Enjoying the ride of the marathon

As I started running my 8th marathon, the third one in Jerusalem, I felt in my whole body how much I LOVE marathons! I love the sounds and the sights and the feeling of it! The music, the crowds and the celebration of long distance running! And this year we were also blessed with absolutely ideal weather conditions for the Jerusalem marathon. It was not too hot, not too cold, no rain and hardly any wind.

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About a minute before the start of the race. Me excited, he somewhat worried. And of course, he always does WAY better than me in the actual race!

During the first kilometers I talked with many interesting people. One runner was from New York, another one from Sweden, both of them visiting Israel for the first time to run the Jerusalem marathon. I warned them of the hills coming up, at the same time as I encouraged them to take in all the beautiful views and enjoy running through the streets of Jerusalem. I also talked with different Israelis having come up to Jerusalem to run here as part of their training for an ultra marathon (a longer distance race than a marathon), and I think that says something about the challenging level of this particular marathon.

Running down Jabotinsky, we met the half marathoners who were climbing that same hill nearing their finish line. I encouraged them to the best of my abilities, and told them to keep going strong till the end, – to think of the medal that is waiting for them! At the bottom of the hill, I noticed a journalist friend with her team, and we said a quick hi to each other.

I totally loved the first hour of running, and the second hour went well too. Running down Jaffa road is a joy! Seeing all the runners ahead of you, being part of that river running through the streets of our beloved city, hearing our feet pound the pavement. I was enjoying it with all of my senses!

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(Photo from Facebook.)

We climbed the hills to Mt. Scopus, and met the elite runners on their way down. We all encouraged them, and I kept on yelling encouragement to all the runners we met. They really were doing great, so it was not hard to do so with enthusiasm, and it helps keep my mind off my own efforts climbing the hill. As I started the last hill before the Hebrew University, I met my sporty husband on his way back down. We yelled some encouraging words to each other and threw kisses through the air. I was happy to note that he seemed to be ahead of where he had been at that time in earlier years, so he was probably going to get a better time. The truth is that several times during this marathon, I thought of his finishing time and of the finishing time of our son who was really hoping for a PR in his 10K race. They are more concerned about their actual finishing time, while I am mostly focused on having a good time WHILE running the marathon. And I was enjoying myself, so, – so far, so good! 🙂

The marathon route goes around and behind the Hebrew University, just to include some more heavy hills, and some more stunning views! The view of Jerusalem below us was amazing, as the sun was giving it a golden shine. Several runners stopped to take pictures, but I knew from experience that I am not able to capture its real beauty that way, so I kept my phone in my fueling belt and kept running. In a heavy climb behind the University, the Swede that I had met early on in the race, asked me if this was the hardest part of the marathon. I answered that yes, this was a rough part, but there are several smaller hills waiting for us downtown too.

There was a lot of security along the whole route, and especially at remote places like this one behind the University. I made a point to thank the border police who were out there keeping us safe. I also thanked the crowds of spectators along the course, who were out cheering for us. They really do take a very big part in making this such a special event.

I had planned on utilizing the downhill from Mt. Scopus to the Old City in a good way, but unfortunately I struggled with an old fashioned side cramp at that time, so I didn’t push myself. After all, – I am out there enjoying myself, remember?! In the middle of that downhill, there is one uphill (you may not notice it normally, but believe me, when you are running, you notice it!), and right now that uphill came in useful, as it took away my side cramp! 🙂

The next challenge was running through an almost kilometer long tunnel, at about the half way mark, just before getting to the Old City. The tunnel was added to the route last year, and I really did not like it then. But this year, I was prepared for it, and was able to handle it better, even if the smell of sweaty runners was pretty bad in there…

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I ran with these guys for part of the race. (Photo from Facebook.)

Having come more than half way through the marathon, I felt quite happy. I was enjoying myself, and remember thinking that two and a half more hours of this, would be just fine, – I love marathons!

Climbing the short hill to Jaffa Gate, I remembered the photographer that normally gets good pictures at that location, so I smiled and lifted my arms (which I did to all the photographers I noticed along the course). Running through the Old City was really beautiful. This experience never gets old. Lifting my feet and moving forward on these old stones, thinking of the history and the dreams that are part of this place, seeing these old and special walls next to me! I had lots of beautiful Jerusalem songs going through my heart and head! Love!

Coming out of Zion gate, more beautiful views meet us as we run down a hill before starting the climb to Mt.Zion hotel. I saw a friend there, which is always fun, and part of the blessing of running in the city you live in. At the top of this hill, we make a turn, and I met my sporty husband again there! He looked like he was doing great! We then come around and climb another little hill by the Bell Garden before heading towards our climb of Jabotinsky. All along this area, there were lots of spectators, which I found really encouraging. Little kids were out there giving you high fives, whole families had come out to join in the festivities, – it was a true celebration to run through it all!

