My Jerusalem Marathon 2015

This is one of my favorite photos from the marathon. Impressed by the photographer who managed to get a photo of me sort of "in the air" in spite of my snail pace.

We made it, – my dear husband and I have now finished the three marathons we signed up for this season. I am thankful for health and strength to be able to do this, and for the joy and positive energy we have been blessed with in this process.

marathon maniacs

During my previous two marathons, in Tiberias and Tel Aviv, I had to tell myself to not even think about how difficult it would be on the hills of Jerusalem. In addition, two days before the Jerusalem marathon, I felt a cough coming on, and the day before I became really congested. So, – to run or not to run? I decided my symptoms were OK, so I would run, but not push myself too much, if at all possible in the combination with completing over 42 kilometers of running… This became my overall goal for the marathon, – to take it easy, in order to not knock myself out, so that I would stay healthy also after completing the marathon.

I studied the route in the days leading up to the marathon, – none of these terrible hills were going to take me by surprise this time!

Jerusalem marathon route

The marathon started at 7 in the morning, and the weather was absolutely perfect! Yeay!!! Here we have had a super cold marathon and a super hot marathon, – finally an ideal weather day for a marathon!

I started out running with the 4:15 pacer, with the knowledge that I would eventually fall behind them. I had a thought in the back of my mind of being happy if I would finish in less than four and a half hours, but really, my main goal was to keep running and finish strong and healthy. The first few kilometers we did a loop around the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. Kind of a boring part of the run, but anyway, you are just getting started and trying to find a workable pace to go at. After passing the 4 kilometer mark and someone mentioned that now we have done 10 %, I noticed that I was feeling somewhat exhausted already. Not a good sign! Way to early to start feeling somewhat out of breath! I focused on taking it easy and pay more attention to my pulse than to my pace. This actually became key to this marathon for me, – to just run comfortably, rather than to try to keep a certain speed focused on trying to reach a certain time goal.

I fell behind the pace group that I started with, but all of a sudden noticed that there was another 4:15 pace group too, and ran with them for a while. Their pacer was a very supportive one who gave encouraging words about taking in the sights of Jerusalem and to feel its energy and spirit as we ran through it!

Even though I have trained in Jerusalem, I must admit that I have not quite conquered running up the hills. I mean, I keep running, I don’t stop or walk or anything, – but I run at a snail pace. So, I would loose people as we were going uphill. But somehow in my training, I must have learnt to take advantage of the downhills, because for almost the whole first half of the marathon I would catch up with both of these pace groups as we were going down the hills, – and then loose them again on the uphills. I just decided to not put on any breaks but just let myself go forward down the hills. This was great, for everything but my poor toes which received this constant banging toward the front of the shoe. Oh well, – that is part of the experience, I guess!

As we were running down Jabotinsky, which I think must be one of the steeper hills of the marathon, the half marathoners were actually coming up the same hill, and I poured out encouragement for how great they were doing up such a terrible hill. We were in our 9th kilometer going down, and someone next to me asked if we were not going to have to go up that hill, and I had to tell him the difficult truth that we were going to climb that hill in our 25th and 26th kilometer. 

I enjoyed the fact that during this marathon we many times met other runners running the other direction, sometimes those running different routes, and sometimes full marathoners before or after a turn. I would often try to encourage those I met, especially if I was going downhill, as that left me some breath to cheer with…

During the tenth kilometer we passed a music stage where the singer was performing a song with the lyrics “I will keep on running” to a very catchy melody as we ran by, and I felt very encouraged and motivated to keep it up! :-)

Climbing up the hills to Mount Scopus is considered one of the harder parts of the marathon, and as I got to the top and was at the 17th kilometer mark, I was very happy to realize that I did not feel any more exhausted than I had at the 4 kilometer mark! Yeay! Taking it easy was working!! Also, just before making it all the way to the top, I met my sporty husband on his way down after having done his loop around the Mount Scopus part of the Hebrew University.

