As I started running my 8th marathon, the third one in Jerusalem, I felt in my whole body how much I LOVE marathons! I love the sounds and the sights and the feeling of it! The music, the crowds and the celebration of long distance running! And this year we were also blessed with absolutely ideal weather conditions for the Jerusalem marathon. It was not too hot, not too cold, no rain and hardly any wind.
During the first kilometers I talked with many interesting people. One runner was from New York, another one from Sweden, both of them visiting Israel for the first time to run the Jerusalem marathon. I warned them of the hills coming up, at the same time as I encouraged them to take in all the beautiful views and enjoy running through the streets of Jerusalem. I also talked with different Israelis having come up to Jerusalem to run here as part of their training for an ultra marathon (a longer distance race than a marathon), and I think that says something about the challenging level of this particular marathon.
Running down Jabotinsky, we met the half marathoners who were climbing that same hill nearing their finish line. I encouraged them to the best of my abilities, and told them to keep going strong till the end, – to think of the medal that is waiting for them! At the bottom of the hill, I noticed a journalist friend with her team, and we said a quick hi to each other.
I totally loved the first hour of running, and the second hour went well too. Running down Jaffa road is a joy! Seeing all the runners ahead of you, being part of that river running through the streets of our beloved city, hearing our feet pound the pavement. I was enjoying it with all of my senses!
We climbed the hills to Mt. Scopus, and met the elite runners on their way down. We all encouraged them, and I kept on yelling encouragement to all the runners we met. They really were doing great, so it was not hard to do so with enthusiasm, and it helps keep my mind off my own efforts climbing the hill. As I started the last hill before the Hebrew University, I met my sporty husband on his way back down. We yelled some encouraging words to each other and threw kisses through the air. I was happy to note that he seemed to be ahead of where he had been at that time in earlier years, so he was probably going to get a better time. The truth is that several times during this marathon, I thought of his finishing time and of the finishing time of our son who was really hoping for a PR in his 10K race. They are more concerned about their actual finishing time, while I am mostly focused on having a good time WHILE running the marathon. And I was enjoying myself, so, – so far, so good!
The marathon route goes around and behind the Hebrew University, just to include some more heavy hills, and some more stunning views! The view of Jerusalem below us was amazing, as the sun was giving it a golden shine. Several runners stopped to take pictures, but I knew from experience that I am not able to capture its real beauty that way, so I kept my phone in my fueling belt and kept running. In a heavy climb behind the University, the Swede that I had met early on in the race, asked me if this was the hardest part of the marathon. I answered that yes, this was a rough part, but there are several smaller hills waiting for us downtown too.
There was a lot of security along the whole route, and especially at remote places like this one behind the University. I made a point to thank the border police who were out there keeping us safe. I also thanked the crowds of spectators along the course, who were out cheering for us. They really do take a very big part in making this such a special event.
I had planned on utilizing the downhill from Mt. Scopus to the Old City in a good way, but unfortunately I struggled with an old fashioned side cramp at that time, so I didn’t push myself. After all, – I am out there enjoying myself, remember?! In the middle of that downhill, there is one uphill (you may not notice it normally, but believe me, when you are running, you notice it!), and right now that uphill came in useful, as it took away my side cramp!
The next challenge was running through an almost kilometer long tunnel, at about the half way mark, just before getting to the Old City. The tunnel was added to the route last year, and I really did not like it then. But this year, I was prepared for it, and was able to handle it better, even if the smell of sweaty runners was pretty bad in there…
Having come more than half way through the marathon, I felt quite happy. I was enjoying myself, and remember thinking that two and a half more hours of this, would be just fine, – I love marathons!
Climbing the short hill to Jaffa Gate, I remembered the photographer that normally gets good pictures at that location, so I smiled and lifted my arms (which I did to all the photographers I noticed along the course). Running through the Old City was really beautiful. This experience never gets old. Lifting my feet and moving forward on these old stones, thinking of the history and the dreams that are part of this place, seeing these old and special walls next to me! I had lots of beautiful Jerusalem songs going through my heart and head! Love!
Coming out of Zion gate, more beautiful views meet us as we run down a hill before starting the climb to Mt.Zion hotel. I saw a friend there, which is always fun, and part of the blessing of running in the city you live in. At the top of this hill, we make a turn, and I met my sporty husband again there! He looked like he was doing great! We then come around and climb another little hill by the Bell Garden before heading towards our climb of Jabotinsky. All along this area, there were lots of spectators, which I found really encouraging. Little kids were out there giving you high fives, whole families had come out to join in the festivities, – it was a true celebration to run through it all!
