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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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! ;-)