The best part of any adventure are the stories you tell of it afterwards.
“The Race” – Here’s how it all went down:
Wednesday, April 6th, 6pm: Took my visiting sister out to a falafel dinner.
Wednesday, April 6th, 10pm: Not feeling so great.
Thursday, April 7th, 6am: Sick. Not sure how much detail my blog readers desire, so let’s just leave it at “sick”.
Thursday, April 7th, all day: Hoping it would be a “24 hour thing”, I proceeded with my life and food as normal. Took visiting sister out for hummus lunch. Unfortunately, it was NOT a “24 hour thing”.
Thursday, April 7th, all night: No sleep, lots of bathroom trips, worried about waking up in time (dumb since I wasn’t even asleep), worried about my stomach and how the past day and a half of sickness would affect my running…
Friday, April 8th, RACE DAY:
4:30am – Alarm rings. I get up, dress, use the bathroom 7 million more times and wonder if I should eat the breakfast I had planned? Decide against eating at this point.
5:30am – M and I leave for Tel Aviv. Lots of cars on the highway. Lots of people inside the cars wearing the white marathon t-shirts!
6:15am – Pull into South Tel Aviv and the streets are thronged with runners having last minute snacks, attaching race numbers, rubbing themselves with lube, walking to the starting line 1/2 mile away. There is zero parking anywhere, so we decide I will get out and walk to the start and M will find a place to stash the car.
6:30 am – I eat two bananas on the way and pray that they will stay in my digestive track for at least 3 hours.
6:40 am – I was assigned to Heat #1, so I line up with tons of other runners to get ready for our starting gun. The full marathon has already started ahead of us. I try to get to the back of the pack as I am slow and don’t want to get trampled by faster runners. There’s a DJ at the starting line playing music. The atmosphere is festive. Everyone is happy and excited. I wish I had someone with me, but I am still smiling like a silly fool.
6:45am – The first rays of the sunrise and we’re off! I keep thinking “I am really doing this. I am running through the beautiful streets of Tel Aviv, on a gorgeous April morning, while the sun rises, with thousands of other people.” I planned for this moment for so long and here it is! I am overcome by happy emotion and pride.
Miles 1-5: I quickly find a group who are running my pace (10:30 – 11:15 by my training watch) and just stay behind them. This way I can enjoy the scenery without having to keep checking my watch. The natural urge is to start out fast, but it’s better to run slow at the beginning and save your energy for the second half. This is called running a “negative split.” There are so many runners rushing past me I literally feel like I am being swept along with the tide. We run on Allenby and then Rothschild, with a turn-around at the HaBima Theater, for those who know Tel Aviv.
Miles 6-8: It starts to rain a bit. This is fine with me and feels pretty nice actually. I am still behind my pacer group, but they are beginning to pull ahead. My watch shows that they are speeding up. I am SO tempted to follow and have to keep reminding myself to “run my own race”, stick to my own training plan and keep consistent and slow. The course goes back to HaYarkon and then to Rokach and all along the side of Park HaYarkon. The sun comes back out and it starts to heat up. There are a lot of runners and supporters along the roadside. I find someone else to follow at pace and try to keep loose and calm despite growing fatigue.
Miles 8-10: As we reach the turn around in the Park, I start feeling really poorly. The full marathoners have gone straight where we turn, and that cuts the pack down considerably. The Park, although lush and green, feels humid and hot compared to the open roadways. The path is choppy and uneven and I have to pay attention to my feet. My stomach starts to hurt in earnest and my head begins to throb. Sadly, I realize it is time for those bananas to make their exit. Luckily I find a bathroom, do my business, splash some water on my face, drink water and suck down a Gu packet to help replace what I have just lost. I return to the race, but my spirits are down. My pace slows to 11:45 and I consider walking. Right then, a spectator leans in and says, כל הכבוד לך. אל תוותרי. “Good Job. Don’t give up!” and that is exactly the strength injection I need to get my head back in the game. This will not be the last time support saves me.
Miles 10-12: Lonely. Where is everyone? My head pounding. Thinking not in full sentences “Head hurts b/c you need to drink. Get something to drink. Where are the tables?” We are out of the park now and running through the deserted Namal (Port). There are not many runners around me. There is no one in front to pace me. There are not many spectators. I don’t like running on the wet wood slats of the boardwalk. Then, somewhere near Aroma cafe, I am handed a water bottle and an orange slice. I honestly didn’t even see the person who handed it to me, it just appeared in my hands. Second time today I am overcome by gratitude to strangers.
Mile 12: Back to HaYarkon and passing the Hilton Hotel. My watch says we are at Mile 13, in other words, I am supposed to be at the finish line but I am not anywhere close. Huh?? With a sinking spirit I realize that my training watch, which as you remember, I never calibrated b/c right out of the box, it seemed pretty accurate, is in fact, not accurate at all. Meaning I am nowhere close to the finish line and already at the distance of my longest training run. In front of us is a frigging long slow HILL and I can not see the finish line anywhere. My heart sinks to my feet. I slow to a walk coming out of the tunnel. Another runner comes plodding up beside me and says “Yalla, Yalla!” (Let’s Go!). I grumble back about who put the ^%$# hill at the end of a race, which makes those around me laugh. That smile puts energy into my heart and gets my butt in gear to run again. As we pass one of the beach-side hotels, a uniformed doormen steps out to high five me, and I almost start to cry. That makes times 3 and 4 today that I owe a debt to strangers.
Mile 13 (Mile 14 now by my watch): At the top of the hill, the sea and beach lay stretched out before us, thousands of people are at the race expo, runners already wearing their medals are cheering us on. I can see the speck that is the finish line in the distance. I suddenly realize that everything I have worked for for the past 6 months will be over soon. I throw my grumpy pants to the ground and savor the last minutes of this race.
I cross the finish line and fly right into the arms of my smiling husband who spins me around shouting “You did it! You did it! It’s over!”
The bar mitzvah at the kotel. The bar mitzvah at shul. The kiddush at shul. The bar mitzvah party. THE RACE. It is ALL behind me, all of it. I have crossed the final finish line.
My chip time was 2:36:11. I estimate 6 minutes probably were spent in the bathroom. None-the-less, this was still a lot slower than my desired 2:20. Next time, I calibrate my training computer!!! Duh, seriously.
There is always a let down after a big accomplishment and this is no exception. I even feel discouraged for a variety of personal reasons, not the least of which being my finishing time. But I know that running 21km is not something everyone will even try to do and it IS a big accomplishment.
I may not have done my absolute best, but I did pretty great. And now I have something to improve upon for next year. My next post is going to be about planning for the next year’s race and my intention is to get as many of you to consider running it as I can. Training for and running a race is an emotional roller coaster, but one that changes your character in a profound and positive way. As you walk away from the finish line with that shiny medal around your neck, you feel “I can do anything I set out to do.”
and of course,
Finally, just a few words to the race organizers and supporters. This was a FABULOUS RACE. The course was clear and well-organized. The entertainment was good. The support was awesome. To the people who stand on the sides and call out our names and numbers as we pass, you cannot imagine the kind of impact you have. As you see from this post, just a few words of encouragement can turn everything around for a runner.
Thank you, thank you to all of you who supported me and encouraged me in person, via text, on Facebook, on the phone, mentally…. I needed every single drop of what you poured out. Much, much gratitude.
I am taking a couple of days “off” but my next goal is already being formulated. I gotta always have a goal!