
“We now support around 200 families, and it is growing all the time. If there are affected young families in Israel, we want to raise awareness that we are around, and that Jeremy’s Circle is around, and that we really provide support for all the members of the family,” she says.
“If the kids are out for the day, and being taken care of – transport, activities and meals – that also helps the parents and allows them to get on with whatever it is they need to do, whether it is rest or treatment, or just allow them the space they need.”
The organization is also about creating a mutual support network. “We also help families that are going through similar things to get in touch with each other,” Coleman adds. “This is an idea that Jeremy thought of himself. We talked about it, together with my sister and with Pamela. All the people who work with us are volunteers, so any donations we get go straight to the activities and supporting the families.”
Hopefully, by the time Coleman has pounded her way around Tel Aviv there will be plenty more financial support to help Jeremy’s Circle continue to help others.