Coming down from Mount Scopus, at around the 20th kilometer mark, was the first time my phone rang. I use a run keeper-app on my iPhone, and ran with earplugs to receive updates every five minutes on time, distance and average pace. Somehow, this phone call turned off those notifications, so for the last half of my marathon I received no notifications about how I was doing with time and pace. And you know, – that made this part even more enjoyable than the first half! I was just running along, having a good time, making sure to keep a comfortable pace. At times I felt like I was dancing through the streets of Jerusalem to the music that poured out from the great live music stations that there were quite many of along the route.

This is one of my favorite photos from the marathon. Impressed by the photographer who managed to get a photo of me sort of "in the air" in spite of my snail pace.

This is one of my favorite photos from the marathon. Impressed by the photographer who managed to get a photo of me sort of “in the air” in spite of my snail pace.

And now, having ran marathons in Tiberias and Tel Aviv recently, I must say, – nothing beats Jerusalem as far as throwing a good party! There were people cheering along almost the whole route! And if people had not made it out, they were yelling their encouragement out windows or off of balconies! I loved it!

As we started the second part of the marathon, we ran through a tunnel outside the Old City. This was a change since last year, and in my opinion, not for the better, but what can you do, you have to stick to the route. In addition to the dark and closed tunnel, I was surprised to notice at this point that I was actually feeling really hungry! (This was new to me as in former marathons I have felt more trouble keeping food inside my body than having any urge to put more in.) So, I started making plans for getting our favorite pizza after finishing the race. We would get some cold Coke to go with it too. I was already thinking about the Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream in our freezer, when I started to hope for some real food before finishing the marathon. This is when I exited the tunnel, and saw there right in front of me a food station serving real food!! How perfect!! I grabbed some bananas which I ate on the run, and felt great!

Running through a small part of the Old City is one of my favorite parts of the Jerusalem Marathon route. How special to run between these ancient walls build on top of so much history!! It was during this section that my phone rang again, this time twice in a row, making me think it might be some type of emergency, so I made the effort to pick it out of my belt and answer the call from my daughter. She was waiting somewhere in the 38th kilometer and was wondering where I was… Oh well.

Running through the old city

After having climbed up to Mt.Zion hotel we made a turn so that we could make a loop that would include some more hills, among them Jabotinsky. (Don’t you just love those who put together this route?!) As I am climbing Jabotinsky in my usual crawl-pace, focusing all my energy on keeping a positive attitude and making it up this hill, one of the medical personnel stationed in the middle of the hill approached me, asking if I was feeling well… (Hm, how am I to interpret that??) “I guess I am feeling as well as you could expect climbing this hill”, I answered. She gave me an encouraging comment and moved on.

Running down Emek Refaim I called my daughter, who by the way had called me numerous times wondering where I was, asking me to let her know when I would get closer to her. I was not totally sure where she was standing, and though maybe she would be at the bike path we were going to run up after Emek Refaim. Now when I think about all the phone calls I had during this marathon, it tells me something about how relaxed this marathon was for me! Who makes phone calls while running a marathon??

In my studies of the route ahead of this marathon, I had paid special attention to where the bathrooms were located, and I really looked for them too, – but somehow kept on missing them! So much so that I started looking for bushes. I found one and went off the route to make use of it, only to notice that I could miss being registered at the 30 kilometer mark, so I ran back to the road, passed this sensor and found another bush a little further on. This was my first real stop during the marathon, but well worth while.

Next we started climbing up towards the Jerusalem promenade and I was close to home, and looked for familiar faces among the spectators. I started feeling hungry again, and again wanted more than the GU-chomps I had brought with me in my belt. I also had some salty pretzels but they were kind of dry and hard to eat on the run. I noticed a food station that would come after I had made the turn a little after the 32 K mark, and decided I would make a real stop there and enjoy some food. That was so nice! I stood there and ate a lot of orange slices and several handfuls of salty pretzels. It hit the spot perfectly! I felt almost as though I had finished and enjoyed the good stuff they give you at that point. But after this little break, I grabbed some banana pieces for the way and was ready to keep going.

