Jerusalem Roller Coaster
Posted on March 25th, 2011
The only problem with boastfully thumping your chest and saying that no terrorist attack is going to prevent you from running a marathon is….. that you actually have to then… run a marathon.
Today, for the first time ever, the City of Jerusalem hosted a full 42.2 km marathon along with a half marathon and 10km race. As I checked weather reports the night before, supplemented by looking at the HAIL out the window, I felt a “touch” of nervousness (like having a “touch” of the Swine Flu.) Running a marathon is hard enough. But running in freezing rain? I know Israel needs the rain — but Israel will still need the rain on Tuesday, right?
As it turned out, my apprehension was unfounded. Although it was cold, it was not unbearable and we did not get rain. Fine, one problem licked. Now I just had to deal with the fact that Jerusalem is a city built on hills (you know all the psalms that talk about the “mountains of Jerusalem? — They’re not kidding.)
I also had to deal with the fact that instead of the 90km a week I trained for the Tiveria Marathon, injuries and bad weather had resulted in about 90km in a month. But — no excuses. I was there to run this morning and that’s what I did.
By the way, if you ever — EVER — hear me say something idiotic like “I’m going to run a marathon, but just for fun,” please shoot me.
Running a marathon can be an exhillarating experience. There is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line. But I dare you to ask any runner if they are having “fun” as they pass the 40KM marker. They will probabaly give you that blank look that runners get about this point or they might throw up on you. But no one will tell you that they are having a great time after running forty kilometers with a few more still to go.
Anyway, we started running by the Gan Sacher park (near where my son plays football) and soon headed for the Old City. Running through the Old City with a few thousand friends is a great experience. I was running with some of the guys from the Bet Shemesh Running Club, and we were running at a decent pace (5 minutes/km.) Nothing too intense, unless your toes are…… (sorry, I promise not to mention my toes.) The first 21km were actually nice as we raced through ancient and modern Jerusalem.
Yes, sorry to those running on the left side of the road, but Jerusalem is one undivided city. The eastern (small “e”) part includes the Old City and other areas that were central to Jewish life thousands of years before Mr. Muhammad was born. Just because it was conquered by the Arab Legion in 1948, does not make it “Arab East Jerusalem.” O.K., enough politics, back to the run.
Around 21km I realized that I was running much too fast and that I would not be able to keep the pace up. That’s o.k. because I was running this race for “fun” and didn’t care about my time. I slowed down, took a few gels and actually walked a particularly brutal hill. That’s when my toes started to….. oops, never mind.
At 29km, we ran down King George Street and turned right on Yaffo, running along the tracks for the brand new Jerusalem light rail train. Where else can you run along thousand year old cobblestone streets and within an hour run along an ultra-modern train track?
A few kilometers later, the touring part of the run was over and I got to know my friend “Mr. Pain” again. No one likes pain, but if you get to know him, he’s not that bad. If I am not making sense, you get a good understanding of what goes through a marathon runners head after about 35 kilometers.
At 35 km, some of the other Bet Shemesh runners caught up to me. By this point, my pace had plummeted to about 7 minutes/kilometer and after about 5 minutes, they went by. For a few minutes my pace dropped to 0:00 a km as I stopped at a water station and looked for a nice cafe where I could put my feet up and have a hot Cafe Afuch.
The last seven kilometers were just plain monstrously brutal. At this point, even running down hills killed. And although 7 kilometers doesn’t sound like a lot — it felt like 700.
I caught up to another friend and we were able to lift the pace a bit as we closed in on the finish. Note for the race organizers: Did you have to put the steepest hill of the course at km39? Thanks guys.)
But I have been in this situation before and I knew that I would complete the run and even what my finishing time would most likely be. (It was 3:53.)
But that still didn’t make it easier.
The sweetness of a marathon finish line cannot be described. It is a wave of emotion that passes through your tortured body. Even as your muscles freeze up, and you start walking like a zombie, your head and heart are already telling all the other parts of the body “Hey — we did it!”
I won’t repeat what the legs answered, but it wasn’t pretty. And the toes responded with….. oops, sorry.
After finishing, I realized two distressing things. First was that it would be a long walk back to my car. Second was that — hey, it’s really freekin cold and I’m wearing 42.2 kilometers worth of sweat! Not happy. I think I benched Gomel when I finally got back to my car.
Yet even as I sit here with sore legs and bandaged you know whats, I have that post-marathon glow. Just as the route was a roller coaster of hills, a roller coaster of emotions goes along with it.
Could anything be more fitting in a place that experiences the horror of terrorist attacks but in between celebrates Purim – one of the most joyous times of the year?
I think not. I am very happy that I participated. We showed the World that no matter what happens, life — fantastic, exciting life — in Israel continues.
Congrats to all my fellow runners who did the full, half, and 10km runs. Can’t wait to hear your stories.
As for me, this body has taken enough abuse. I am now retired from running and plan to spend a great deal of my time on the couch training for a marathon of eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream…..
Well, at least until those toes heal…..
Should take about a week, no?
P.S. Adidas was the sponsor of the race. They took a lot of heat from those who were unhappy that the route went through so called “occupied” Jerusalem. Please send them an e-mail to say thanks for standing up for what is right. You can write to Adidas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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