As many of you know from Facebook, I finished the Tel Aviv Marathon on Friday in a time of 5:44, eight minutes slower than my predicted finish but before the six hour cut-off.
You also probably know that I was pretty down on the experience right afterwards. If I had written this post then, I would have said that running a marathon was the dumbest thing I have ever done and that I would never ever EVER do it again.
Now a few days have passed. I have had time to forget some of the worst pain and to allow some of the better memories to come through. I have a tremendous amount to express and I imagine it will come trickling out over the following months. The fact that I set this GIANT goal last year, spent months researching it, planning it, training for it and then accomplishing it, really is awesome and a bit overwhelming.
Lessons Learned and Confirmed:
- We can accomplish anything we set our minds to. It may not come out perfectly or pretty, but we can get it done.
- Setting a tough goal and then working to get it done is the most amazingly delightful and empowering thing. Goal Achievement = Invincibility 101.
- Age and body shape do not need to be limitations. There were old and gray runners way ahead of me. There were younger runners behind me. Some people were small, others less so. Determination levels the playing field.
- You don’t need to eat any animals or animal products to be able to run a marathon. Booyah! This is probably the thing I am most excited to prove to the world. I trained and ran on a 100% Plant-Powered diet. There is sufficient protein in plants alone to build the strong muscles it takes to run 42.2km (26.2 miles). You can be strong and powerful AND make compassionate food choices.
It turns out that a full marathon is NOTHING like a half marathon. I did not expect how different it would be. Aside from the obvious double distance, there were a quarter as many participants in the full as there were in the half and they were a shockingly serious group of runners. As I lined up at the back of this relatively small group, I kept thinking “but where is everybody?” The gun went off, we began, and they friggin’ bolted. ALL of them. By the time I passed the sign for KM 1, there were NO runners in sight. I forced myself to not look back but assumed I was the last person and I was completely shocked and disheartened. I had expected to be at the back but not from so early on and not that far back! I cannot explain in words how devastating this felt. It was like having the wind knocked out of my sails right at the start.
One tiny benefit of being alone at that point is that the course photographers were bored. It was like having my own personal paparazzi. I mugged about for the cameras like an idiot while they egged me on. There are 25 crazily good pictures of me on Facebook, HERE.
Forty-five minutes into the marathon and on came the half marathoners sounding like a rampaging herd of elephants. That was kind of scary and I got knocked around quite a bit as the lead packs pushed past, but at least I wasn’t alone briefly. But by km 11, the two races separated and once again, total solitude. At this point, on the full marathon course, there were no bands and few spectators. It wasn’t even 10am and I felt like the city had forgotten that I was still out there struggling on with hours ahead of me.
I also discovered at this point that a woman about my age had been following me and using me a pacer. She came up and we chatted a bit. She told me there were others still behind us. She and I would run together for much of the race. It was great to have a body there but I was limited by my inability to be exhausted and speak Hebrew at the same time. In the end, she finished a few minutes behind me and I was there to give her a high-five in the International language of achievement and joy.
Although desolate and lonely, the course was spectacular. The city has never looked lovelier. The weather was absolutely perfect – cool and cloudy to start with a few gentle showers, sunny but breezy and cool (75F I’m guessing) later on. The Mediterranean had her turquoise on in a convincing impersonation of the Caribbean. North Tel Aviv was posh and immaculate, Ganei Yehoshua and Park HaYarkon were lush and green. There were scullers on the Yarkon River that made it look like the Charles. Running down the closed main streets of the city center felt like Yom Kippur without the solemnity.
Me and the beautiful Sea
At km 28, my husband showed up on his bike and rode next to me for the rest of the race – another benefit of being so far back – the rules didn’t seem to apply anymore. I was suffering deeply by then. I was exhausted, my toenails felt like nails were being driven through them on every step, I had a big blister on the bottom of one foot, and my knees and hamstrings were calling it a day. My husband kept joking that I should get on his bike for awhile – no one would know. It was tempting I tell ya!
At km 35, I picked up a second escort. My friend Pamela, also on her bike, rode on my other side and stayed with me all the way to the finish line. Running (and walking by this point) between the two bikes was wonderful. I drew so much energy from the two of them and they let me rant like a lunatic and bathed me with positive words. Pamela has probably never heard so much swearing in her entire life! Sorry Pammy!
You know how during childbirth you’re out-of-your-head with pain and fatigue and begging to be put out of your misery? No? Well I was, and this marathon was pretty much the same. I wanted an epidural and I wanted it BAD!
Two more friends met me on the course: Lymore walked with me a bit, and Olivia, just hours before a trip abroad, ran alongside me. That is when it really dawned on me what needs to be different if I ever do this again. I need people. It’s as simple as that. Training alone was fun for me, but running a marathon alone felt like crap.
The other stunning and amazing thing that happened for me is that although there were few spectators, there were the race volunteers and the other runners who had already finished and were walking home. Every 20 seconds of the last hour was a chorus of Kol Hakavod’s (Good for you), clapping and cheering.
Israelis are a generally surly bunch. I think it says a lot about the power of exercise and fitness that this particular group were so very kind. Either they were riding high on their endorphins or they just have a generally more positive outlook because they work out. If more people in this country and our neighboring lands exercised I think we could solve a lot of our problems.
There ya have it, run a marathon and come up with a solution to Middle East Peace! I’m totally not joking by the way. I may have just found a new direction to pursue…
To those of you who cheered not jeered, I thank you. Every single “Kol Hakavod” was a gift, and the folks who said “You’re at the end, only a little left” were my epidurals.
To those of you who served drinks and snacks, and guided and clapped, thank you for staying there until the very last person passed.
To my friends who helped me on the course, amen, what can I say? Pamela, I’m not sure you can really understand what an angel you were to me.
To Oran, who came over with homeopathic remedies for my post-race cramping and pain a few hours before her Shabbat company arrived, and stayed to let me get some of this off my chest, I am deeply grateful.
To my husband, who helped me by taking care of the house and cooking every Friday of my long training runs, who got up at 4:30am and drove me to Tel Aviv, found parking, walked me to the start in the pitch dark, and escorted me for hours on his bike, then came home and cooked Shabbat dinner, I clearly married the right man.
As we drove home from the race, my husband said “Emilooshka, I hope you know that if you can run 42.2km, you can do ANYTHING.”
Thank you G-d for making sure I found this man and for not letting me mess it up when I did.
Post-Race Swollen-Legged Banana Massacre (not my yogurt)
Now, I know that some of you are reading and thinking “Well sure, Emily can do this stuff because she gets all this support. There is no one in my life who would ever support or help me, especially not my husband!”
Listen UP: You have to ASK people. You have to say “I have this dream and I need your help to make it real.” And if at first they don’t believe in you or your dream, then you believe in yourself. When they see your determination and your perseverance, they will come around.
When I told my husband I was going to do this marathon (…lose 70 lbs; … go back to school at age 38; …open my own business (twice in 2 different countries); … move to Israel; …become vegan) he has always answered with skepticism. I forged ahead and when he saw I was serious, he climbed aboard.
You believe in you.
You believe in your dream.
You make it happen.
Your own angels are just hovering there, praying for you to begin.
And if you’re not sure you can even believe in yourself, bring it to me, baby. I will lend you some of my faith.
Any dream will do.