God on the Start­ing Line: The Tri­umph of a Catholic School Run­ning Team and Its Jew­ish Coach

Marc Bloom
  • Review
By – August 10, 2012

Seri­ous cross-coun­try run­ning seems to appeal sole­ly to ascetics and ecto­morphs. Read­ing about cross-coun­try run­ning maybe expect­ed to have even less appeal, which is why Marc Bloom’s God On The Start­ing Line proved to be such a pleas­ant surprise. 

This is only inci­den­tal­ly a book about run­ning. Bloom is a run­ner and a coach, but although there are the usu­al sta­tis­tics about splits and work­outs of 51100 meters around the lake,” this is a love sto­ry. Bloom is a tal­ent­ed jour­nal­ist, but in his heart he is a teacher-coach, and this is what cap­tures the reader’s attention. 

Respond­ing to a desire to coach, Bloom takes the only job he can get, that of cross-coun­try coach at St. Rose, a small Catholic high school at the New Jer­sey shore. Here, he weds his Jew­ish faith and his belief in tikkun olam, repair­ing the world, to the Catholic envi­ron­ment in which he finds him­self. He ratio­nal­izes that he will sep­a­rate Catholic from coach­ing, lit­tle real­iz­ing that he will enter a spir­i­tu­al quest that merges the two and brings him in even clos­er touch with Judaism. 

Bloom’s team becomes state cham­pi­ons, but the les­son his run­ners learn is more about ful­fill­ing their poten­tial and trav­el­ing the path to good cit­i­zen­ship.” He shares with the read­er the excite­ment of teach­ing young peo­ple, of tick­ling their souls” until they com­mit to suc­cess. His team learns the dif­fer­ence between work­ing to suc­ceed and feel­ing that they are enti­tled to suc­ceed. Bloom rein­forces their Chris­t­ian val­ues with his own Jew­ish ones as he dis­cov­ers the shared touch­stones of the two faiths. 

God On The Start­ing Line is at its core a spir­i­tu­al book. It will inspire the read­er who val­ues small works of good­ness and the courage to face big challenges.

Noel Kriftch­er was a pro­fes­sor and admin­is­tra­tor at Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly served as Super­in­ten­dent of New York City’s Brook­lyn & Stat­en Island High Schools district.

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