עשינו כברת דרך לא קצרה. לאלה מכם שירוצו את המרתון הראשון שלהם, וגם לאלה שלא, רציתי להקדיש את המילים הבאות. אחרי מרתון נהוג לכתוב רשמים. זו בהחלט חוויה של פעם בחיים, וחבל לתת לה לרדת לתהומות הנשייה של השכחה. אחרי המרתון הראשון שלי ב 2010 כתבתי את המילים הבאות. אני מתנצל על האנגלית, אבל משום שזו שפת האם שלי, היה לי נוח. מקווה שתבינו ותהנו.
Well, I've kind of done it. Got to complete a marathon, and for my 40th birthday at that. The greatest thing about it was that I had all my family there to celebrate the occasion with me, and truthfully, that's really what matters. Accomplishments shared with people near and dear to your heart make it all the more endearing and special.
While preparing for the Marathon, I savored the freedom and the little accomplishments that came with every added mileage. The pain and hardships, before, during and after were really an added benefit. The effort of organizing time so as to allow for the long runs, the hardship and stamina required to complete the long distances, but especially the strained and aching muscles afterwards that always reminded me during the weekends of the strenuous effort that had occurred the day before, were all benefits of this sport for me. Long distance running came with all these side benefits, and more.
I discovered that long distance running was a state of mind. Just like during a backpacking trip in a foreign country. You find yourself freely addressing fellow travelers because all of you are on a trek, and finding that the response is just as forthcoming and jovial, so it is with running. You find yourself addressing your fellow runner just as openly and candidly as though you were both on this mutual trek to self awareness, and were happy to share the experience.
But the real journey is the marathon itself.
The ride to Tveria was uneventful, and it was really easy to find parking places and collect the breast plate with the number. The kids were excited and joined me for the warmup before the run. They were so cute and really made me proud. Even Oz couldn't contain his excitement and joined me for the exercises. Gila was beaming, and I could sense that only now, with all the excitement around us, she could sense the this was a serious endeavor, and not just a whim I adopted out of desperation to cope with my midlife crisis.
And then we were off. I kept feeling that this is really it, and I'm really on my way to running a marathon. In between delirious and light headed thoughts, I tried sticking to my plan. While preparing in the morning, I scribbled on my arm the splits I was suppose to reach on each 5 km mark. My 'conservative' strategy was to run a 5:30 pace and try finishing under 4:00. But that was for later on. What I really tried doing is catching the 4:00 pacer I thought of sticking to, during the first half of the run anyway. I found it pretty uncomfortable running behind such a crowded pack, and although I was to be very cautious because of the heat, I couldn't help running on and looking for the 3:45 pacer. I discovered there were two of them and felt quite comfortable trailing behind and being mindful of their balloons.
That's when I tried relaxing and taking in the sights. Couldn't help seeing that the Tiberian marathon runner comes from all walks of life. There was really a wide range of ages, and a variety of hairdo's. One had the most outrageous afro, and while I expected the heat to get the best of him, was somewhat frustrated to see he kept running ahead of me.
The km signs kept whizzing past, and before I knew it I was swallowing down my gels and gulping down the water we were handed. The heat was growing more and more intense, and I could really feel the difference between running in the shade and running exposed. This dictated a strategy adopted by all, of running close to the eucalyptus trees on the roadside. When on the East coast of the Kinneret, I caught myself looking westward and seeing Tveria. Felt good to visualize the distance we were consuming.
Before I knew it we were seeing the professionals on their way back. First came the Kenyan runners, then came the rest. Nearing the midway mark, I started seeing the guys from the Beit Shemesh Club, leading them as always was Chaim. Funny how I teamed up with this bunch. I remember finding it ironic that only after moving away from the region, I found them on the web and had to travel all the way from Elazar to run with them. The first few runs I joined were the "easy" Saturday night ones, and I distinctly remember there was nothing easy about them. I really appreciated Chaim's support, that early on, and felt comfortable with their easy going and really all around supportive attitude. It was good to feel that this was a "professional" surrounding I could bask in when possible.
From them I learned terms like 'fartlek', 'tempo runs', 'intervals', and more. I read about the different workouts, but it was eye opening to actually try them out with someone. It gave me the confidence I needed to tackle a daunting challenge such as the marathon.
I distinctly remember I felt I had more to give and felt comfortable saving it for later on. On km 30 I started feeling my legs, especially the left quads, cramping. By km 32, I started feeling my right biceps cramping, and pretty soon I felt as though I was trotting on stiff legs through impenetrable and stifling air.
I distinctly remember the importance of certain mantras that kept going through my head. At the beginning it was "I am a runner", then its was "אני אוהב את הכאב", then it was "I'm a finisher". The first was evidently on the 'cruise' mode, the second was when pain crept in and I actually relished the fact that there was a constant reminder what I was doing was not all that simple. The last was when the 3:45 pacer passed me with enviable ease, my legs were screaming at me, biceps, quads and all, I tunnel visioned the entrance to Tiberia, and could only think of my kids waiting at the finish line anxious to see their dad, the אצן, make it to the finish line, and my wife somewhat skeptical at a feat that could prove to be more than I can chew, especially in this kind of weather.
And then there was the finish line.
My kids gave me the gleeful welcome I knew they would, running with me the last few meters and crossing the finish line with me. Although I could barely stand, they were all over me and couldn't contain their pride and excitement. A fellow runner, one that came out of the blue, handed me a bottle of cold water and very patiently explained to my kids that I needed some time to settle down. Bless his soul.
Gila embraced me and I could see the pride in her eyes… priceless.