Adjust size of text


Follow us and continue the conversation

Your saved articles

You haven't saved any articles

What are you looking for?

Bondi Beach to the Sahara : one Aussie-Israeli’s marathon mission

Dan Goldberg
Print this
Man surrounded by cards with faces and names on them

Doron Atzmon surrounded by a deck of cards with the faces of Israeli hostages. He will carry these cards in Morocco .(Supplied)

Published: 2 April 2024

Last updated: 2 April 2024

Running a marathon is anathema to most of us mere mortals. Running six marathons on six consecutive days – a 252km super-shlep – is beyond the bounds of comprehension.

And running those 252km in the Saharan Desert, where temperatures nudge 40 degrees daily, borders on insanity.

Not for Doron Atzmon, a 55-year-old Israeli living in Sydney who will depart for Morocco this weekend to race the legendary Marathon Des Sables, an annual event on the extreme sports calendar billed as “the toughest foot race on Earth”.

Enduring pain and suffering in one of the world’s most inhospitable terrains is his answer to losing two family members on the October 7 massacre and its aftermath.

Ilay Nachman was at the SuperNova Music Festival where he and 363 others were slaughtered by Hamas terrorists. The 23-year-old died fighting the terrorists with his bare hands, saving the lives of three women.

And Rani Tachan, who Atzmon describes as “a crazy Iron Man”, re-joined the IDF to help free the hostages in Gaza. The 40-year-old fell in a battle in northern Gaza one month into his reserve service, leaving behind his wife and four young children.

“I will turn the pain and suffering that I can only begin to imagine is being inflicted on all the innocent hostages to help guide me and give me the strength and endurance needed to get through this six-day ultra-marathon,” Atzmon says.

He is racing the holy grail of extreme ultra-marathons, which has claimed three lives in its 37 years, in a bid to raise $100,000 to help fund Israelis suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following the massacre on October 7.

“My cousin Rani suffered from PTSD so this cause is close to my heart,” he says. “Even while struggling with PTSD, Rani felt that he could not sit back while others were out there, risking their lives to find the hostages.” 

For weeks, Atzmon has been training daily on Bondi Beach. Last week he rehearsed the race, running a marathon each day. As locals swam and sunbathed at the world-famous beach, Atzmon lugged his backpack back and forth on the 1km strip of sun-kissed sand for 252km across six days.

All runners must carry their own food and supplies for the duration of the ultra-marathon. But Atzmon’s backpack is different: it displays an Israeli flag on the outside and 134 cards with the faces of the hostages on the inside. And he is the sole Israeli registered among the 1000-plus runners and no doubt the only runner with an Israeli dog tag around his neck.

Born in Jerusalem, Atzmon has already raised almost half of his $100,000 goal since he launched a Go Fund Me campaign, titled “Running For Freedom”, two months ago.

The funds will go to Israeli organisations such as Natal, an apolitical non-profit that specialises in war and terror-related trauma.

At the end of his 252km rehearsal race on Friday, he laid out the cards on Bondi Beach as an act of solidarity – and defiance.

“Ilay and Rani celebrated life to the max. They appreciated every second of every day. Let us help those who are suffering deeply since the October 7 attack find peace again in their souls.”

Doron Atzmon will race the Marathon Des Sables in Morocco from 12 to 22 April. Donate to his campaign here.

About the author

Dan Goldberg

Now a documentary filmmaker, Dan Goldberg was editor of the Australian Jewish News from 2002-07. He was also a correspondent for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, The Jewish Chronicle and Haaretz.


No comments on this article yet. Be the first to add your thoughts.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

Enter site