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?” 

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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!

The One who lifts up my head

As we were having breakfast yesterday morning, the news ticked in on both my husband’s phone and my phone about the terror-attack that occurred in a synagogue. Ever since then, the horror of what happened has never been far from my mind. The pictures are awful! The pools of blood in combination with prayer shawls, prayerbooks and tfilin-straps, – the contrasts are just appalling! How can someone enter a sanctuary with a meat-chopper and just start slaughtering people?!? It is so beyond human understanding that we have no words to describe this kind of evil.

At school the children are told not to go around outside by themselves these days. I received an e-mail with pointers as to how we are to cope with this situation of ever heightened security-levels, and we are told to report anything suspicious. They will make the educational institutions even more secure than before, for example.

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A rainbow I saw in Jerusalem this week. Such a wonderful reminded of God’s faithfulness!

At the same time, life goes on. Really, it does. There is work to do, homework to help with, laundry to be folded, and floors to be washed. Our son had a friend over, and they had fun playing with the soccer-table. We made pasta for lunch and pancakes for dinner. We are enjoying the cooler winter-temperatures, and turned central heating on for the first time. Yet, at the same time as we have this type of normal day, there are these constant thoughts of the nightmare that some people in our city are going through right now, and how the whole situation also applies to us.

I am not the only one with those types of thoughts, – the children definitely have them too, in spite of playing and all. As they went to bed there were many questions regarding the safety of our home and our neighborhood and so on. And no wonder why. Really. What makes us any safer than the victims in this last wave of terror?

As I put together a pumpkin loaf after the kids went to bed last night, I heard them call out from their beds. – “What was that noise? It wasn’t thunder, was it? It sounded like gunfire.” I started saying that maybe it was just the noise of building, but we all realized that it could not have been that at that time of the day, so I went with the truth that it is probably just people celebrating (with gunfire) in one of the neighboring Arab villages. Not the easiest of truths to live with either, but there could be worse alternatives.

One can be tempted to just close oneself and ones dear ones up inside the house, order groceries online and just not go outside. But if we limit our lives like that, we really hand the terrorists their victory on a silver platter. That is exactly what they want! They want us to be paralyzed with fear. They want us to stop living. And however challenging, – we are not going to give them that victory! We are keeping on living here in our homeland, – and that is victory!

This morning, – the day after, – I kind of woke up with a heavy feeling from yesterday. And I  thought I should replace some of the news-updates with Psalms, and I am telling you, – it was like balm to my soul: – especially Psalm 3 spoke straight to my heart: 

LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.

Mamy are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.”

But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.

I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.

I lay down and slept. I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O LORD, Save me, O my God!

For you have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone.

You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Salvation belongs to the LORD.

Your blessing is upon Your people.

May we always keep finding strength and perspective from Him who still sits on the throne! He certainly was the One who lifted up my head today. May we all live close to Him, feed on the real source of Life and go around with our heads lifted up!