Swimming through the Tiberias Marathon

Thursday was a really beautiful day. We picked up our Marathon Packs in Tiberias that evening, and the temperature in the city was 17 degrees. Just perfect. But we knew the forecast for the next morning, was 100 % chance of rain, – and boy, were they right! During the night we woke up several times from the loud sounds of thunder, then there was lightning and lots and lots of rain. And Friday it practically poured the whole time, sometimes really bad and sometimes even worse. It was as though the heavens had just opened and sent tons and tons of huge drops down on us. They are blessings, I know, and as I looked up at the hills of Galilee, I was surprised they weren’t greener, – they sure will be after this rainfall!

My thought as we looked out at the pouring rain while my husband and I were waiting for as long as possible in the car this morning, was: – I am so glad I am not going for a PR at this race! This was my seventh marathon, I had not trained perfectly for it, but knew I had it in me to finish it, just not very fast.

IMG_5553.JPGMy plan was to start running with the 4:30 pacers, and finish either a bit before or a bit after them. Seeing the weather conditions of this marathon, it was not surprising that it ended up being a couple of minutes after.

Anyway, – for the first two kilometers I ran with this pacing group. As we stood and waited for the marathon to start, people were talking about that they kind of wished the marathon would be cancelled. I did not agree. The first marathon I trained for, was cancelled, and it was VERY disappointing.

The puddles in the beginning of this marathon were just ridiculous! The starting gate was one big muddy puddle, so there was no way you were not going to get wet! You start your 42.2 kilkometer run by stepping into a deep puddle, – how fun…or not. During the first two kilometers, there were many more puddles like that, and even though we were already wet, we kept trying to avoid stepping into this muddy river in the street, so we would do little de-tours to get around them. People were making references to crossing the Jordan river…

But these de-tours were getting kind of crazy, as we ended up having to really wait in line for people to make it down from a mudbank we had climbed to get away from the water and stuff. So, – I decided I would move ahead from this pacing group already, and go with a crowd that were not as big on de-tours.

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Look at the puddles we had to run through! I am glad someone else got a good picture of them!

I found a nice small group of runners who wore jackets saying they belonged to an army running group. It seemed we ran a similar pace, so I hung on to them until about kilometer 10.

About 15 minutes after we started, there was another race started, for the people running 10 K. Our son was in that group, so I was thinking of him. What surprised me was the fact that the elite runners from this group caught up with us! They were really, really fast as they sprinted past us!

I was surprised of the amount of cheerers who had come out to this marathon-arrangement, in spite of the heavy rain. I would thank them all for coming out as I ran past them! If there were children, I would run over and high-five them. Good times!

The marathon staff though, were pointing us in the right direction and stuff, but not cheering, and a couple of times as I thanked them for being there, I would with a smile say they should encourage the runners who came after me. I mean, we could all use all the encouragement that we could get. It was just pouring rain all the time, and we had to just keep on running through puddle after puddle.

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At around the 10K point, one of the women in the little group I was running with, started to complain to another woman in the group about the fact that her body felt as though it had ran 20K already… O-oh, I though, and decided to move on ahead from this group too. I always liked when I could find a small group or a couple of runners that I could just hang on to, and I kept on finding different people like that, and it was working well for me.

I had had this plan that I was going to wear a garbage bag while waiting for the marathon to start. I went to the super market and bought the biggest garbage bags they had, and as I gave one to my son to wear, I explained that you only wear it while waiting, – after running through the starting gate, you just get rid of it. However, when I started my race and the rain was pouring so heavily, I was not at all tempted to get rid of my garbage bag / rain coat. So I kept it on. A little before the 11th kilometer mark I thought that maybe the rain had moved to somewhat more of a drizzle, and was considering throwing away my bag. But before I had quite made up my mind, it started raining really heavily again, and I was so glad I still had my garbage bag. I felt it protected my phone too, which I had in the pocket of my fueling-belt

As the rain strengthened at around the 11th kilometer mark, I heard people behind me starting to sing a well known Yom Kippur song – Chatanu lefanecha, rachem aleinu… We have sinned before you, HAVE MERCY ON US! – Only in Israel, I thought, and smiled in the midst of the heavy rain.

