Holocaust Survivor Sylvia Weiner Has Been Running For 50 Years, Has No Plans To Slow Down

  • 2 January 2016
  • Abby

Would you run to save your life? I am not sure I can either. But Sylvia Weiner did, and now, running is her life. After surviving the murderous Nazi oppressors at three different concentration camps, including the widely infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, the 84 year-old has been going for a run every morning for half a century.

A Friend Of Anne Frank, Trying Childhood Under Nazi Persecution

And that's not her only claim to fame: Anne Frank, the writer of the “The Diary of a Young Girl”, was her friend until the day she died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In fact, Weiner was there on the day Anna died.

But she could not think much of it at the time - death and suffering was the daily reality of her life. Luckily, by some miracle, she was able to survive the Holocaust, but this made her the only survivor in a family of ten. She had last seen her family when she was 12, when they were shipped off to a different extermination camp where they perished.

A Failing Attempt At Normal Life

After surviving the Holocaust, she went to Montreal to live with her aunt and uncle. She tried her best to have a normal life, including getting married and having children. But the nightmare of the Holocaust was far from over. She constantly struggled with depression and insomnia, for which she was given sleeping pills and tranquilizers. Unfortunately, the medications did not work out for her, and often left her in a mental fog that kept weighing her down.

Running Brings Some Hope To Her Life

Weiner then found running, and this was by pure accident. Weiner had joined a Jewish community center (YMHA) in order to get the membership required to secure her daughter a place in their nursery school. While at it, she enrolled for a fitness course which ended up being a running class.

As most people who have given running a try already know, myself included, the first time is never a walk in the park. Weiner felt like she would pass out, but still managed to complete the run, which was only about a quarter of a mile long. But, after that experience, she couldn't remember feeling that good in a very long time. As far as her severe anxiety was concerned, running did the trick, and she never looked back.

The Idea To Give The Marathon A Try Is Born

So, her love for running was born. She even joined a male running team, Wolf Pack, headed by a fellow Holocaust survivor, Wolf Bronet, where she honed her running skills and got the idea to give the marathon a try. The rest, as they say, is history. To date, she has taken part in 75 marathons, including the world-famous Boston Marathon masters division, where she won the women's category at the age of 44 in 1975 with a time of 3:21:38.

She has also taken part in more than 2,000 short races. At one time, she even managed to take part in seven marathons in one year! Now she runs for up to 10 miles a day, everyday. This is even after she had a surgery for her melanoma in 2014, which resulted in her being incapable of competing in shorter races. The only thing that can keep her from running is extremely harsh weather and medical emergencies.

She Becomes A Shining Example To Those She Meets

Weiner has also touched many lives through her running career. Her own daughter, Debbie, is quite a runner herself. She joined her mother to emerge second in a mother-daughter race at the Advil Mini Marathon in Central Park. Debbie has taken part in other marathons, and has even emerged top in some competitions.

The YMHA considers her a legend, and rightly so, the place is adorned with her running achievements. Her humility is also famous. Actually, she often inspires other runners and sometimes goes on to mentor them to become lifetime devotees of the sport.

Weiner has also been available to give talks about her life, especially during the Holocaust period. Although these are things she typically does not like to dredge up - and who can blame her - she is not above letting younger generations have a first-hand account of atrocities that took place under the Nazi regime during World War II.