One of the things on my bucket list got accomplished last Friday when I completed the Jerusalem Marathon. I can’t say I finished particularly strong, but I ran the whole thing and finished with a smile.
The Jerusalem Marathon is one big collection of hills, really. As we were finishing the climb up to French Hill towards the Hebrew University, one British runner asked me: “This is the worst part, isn’t it?” Wanting to provide the positive answer he wanted to hear, but at the same time sticking with the truth, I answered: “Yes, and then there is another tough one on the other side of the university.” Ah, yes”, he said, “That is another worst part…” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there were another five worst parts waiting for us downtown afterwards…
This same runner was the one who turned to me before this exchange, and asked if I was going to be smiling during the whole race. 🙂 I answered that I was planning to run with joy. One might as well enjoy it, if one is doing it! And the smiling came easily through the first three quarters of the race. After that I had to work on it. Really, there is something that happens in a Marathon once you hit the 30 – 32 kilometers. I told myself that this is where the marathon starts, up until now it has only been warm-up, and wow, was that marathon hard! I kept reminding myself that I had trained in Jerusalem, and therefore had a huge advantage in comparison to all those who came from abroad and other places in Israel. It’s hard to imagine how hard it must have been for them!!
There were plenty of water stations, and good crowd support, which was highly appreciated. Lots of little children had come out to cheer, I high-fived them all, and I stopped to hug my daughter and mother in law who waited in the middle of the hill at the 25 kilometer mark. I loved seeing the Jerusalem savtot (grandmas) hanging over balconies or out of windows and shouting encouragements after us, – Great job, you guys! You are amazing!!
But in spite of the well put together race and everything, the hills were very hard, as was the burning sun from a sky free of clouds. So around the thirty kilometer mark I realized that I would not be able to make my time-goal, and I made a new goal which was simply to keep running, and not start walking. You would be surprised at how many people start walking during the last kilometers of the race! They must have been running at an ok pace up until that point, but then somehow just give in to the exhaustion of the process, and start walking. Oh, but it was tempting several times! Especially in that killer hill at around kilometer 40, where more than half of the people around me were walking, and I was running at a super-slow pace, but at least I past the ones walking.
For the last quarter of the race I was struggling with a bad heart-burn and a feeling that I could throw up any time. This was the reason for me not pushing harder toward any time-goal, but just focusing on finishing, and keeping on running, no matter the pace. For the first three quarters of the race I kept sucking on some energy-giving jelly beans, which I enjoyed, but for this last quarter I could not even imagine trying to get one more of them down. I was very thankful for the bananas that were given out at two food stations along the way. That is such a perfect fuel for running, stabilizes the stomach and provides good energy. I had also brought some pretzels with me to help stabilize the stomach towards the end. Those were in a ziplock bag attached to my new fuel-belt (which by the way was a great help, freeing up my hands). But at some point in kilometer 26, a runner behind me yelled at me: “Hey, you are dropping pretzels!”, and yes, there was a hole in the bag, and I ate the remaining four pretzels soon after.
One of the few common experiences between this marathon and the Tiberias marathon I did a couple of months ago, was the bursting of a blister at kilometer 39. Only now I knew it was not a toe-nail that fell off. Both because I recognized the feeling from last time, and because I knew that toe already did not have toe nail… (sorry about the details…)
To sum it up, – the Jerusalem Marathon is a breath taking experience. The views are spectacular. Really. The Jerusalem stone, the arches, the gates, the walls, the houses, the streets, the views of the desert surrounding the city, – all the people lining the streets cheering us on. It is an amazing experience. One that I might, just might, have to do again some time… We’ll see.