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A bit after the 14th kilometer mark, we met the elite runners on their way back after having turned around at the half way point. I very much like the fact that this marathon is an out-and-back marathon. I find it really entertaining to meet the ones ahead of me when they come back, and also to see the ones behind me after I have turned around. This is also an excellent opportunity to encourage the other runners. Just about everyone is encouraging the first ones to come back, but I like to encourage everyone. And I really meant it, when I told people they were amazing, – I think we all were quite amazing out there running and running hour after hour sopping wet!

At around kilometer 18 1/2, I met my husband on his way back. That was a highlight of course! We high-fived each other and shared some encouraging words as we ran past each other. I was happy to see that he seemed to be right on pace for his time goal, finishing about an hour ahead of me.

When I think of the marathon now, I think the best part of it for me, probably was kilometers 14 – 21.1. Having finished 14, I knew I had done a third of the race, and I still felt really good. It was lots of fun meeting all the runners who were coming back, and the kilometers flew by as I was encouraging the runners ahead of me. At this stretch I was also passing quite a few people, providing me with a feeling of success, I guess.

However, turning around at 21.1 was a brutal meeting with a tougher reality. The wind against us was so strong, it felt like quite the wall in the beginning. – Wow! I said out loud, and someone who passed me right then said that – Yes, this is the hard part…

All of a sudden it felt like the rain that hit my face mixed with hail as the winds were so strong. Puh!

I was really glad I still had my garbage bag on, as another layer of protection agains the wind. When I looked at people around me without bags, I felt bad for them, and thought I had an advantage being dry and warm inside my bag.

As I was yelling out words of encouragement to the people who had not yet  come to the turning point, I considered if I should warn them of this wind that they would all of a sudden feel at that point. But I decided against it, why discourage them?

At around kilometer 24-25, the traffic in the other direction ended, and I felt the need for a new focus. Time to turn on some music on my phone. However, I did not really want to take my phone out in that heavy rain, so I decided to make a quick stop at the next bus-stop, and there, under cover, I would I dig out my phone so as not to destroy it in the rain.

Hmmm… Where were the bus-stops?

My feet were already starting to feel really, really heavy. This feeling came earlier than it has in my other marathons, probably because my shoes were just super heavy from the get-go, being filled with water and all!

Are there no buses on this side of the Sea of Galilee?

I mentioned that between kilometers 14 to 21 I had been passing people. Well, after the turning point I was struggling to keep up with the people around me. Around the 24th kilometer mark I picked a woman I was going to try to hang on to, and I ran behind her for a few kilometers. She was running with her husband or someone, and I thought she was doing really well. At least it was very helpful for me to have her to hang on to. However, just before kilometer 27, she got tired, and they decided to do some walking. As I passed her, I told her what a help she had been to me, and did my best to encourage her.

Just then the 4:30 pacing group caught up with me, and I thought of how helpful it would be to try to run with them. But it was not to be, because I had promised myself a little break at the next bus-stop, remember?

At the 27th kilometer mark, there was a bus-stop, by Kibbutz Ha-On. Of course, there hadn’t been any before that, because nobody lived there! Duh!! Anyway, I finally got to make my bus-stop break, and was surprised to find my phone far from dry, but fortunately still functioning really well. After turning on music, I also took the opportunity to find my paper towel in the pocket of my fleece jacket, to blow my nose. It was sopping wet, so the feeling of being dry must be an illusion… The third thing I did during my bus-stop-visit, was getting out a date-and-walnut-treat from a zip lock bag on my fueling-belt, and then I was on my way again.

The music was very helpful, and the wind against us had gotten a bit less strong as we got closer to the southern end of the lake. The view was pretty much blocked by the rain, but I could still get a glimpse of the lake on my right side and the banana fields on my left. And as I looked ahead I could see the tall eucalyptus trees lining the wet road filled with wet runners.

During this section I was also praying for many people I pray for regularly. Sick people in need of healing, family members and friends.