I had started the last 10 K of the Jerusalem marathon. And as you may know, that is when the real marathon starts! When I ran the Jerusalem marathon last year, I had a hard time running the last 10 K, and remember thinking that I would like to at some point get a new chance to tackle that part better. So this was it, – my second chance! And I was feeling so much better than last year! Yes, the pace was slower, and yes, I did feel that familiar heaviness in my feet after over three hours of running, but other than that I felt great! I took it as a really good sign when the marking of 34 K came surprisingly early to me! Good stuff!

Around this time I turned on the music on my phone for the first time, and enjoyed listening to some upbeat music during a relatively boring part along Hebron road.

At around the 37 kilometer mark I was very happy to see a good friend and her baby among the cheerers, and stopped and spoke with her for a little bit. I figured I would have my slowest marathon ever anyway, so why not?? A little later I finally made it to my daughter and her friend who were jumping up and down cheering with everything they had. Of course I stopped and chatted with them for a little bit too, promising pizza and celebrations for everyone afterwards. :-)

Next up was Kovshei Katamon, a hated part of the marathon route, as it is a killer hill during the 39th kilometer. Approaching it I was having this conversation in my head with the hill. - Listen, Kovshei Katamon, we have been through this before! You and me go waayyy back! We can do this! Let us show them that we can do this! And as I was making my way up the hill, the good, old song by Shania Twain toned through my earphones with these words: - Looks like we made it… They said “they’ll never make it”… but just look at us going strong!! I found this so funny thinking about the “conversation” I had just had with the hill, that I was grinning real big running up this hill!

Having made it to the top, and passed the 39 K mark, someone among the spectators pointed out the fact that from here on it would be down hill to the end. I knew that that was not quite true, as there is a slight uphill towards the very end, but held on to the encouragement that there would be mostly downhill. It was really nice nearing the end, and not feeling totally knocked out! As I ran past the 40 K sign, I thought to myself that this is the way to run a marathon! Just having a party all throughout! Why not?? What is the deal with having to do it so fast that you end up torturing yourself?!

At this point many people around me were walking, but I kept running my slow and comfortable pace. A couple were following what seemed like a 30 second walk 30 second run strategy, and we kept on passing each other. They passed me at the 42 K mark, and the woman told me we were basically done, I should join them and finish strong. We came through a little tunnel just after that, and then we saw the finishing gate in front of us! Someone handed me an Israeli flag, and I ran the last tens of meters beaming and smiling, holding the flag high in the air!

finishing the Jerusalem marathon

And then I was done! I received my medal, kept smiling to the cameras, and found my husband and son waiting for me there. They had both done well, my husband finishing his marathon about an hour ahead of me, and our son beating his own course record for the 10 K.

Jerusalem marathon

We did it!!!

My final result turned out to be 4 hours and 43 minutes, and my run keeper showed that somehow I had managed to run over 43 kilometers, making this my longest run ever. Really slow, but also a real celebration, which was a fitting finishing of our triple marathon this winter. And now, the day after, I am still feeling great, strong and healthy! So, yes, I reached my goal! ;-)

My Tel Aviv marathon experience

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During a marathon one has so many thoughts and impressions, and if one does not write them down relatively immediately, they tend to fade away. So maybe I am writing this mainly for me to have for later, but if any of you are interested, it might be entertaining for you too (it gets more so towards the end, I think).

Spontaneously my dear husband and I on our way to the marathon decided to run this marathon together from start to finish. We have ran in three marathons together in the past, but always with quite different finishing times. He is way faster than me. But today we decided to take in the sights of Tel Aviv together and to try to enjoy the whole experience.

The weather forecast said it we would have a big increase in temperatures, so they made the starting time earlier than planned, and the full marathon started at 05.45, meaning we got up in Jerusalem at 4 a.m! When I threw out an imagined finishing time I said 4 hours and 19 minutes, two minutes faster than my last marathon in Tiberias in January (where it was freezing cold! What is it with marathons and extreme weather?!). So my plan was to start running with the 4.15 pace group, and see how long I could keep it up, leaving myself some flexibility to slack off a bit whenever needed. And now my husband joined my plan, – I could not very well join his…

We ran the first little bit with the 4.15-ers, but did not stay with them for very long, because it became very crowded and hard to run like that. We actually ended up going a bit ahead of them. I kept on thinking “This fast, but not faster”. We had a great time, and I knew it was a good sign when I was wondering if we had passed the 8 km mark, when all of a sudden I spotted the 9 km mark. Things were going well!