One of my challenges in all of my marathons, is that I always manage to run way further than 42.2 kilometers. In other words, I am horrible at cutting corners, or taking the turns the right way, – and it is not like I am not trying! Not long after seeing the 23rd kilometer mark, I heard this message through my headphones: “Distance: 24 kilomers”. And at the same time as I saw the 27th kilometer mark, I heard: “Distance: 28 kilometers”… Ok, I thought, I will make one PR today, – the longest distance I have ever ran…

In the midst of this, I decided it was time to turn on the playlist I had prepared specifically for this race. And wow, – it was epic, – having this great running music in my ears and running down Emek Refaim which was filled with encouraging spectators! I felt myself choking on tears, that’s how moving this whole experience was! I almost felt like lifting my arms even though no camera was in sight!! Ha!

This elevating experience, however, made me pick up my speed a little too much, and my side cramp came back. Not good. Coming up the familiar bike path that is part of most of my training runs, I enjoyed my great music, but still struggled with the side cramp. This was still the case as I ran Hebron road, and I promised to let myself walk up the next hill, to try to get rid of the side cramp.

A nice song with this text came up on my playlist: “If it’s fast or slow, all I really know, is I’m gonna enjoy the ride.”, and I felt that being the theme of my marathon this time. I was out there enjoying the ride, feeling happy and privileged to take part in it.

At the bottom of the hill at around the 31st kilometer mark, I met a friend who was out there with an encouraging sign with my name on it! How fun!! She walked the hill with me, and it was a nice and welcome break.

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Next up was running by the Jerusalem promenade with another stunning view of our beautiful city. Afterwards we even ran into our neighborhood a bit, and there, as I passed the 34th kilometer sign, I heard this message in my ears: “Distance: 34 kilometers”. What?! I started wondering whether I was cheating or hallucinating… Where did my extra kilometer go?! But really, I had followed the route, and turned at the right places… I concluded that it must have been the ones placing the marks that had done so with somewhat uneven intervals. Confusing when you are out there quite focused on these markings. But, of course, it is nice to realize that you don’t have to run an extra kilometer at this point.

I saw some more friends and people I know in this area, and my friend with the sign showed up two more times. Really nice! I also saw someone who I know has ran several marathons in the past, who encouraged me, and encouragement coming from that type of person, is taken to heart in a special way. She knows what she is talking about!

I really appreciated all the encouragement in this part of the marathon, because, even if the side cramps had gone away, they had been replaced with another challenge. I was feeling really, really nauseous. So much so, that I ended up having to take many walk breaks, which is something I have had limited understanding for when I have seen others do in this part of the marathon in the past.

So, while I had had so many happy thoughts of loving marathons earlier on, this last hour of the marathon, was a reminder of that this is the actual marathon. A marathon is not like running four 10Ks and then a little more at the end. I love 10K training runs, but four of those do not make up a marathon, because you do not do them straight after each other… The way you cope with keeping on running after having already ran for more than 3 hours, that is the real marathon-experience. And let me tell you, – it is challenging.

I felt that I really had to work on balancing my stomach… It was annoying, because when I had 5Ks left, I understood that I could actually beat my own time from my last marathon in Tiberias. But I was not going to throw up, as that is not part of “enjoying the race” as I see it…

I walked up the steepest part of Kovshei Katamon, a cruel hill around the 39th kilometer mark, but somehow handling my stomach was harder than handling the hill this time around.

This time, I was the runner who walked across the marking on the road that said 41,5 kilometers. Whenever I have seen others doing that in the past, I have been thinking to myself: “What is with you?! You have less than ten minutes left, -just keep on running till the end!” Now I all of a sudden gained an understanding of why some people are walking this part. This time I was one of those taking quite frequent walk breaks, while doing my best to just make it to the end. The song on my playlist was quite fitting with this text: “Wake me up when it is over…”. Yes, please.

I had been running for a bit when I saw the 42K mark, and tried to pick up my speed a little bit. There was the finishing gate within sight, my eyes fill with happy tears as I raise my arms in joy and hear my name over the loudspeaker, – and I am DONE! I made it! Oh, joy and relief,- I don’t have to keep on running any more! My finishing time was 4:34:59 and the total distance I ran was 42,4 km. By far not my fastest, but also not my slowest marathon.

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Done! Made it! Oh, joy and relief, – I don’t have to keep on running any more!

I got my golden cape and my medal, and I found my husband and son there, – who had both gotten great new personal records on the course that day, by the way! So happy for them and proud of them! We got our pictures taken in various cool spots in Sacher Park which was all one big celebration. It had been another good marathon experience, which I feel privileged to have the health and strength and ability to take part in.

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And, isn’t it funny, after crossing that finish line, it is not the last hard hour that is fresh in your memory, but the whole wonderful experience of the celebration of long distance running! It is the feeling of completing a challenge, being able to push your own limits, and the joy of having made it past the finish line!

 

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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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My Jerusalem Marathon 2015

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

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. 😉

On our way back to everyday life

Here we are, at the end of yet another day. It has been a good one. This is the first day after the Pesach-holiday, and we are on our way back to everyday life. The children were still home from school, so we are not totally back to normal yet, and it is kind of nice to take it gradually like this.