One of my challenges in all of my marathons, is that I always manage to run way further than 42.2 kilometers. In other words, I am horrible at cutting corners, or taking the turns the right way, – and it is not like I am not trying! Not long after seeing the 23rd kilometer mark, I heard this message through my headphones: “Distance: 24 kilomers”. And at the same time as I saw the 27th kilometer mark, I heard: “Distance: 28 kilometers”… Ok, I thought, I will make one PR today, – the longest distance I have ever ran…
In the midst of this, I decided it was time to turn on the playlist I had prepared specifically for this race. And wow, – it was epic, – having this great running music in my ears and running down Emek Refaim which was filled with encouraging spectators! I felt myself choking on tears, that’s how moving this whole experience was! I almost felt like lifting my arms even though no camera was in sight!! Ha!
This elevating experience, however, made me pick up my speed a little too much, and my side cramp came back. Not good. Coming up the familiar bike path that is part of most of my training runs, I enjoyed my great music, but still struggled with the side cramp. This was still the case as I ran Hebron road, and I promised to let myself walk up the next hill, to try to get rid of the side cramp.
A nice song with this text came up on my playlist: “If it’s fast or slow, all I really know, is I’m gonna enjoy the ride.”, and I felt that being the theme of my marathon this time. I was out there enjoying the ride, feeling happy and privileged to take part in it.
At the bottom of the hill at around the 31st kilometer mark, I met a friend who was out there with an encouraging sign with my name on it! How fun!! She walked the hill with me, and it was a nice and welcome break.
Next up was running by the Jerusalem promenade with another stunning view of our beautiful city. Afterwards we even ran into our neighborhood a bit, and there, as I passed the 34th kilometer sign, I heard this message in my ears: “Distance: 34 kilometers”. What?! I started wondering whether I was cheating or hallucinating… Where did my extra kilometer go?! But really, I had followed the route, and turned at the right places… I concluded that it must have been the ones placing the marks that had done so with somewhat uneven intervals. Confusing when you are out there quite focused on these markings. But, of course, it is nice to realize that you don’t have to run an extra kilometer at this point.
I saw some more friends and people I know in this area, and my friend with the sign showed up two more times. Really nice! I also saw someone who I know has ran several marathons in the past, who encouraged me, and encouragement coming from that type of person, is taken to heart in a special way. She knows what she is talking about!
I really appreciated all the encouragement in this part of the marathon, because, even if the side cramps had gone away, they had been replaced with another challenge. I was feeling really, really nauseous. So much so, that I ended up having to take many walk breaks, which is something I have had limited understanding for when I have seen others do in this part of the marathon in the past.
So, while I had had so many happy thoughts of loving marathons earlier on, this last hour of the marathon, was a reminder of that this is the actual marathon. A marathon is not like running four 10Ks and then a little more at the end. I love 10K training runs, but four of those do not make up a marathon, because you do not do them straight after each other… The way you cope with keeping on running after having already ran for more than 3 hours, that is the real marathon-experience. And let me tell you, – it is challenging.
I felt that I really had to work on balancing my stomach… It was annoying, because when I had 5Ks left, I understood that I could actually beat my own time from my last marathon in Tiberias. But I was not going to throw up, as that is not part of “enjoying the race” as I see it…
I walked up the steepest part of Kovshei Katamon, a cruel hill around the 39th kilometer mark, but somehow handling my stomach was harder than handling the hill this time around.
This time, I was the runner who walked across the marking on the road that said 41,5 kilometers. Whenever I have seen others doing that in the past, I have been thinking to myself: “What is with you?! You have less than ten minutes left, -just keep on running till the end!” Now I all of a sudden gained an understanding of why some people are walking this part. This time I was one of those taking quite frequent walk breaks, while doing my best to just make it to the end. The song on my playlist was quite fitting with this text: “Wake me up when it is over…”. Yes, please.
I had been running for a bit when I saw the 42K mark, and tried to pick up my speed a little bit. There was the finishing gate within sight, my eyes fill with happy tears as I raise my arms in joy and hear my name of the loudspeaker, – and I am DONE! I made it! Oh, joy and relief,- I don’t have to keep on running any more! My finishing time was 4:34:59 and the total distance I ran was 42,4 km. By far not my fastest, but also not my slowest marathon.
I got my golden cape and my medal, and I found my husband and son there, – who had both gotten great new personal records on the course that day, by the way! So happy for them and proud of them! We got our pictures taken in various cool spots in Sacher Park which was all one big celebration. It had been another good marathon experience, which I feel privileged to have the health and strength and ability to take part in.
And, isn’t it funny, after crossing that finish line, it is not the last hard hour that is fresh in your memory, but the whole wonderful experience of the celebration of long distance running! It is the feeling of completing a challenge, being able to push your own limits, and the joy of having made it past the finish line!