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One of the conveniences of running with my husband, was that he would bring me drinks from the drink stations and I would try to stay away from the chaos that easily ends up around those stations, when so many people are running and receiving open water bottles at the same time. Then at the water station by the 10 km mark, the ones giving out the water spread themselves all the way across the road, so there was no way to really avoid them, and sure enough someone dropped a bottle that splashed right on my foot… I was trying to ignore this, but it became increasingly challenging as a blister was developing because of the wetness.

At around the 13th km we hit upon the Tel Aviv Port, a central place in my last marathon experience in Tel Aviv, which was not entirely a positive experience. I felt the negative thoughts influencing my current experience even after leaving the port, and was busy fighting this when all of a sudden I noticed that we were running with the 4 hour pace group. Now, – that was encouraging!! We kept on running with them, but I did feel that the pace was slightly too fast for me, and decided to stick with them until the halfway point, and at that time decide what to do after that.

We ran along the side of the Mediterranean and the view was just stunning. The waves pouring in in the morning light. I loved it.

We made it to the 21.1 half marathon mark in just under two hours, which is a fast half marathon time for me. Nice! But I really felt it, I did not like that I was that exhausted when I still had a half marathon distance to go! So, I decided to devote the next chunk of kilometers to regaining my strength, and then as I hit the 32 km mark to see if I had enough left in the tank to speed up a bit. It worked for a while, as the pace slowed, I felt my puls calming down and enjoyed running through the streets of Tel Aviv. My husband pointed out buildings of interest and such, trying to help take my mind a bit off of the actual running.

Around km 30 the blister which had developed on one of my wet toes, burst. Not fun. We hit the 32 km mark, the average pace considerately slowed down, but I did not feel I could really speed up either, so I just kept going like I had.

During km 33 I started thinking about the ice aroma I was going to enjoy after finishing this thing.
By the 36th km I considered getting two ice aromas. As I was thinking about this, I saw a poor woman take a really bad fall, and gained some perspective. Thought I should get her some ice aromas too.
I did not notice the sign of passing km 37, and was happy and relieved when the mark for 38 came into sight! At this time I was trying to encourage myself with thoughts of the medal being given me as I would finish the race.
Around km 39 the focus became more and more on the fact that I hoped Aroma had a good bathroom…
By km 40 I considered finding a bush to use as a temporary bathroom. Oh, don’t men have it simple! They were practically lining the sides taking care of business as easy as that!

I looked for a long time for km mark 41, and was secretly hoping that we had passed it and that i had just missed it. (Remember this is a secret, so don’t tell anyone!)
Then I was disappointed to see that the next km mark was in fact 41.

For the last few kilometers I reminded myself that giving birth is even harder than this. But there is a difference, – when you are giving birth, there is no option of quitting! You simply have to carry through with it! Not so with marathoning. There were plenty of people who started to walk, some even took their shoes off and walked barefoot. In one way it looked very tempting, in another way I felt sorry for them. I wanted to keep running till the end. Just getting it done and over with was much more important to me than what would be my finishing time.
I had seen a t-shirt a few days ago with the text “I can. I will.”, and it inspired me, so I thought I would take it with me as a mantra for the marathon. Towards the end it was what I was telling myself. I can keep running. I will keep running. But I was not entirely sure that I would in fact be able to keep it up until almost 43 km.
For the last km or so, there were encouragers positioned along the route to I guess, put a smile on our faces. One was dressed as an angel. Just before I reached his spot, he must have noticed a runner next to me who needed special attention, so he stepped into the path to get to him, but in the process blocking the way for me. – Don’t block my way!! I said rather irritated. At about 4 hours and 10 minutes of running I did not have any extra energy to spare to go around him, – even if he was dressed like an angel!
Finally the km mark of 42 came into sight, – of course my runkeeper-app had already measured more than 42.5 by that time, and it was such a relief to pass through the finishing gate! We were done!!! The time official time from my chip was 4:13:34, and even though I ran the second half way slower than the first half, I am very happy with my time, – it is six minutes faster than what I imagined, eight minutes faster than my last marathon.