We tried to get up relatively early, and even set our alarm-clocks, so as to get somewhat used to it before we really need it tomorrow, – and also we went to a circumcision-party for the baby of some friends of ours this morning, and did not want to get there too late.

I ran over to our local grocery store before breakfast to pick up some flour, because now that Pesach is over, we can bring chametz/leaven back into our home. So, I made us fresh pancakes for breakfast. It is alway a hit, and especially today when we had been without that type of food for a week.

pancake breakfast

Pesach has been absolutely lovely. I have so enjoyed all the special moments together with family and friends. But then, when we move back towards normal life again, bring back our regular dishes, our regular foods, – that is really, really nice too. I sense a certain relief even. We made it. We did it. Now we came out on the other side.

Today is the day when we organize our home back to its normal state after Pesach. We move dishes around, and we buy the groceries we had to finish before Pesach, and cook and bake and restock our kitchens with chametz. For us, it is also the day when we finish the children’s homework. Because, when the teachers send them home for almost three weeks on holiday, they apparently only  give them a vacation from the actual school-hours, not from the homework, – where the parents end up in the teacher’s position. (Teachers out there, hear my cry: – Why…??) It is not that we don’t see the importance in the children learning stuff, – we have taken them to a good amount of museums during their break, and given them plenty of learning experiences. I just fail to see the point in these extra work sheets that somehow end up being left till the last day… Anyway, – we did it, finished those too.

running and biking

And then in the late afternoon we went out on a really fun outing, where the kids were on bikes, and my husband and I ran alongside them. We did a 10 K on a beautiful relatively new bike path along the old Jerusalem train tracks. It was a positive experience all around, and we all came home very happy and super motivated to repeat this another time in the near future. Then we had fresh rolls for dinner. Yes, – we are loving our chametz. There is no denying it.

There is a time for everything. And now seems a very good time for some everyday life kind of time.

 

My Jerusalem Marathon Experience

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…

Me running up Jabotinsky, at around kilometer 27. Still smiling.

Me running up Jabotinsky, at around kilometer 27. Still smiling. And look, ahead of the Ethiopians, – at least some of them. 😉

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!!

Our running family. My husband and I both did the full marathon, and our 10 year old son did the 10 K.

Our running family. My husband and I both did the full marathon, and our 10 year old son ran the 10 K race.

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.

Here is my husband finishing his race. In an amazing time of 3 hours 39 minutes. I don't know how he does it.

Here is my husband finishing his race. In an amazing time of 3 hours 39 minutes. I don’t know how he does it.

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.

Me just after finishing and receiving my medal. I finished in 4 hours and 22 minutes, for those interested. The main thing for me was just finishing, and running it.

Me just after finishing and receiving my medal. I finished in 4 hours and 22 minutes, for those interested. The main thing for me was just finishing, and running it.

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…)

My amazing husband running another fantastic race. Coming up by Mt. Zion hotel here. You can see King David hotel in the background.

My amazing husband climbing the hill to Mt.Zion hotel. You can see King David hotel and the Montefiore windmill in the background.

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.

The power of positive belief.

Now you may think that this is going to be about religious faith, which really is the closest to my heart, but no, this time I am going to write about something that to me is a much more newfound revelation.

running in Jerusalem

running in Jerusalem

I have been thinking about it while I am out running. It is about how the physical and the psychological or emotional are so very connected. It really fascinates me. Because you would think that you could just tell yourself, – believe in yourself, believe that you can do it, think positively! But no. It has to be more real than that.

Blossoming almond tree

Blossoming almond tree

I had heard that “it is all in the mind” or that at least 50 % of let’s say marathon running, is psychological. Positive self talk and such. Belief in yourself, belief that you can do it. They say that is why we train, – in order to train our mind to believe that we can do it. Of course there is a physiological aspect to it, – I am not saying there isn’t. But that is just so much more obvious than this other more hidden one.

So anyway, – now I have experienced this for myself.

out running

out running

After I successfully ran the Tiberias marathon I got a real boost of confidence, and now out of the blue my pace is about 20 seconds faster per kilometer than it was before. It just jumped like that. Because I all of a sudden believed I could do it! This lead to me earlier this week running my first ever sub two hour half marathon distance. (Now, anyone who is familiar with those races and times will see that I am still not a fast runner, but hey, here it is all about comparing yourself to yourself.)

Almond blossoms

Almond blossoms

But really, – think about it, when you feel good, when you feel confident, your performance is just so much better than when the opposite is true! These things are all so connected!

I want to take those lessons to other parts of my life too, – that are much more important than running! 😉 An area that comes to mind is parenting. Not only is it important to think positively about our own roles as parents, – but we want to help the children experience this as well. I see it very clearly with them, – when they feel good, – they do great! When they don’t feel so good… -well, you get the idea. So we want to focus on successes, build confidence and think positively. And the positive will thrive!

just now...

just now…

PS. The photos in this post, with the exception of this last one, are from my recent runs in Jerusalem. The Almond tree is blossoming! Always such a hopeful and positive sign!