As I made the turn at the 30th kilometer, there was a very encouraging staff-person telling me I looked really good, and I was trying to remember if he was one of those that I had encouraged to start cheering when I passed him last time.

Even if I have gained a little bit of experience with running marathons now, I have not mastered the right way to cut the corners, because I always end up running way more than 42.2 kilometers. So when Strava gave me audio updates at every kilometer, the gap grew bigger and bigger to the actual kilometer markings on the course. I especially remember hearing the update that I had now ran 32 kilometers quite a while before the 32nd kilometer marking actually showed up. But just then a song I like very much was played on a loudspeaker right there:  – Matanot katanot, Small gifts, and I danced to the music and was encouraged again. 🙂

People say that the actual marathon starts at kilometer 32. Up until that point you are just warming up… Well, I was comforting myself with the fact that I was feeling fine. Not any worse than at kilometer 25. Still heavy feet, but no worse. And really, this was better than running in the heat, way better. Also, I was not really feeling cold. Wet yes, but not cold. I kept going over lists of things to be thankful for. Thankful for health and the ability to run. Those things should not be taken for granted.

It was time for the only hill in the Tiberias marathon. It is nothing compared to the Jerusalem hills, but it is still a hill, and my pace was slowing down. But you know, what goes up must go down, and after the uphill, came a nice downhill. I was telling myself to maximize the  downhill, and try to speed up a bit, thinking of how nice it would be to notice this when I later on in the warmth of the car would go over all the wonderful data that Strava would provide me with regarding the pace of each kilometer of the race.

And what was that? Had it stopped raining for a moment?!

No, not the case, the drops were just somewhat smaller for a moment.

At the bottom of the hill, was a nice fruit-stand where they were giving out orange- and banana-pieces, and I spontaneously decided to make a stop there to have something to eat. (Totally destroying the data of any increase in speed from the downhill of course!) The people manning the booth, were very encouraging, telling me it looked like the running came easily for me, and I looked great. Instead of saying thank you, I started to cry… I guess it was a result of exhaustion and just emotional overload. Time to go on running!

At kilometer 36 there was another loudspeaker, and this one was playing “Golden boy”, the Israeli Eurovison song from this year. My kids love that song, and hearing it made me smile, and I danced to it too.

The woman I had ran with for a few kilometers on the other side of the lake had now passed me, but she was doing some walk intervals, so later I passed her again. We would always encourage each other as we passed each other, and when I passed her at kilometer 37, we made a plan to take a photo together at the finishing gate.

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Towards the end we hit some huge river-puddles again, and I had to smile as I heard another runner comment “Careful not to get wet, guys!”, as though we were not as wet as we could possibly be already!

As I approached the 40th kilometer marking I heard myself moan. I was alright, but just feeling really exhausted, I guess. The same thing happened as I passed the 41st kilometer marking. They say exhaustion is closely linked to the fact that you know that you are close to your finishing point. I guess I can testify to this being true for me at least.

However, I was trying to speed up a bit during the last couple of kilometers. I am always quite amazed at how many people are walking this part. Yes, that is what we all feel like doing, but hey, we are almost done. Let’s get there! Let’s give it all we have!

Several times during the race I thought of an old man we had met during one of our training runs in Jerusalem. He had stood by and watched us pass by, cheered us on and said “Just keep on lifting your legs!” So that was what I was doing, – just keeping on lifting my legs.

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HAHA! Would you look at the desperation in those eyes?!

42 kilometers! Only 200 more meters to go! And there I could see the finishing gate!! Yes!!! Already feeling the relief, I was lifting my arms in the air and getting through that gate as fast as I could! And I was done! Yeay!!!

On the other side of the finishing gate, my dear husband was waiting for me. The poor guy was really freezing of course, having stood there cold and wet for a whole hour!

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After having some refreshments and gotten our picture taken together, we left the area and went looking for a good falafel for him. I do not feel I can really eat a meal so soon after finishing that long of a run, but we stopped for coffee for me later, and that was yummy!

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The rest of the weekend we spend with good friends in Kfar Tavor not so far from Tiberias. Really good times for all, young and old.

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