And anyway, for me the main thing is not the finishing time, but having a good time running, and most of the time I had a good time, just maybe not for the last eight kilometers…

It was absolutely lovely to be done, and I don’t think I could have done it any faster in the shape I am in now. (Last year I ran the Tiberias marathon in 4 hours and 10 minutes, but I had followed a more focused training plan then.) There were plenty of food and drinks for us to enjoy after finishing. I particularly liked the yogurts and the potato chips, and of course I did get my Ice Aroma too! Yum!

In the car on the way home I caught myself thinking “My feet are so exhausted, I want to sit down…”, only to realize that of course I was sitting down already. ;-)

Living my dream

Do you remember what you imagined your adult life would be like when you were a child? Call it dreams, thoughts, imaginations, – I think we all had some sort of thoughts or expectations.

For me, if I were to think about it in a black and white type of way, I guess I would have to say that a lot turned out very different than I expected. But then again, – today there were so many moments when I just had to stop myself and think about it, – I am living my dream! What a blessing!

flowers and candles

Like so often, – I am reminded that it is the small things that matter. They make up life, really. Today was a beautiful day. Spring weather with sun from a clear Jerusalem sky. In the morning I got efficient work done for several of the different jobs I have, and still had time for a nice walk (and talk!) with a dear friend.

And it was especially in the afternoon that I was reminded of how this matches my childhood dreams for my adult life. The children both had friends over. The door was open, and they were playing inside and outside, everyone was getting along and there was plenty of creativity and positive energy going around. Two neighbor girls noticed all the fun going on in our yard, and it was decided that they would come and join as well. Meanwhile I was having tea and cookies with one of the moms.

It was one of those days. The kids ate well at the meals. No one got into a fight. Everyone played well and cooperated well. (I guess the fact that I notice these things, tells you that it is not always like that, but that is also part of life, right?)

And so it hit me, that even if the setting (country, language, culture etc.) is not the same as I imagined as a child, the content is still the same. I dreamed of being a mom, my children having friends over, me hearing them playing outside, opening the window to call them in for home cooked meals… Life. My dream came true!!

Even if not every day is like a dream, it is all part of life, and we will take what we get served. Enjoy the good days and grow on the more challenging ones.

And even the parts of my life that are different than I dreamed, – really, I could not possibly have dreamed of the turn my life was to take! It was too much, too good to be imagined!

I feel very blessed, and have so much to be thankful for.

Holy ground

Today I drove from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva for work, and chose the most direct route; - the way of the patriarchs. It was absolutely beautiful! The hills of Judea, terraced and covered with vineyards and olive-groves with blossoming almond trees randomly dotted in between.

Terraced Judean hills

Terraced Judean hills

And there was something even deeper than this beauty, – the history of this part of the earth is so amazing, the stones are just about speaking to us. On these hills, the patriarchs walked! These were the views they saw. For example Abraham walked there with Isaac when they walked to Mt. Moriah, and Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved son. To think of what has happened here, the promises given, the foundations being laid!

This is holy ground.

And we are living the continuation in our generation. The reason for the trip to Beer Sheva was that I was meeting up with four different immigrant families, to help them in the process of settling in the land of their inheritance. So it is continuing. Abraham was the first Jewish immigrant, – and now, thousands of years later, they are still coming. God is returning His people and planting them here. And we get to be a part of it!

Abraham's well

Abraham’s well in Beer Sheva

Those are deep experiences, – connecting points between ancient history and our lives today, – building on the promises of old, with a strong hope for a glorious future!

What a blessed life! 

Being whole.

We are reading such amazing Torah portions these weeks. The stories of our patriarchs are coming alive in front of us as we study and learn these familiar texts again as part of our yearly cycle.

