In possibly the first organized action of its kind in the history of the New York City Marathon, a Queens rabbi and several members of his community positioned themselves on last Sunday’s route to distribute kosher sports drink to thirsty runners.

When a friend signed up to tackle the grueling 26-mile race, Rabbi Zev and Rivka Wineberg, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Long Island City looked for ways that they could mitigate a possible dehydration problem: The marathon’s official sports drink, which is passed out along the route, is not kosher. While kosher-observant runners have for years used a number of edible gel packs to give them energy, the Winebergs decided to at least set up one station at Mile 15 featuring the kosher equivalent of the marathon’s drink.

On Sunday morning, the Winebergs and their friends displayed flashy green neon signs advertising “kosher energy drink.” At first, the runners came up Vernon Avenue on the approach to the Queensboro Bridge in small bursts, with the leaders of the marathon quickly sprinting by. Then came a running torrent of humanity: a total of 50,000 competitors, some bedecked in costumes provided by corporate sponsors.

A banner announcing that “Chabad gives Shalom to the runners” aroused shouts of “shalom” in return, as well as more than a few thank you’s.

One couple wearing a South African flag came running by with their hands outstretched to fetch a drink. When the rabbi recognized them as members of his uncle’s congregation in Cape Town, he struck up a brief conversation as they whizzed by.

“Why am I running today? I’m meshugah,” laughed Dan Yehuda Feinblum, who later called the rabbi to say thanks.

“You have no idea what a mitzvah you did,” the runner said after the race. “My wife had been drinking only water, and sorely needed an energy drink. All of the sudden there you were.”

The stand itself attracted a few locals who had come out to watch the race.

Rabbi Zev Wineberg prepares for the marathon from his Long Island City home. (Photo: Yosef Lewis)
Rabbi Zev Wineberg prepares for the marathon from his Long Island City home. (Photo: Yosef Lewis)

“What a cool rabbi,” remarked Eric Beniam. “I grew up with many rabbis, but none of them gave out [drinks] to fellow Jews.”

Seth Gold, recently arrival from West Bloomfield, Mich., was more than happy to hold his own “Kosher Energy Drink” sign.

“You guys are amazing,” he said to Wineberg.

For his part, the rabbi said that he’ll try to get the drink officially recognized by the race’s organizers next year.

“When you look at the runners, you see a unity of purpose,” said Wineberg. “For a Jew, the lesson is clear: We need to be united as one whilst running in the same direction.”

As a runner grabbed a drink from his hand, he added: “And, of course, to love your fellow Jew as you love yourself.”