I know we are well into a new week, but there is a thought from last week’s portion that is still going around in my mind. We were reading about Jacob returning to the Land of Israel after having been gone for such a long time. He had fled from his brother and the mess he had gotten himself into, he had married two wives (or kind of four, really…), and had eleven children. So much had happened in his life. And then it says in Genesis 33,18, – Jacob came to Schem WHOLE… (I never noticed it before!) He came back WHOLE. Meaning, there was more of a lack when he left. He had been on a long journey, he had gone through a process, he had become WHOLE.

Fall in Jerusalem

We are all on journeys through life. May our journeys be processes that make us more and more WHOLE! Sometimes we don’t understand why something was needed, or why it needs to take so long, – but maybe it is part of what it takes to make us WHOLE!

I don’t know if I even manage to explain this well enough. But to me, this struck a cord deep within me. This is what I want! I want this for me and my family, for my children. May we grow into becoming more and more WHOLE!

To me, being WHOLE, means being who God meant for you to be when He created you. Fitting more and more into the mold that is YOU!

With the Bible as our History-book

The wintery weather has made its wonderful arrival to Israel, bringing blessed peace and cosiness and all kinds of good things! (Yes, it is almost funny how rain brings peace, but it really does, – I guess stone throwers don’t want to get wet and cold!)

Candles

Right now I am sitting here in my warm home listening to the rain pouring down outside. In here it is so nice and cozy. Lots and lots of candles lit. I have fresh cream of butternut squash soup and yummy hot cider. Life is good.

hot soup

The last few days have been really nice. The children have majored on puzzles, we have enjoyed knitting and sewing, and I have been reading out loud to them from a book that was read to me (several times) when I was a child.

puzzles

I have to share one little conversation that developed from the reading. We heard about a girl who really liked the subject “history” in school. My children do not at this time have a subject called “history”, so they were trying to figure out what this would be. I suggested a subject they have where they learn about our country and our people, – because in “history” you sort of learn the history of your people, I explained. – Ah, they nodded in understanding, – that is what we call “Bible”! That is the history of our people! How precious, don’t you think? What a privilege to get to grow up with the Bible as your history-book, and that is where you find your ancestors and your identity!

sewing

The reality is that the messages in the Bible are really central in so much of what is going on here! Recently I was at a race with runners from most of the schools in Jerusalem, our son was a participant from his school, and I was a parent coming along to help out. I was really impressed with the music chosen at this event, – it had such depth and content! To give you an example, one of the songs went like this: “Israel! Israel! Trust in the LORD!”  And another one was the whole psalm 121 “I lift my eyes up unto the mountains, where does my help come from?” 

kids

I really am thankful to get to raise my children in a country where faith and the Bible are given such a focus, and are seen as really relevant for our lives! There certainly is no place like Israel! Am Yisrael Chai!

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Shabbat prayer

This Shabbat’s combination of wintery weather and day-of-rage-promises from our enemies close by, did not make it hard to come up with reasons to just stay home. But, really, in difficult times, it is important to stand together, – that is the way that we are strongest, and that is the way to keep on really living!

Jerusalem

So we went as a family to pray in the synagogue this morning, – and it turned out to be one of the most uplifting mornings in a long time! Each one of the prayers just stood out as such a strong and fitting one at a time like this!

Just think of all the times that we call God “Magen Avraham” or “Magen David” – “The shield of Abraham” or “The shield of David”! He really is our shield! It was just so helpful to regain perspective of this, and be reminded of just who God is! Listen to this;

True is the eternal God, our King, Rock of Jacob, Shield of our Salvation.

He exists and His name exists through all generations.

His throne is established, His kingship and faithfulness endure for ever.

True, You are the LORD, our God and God of our ancestors,

our King and King of our ancestors, our Maker,

Rock of our Salvation,

our Deliverer and Rescuer!

Rock of Israel!

Arise to the help of Israel.

Deliver as You promised, Judah and Israel!

And how about this:

Blessed are You, LORD,

who blesses His people Israel with peace.

Amen! May it be so!