Friday morning. 4:45am. My alarm goes off and I nearly go back to sleep. It takes a moment to remember that I have to get up to run. Must have been the nerves.
I get up and get all my stuff together and head out. We were starting the run from the beginning of the Nahal Soreq trail just outside of Noham. That is behind the police station just otuside of Bet Shemesh. There were actually a couple of routes people could choose from,d epending on their abilities. There was a 16km route - to start there you had to meet up at a much further point. I dont think anybody chose that.
there was the 32km route starting from Aviv, running to Nahal Soreq. And the 24km route.
I think we were about 25 runners and another 8 bikers.
We met up with the 32km guys and the bikers at the beginning of Nahal Soreq. We started the run at 5:20 am (the 32km guys started at 4:30 I think), and began with Birkot Ha'Shachar.
We had cross over Nahal Soreq at a certain point near the beginning. Nahal Soreq is basically a river of sewage. We took off our shoes and walked through it, some of us with bags on our feet, some of us not. I tried the bags, but it did not help keeping my feet dry. After drying off and putting the shoes back on, we really got started.
I started the run trying to keep pace with the first group. We were supposed to be running slow and easy, but they at their slow pace were still much faster than me at my fast pace. I kept up pretty decently, but my goal was really to keep pace so when I would fall back, I would still be within range of the middle or last group, and not be all the way back on my own.
We ran pretty smoothly on a nice trail for about 6km. It was a beautiful mornign with frsh cool morning air. At about 6km the group stopped and waited a couple of minutes for everyone to catch up. That wa sone thing I was very impressed with, and very happy about. They were very good about stopping and waiting at the stopping points for everyone to get together.
It took a minute or so and then we continued our run. We ran until about the 12km marker, and then we had our first water stop. It is good that animals do not have thumbs and could not open our water bottles, and that is probably why our water was still there in the morning. We took a coupld minutes for a water break, and to eat some energy food - like raisins, granola, and dried fruit. We also took a moment for a group picture.
To this point, the trails were pretty flat, with a general slight uphill gradient. It was a nice run and I was feeling good.
we then continued the run. We were scheduled to make the next stp at the 18km marker. This was to be big for me, as 18 had been my longest run until now. The run until then got slightly more uphill, and don't forget - any downhills in this run meant the following uphills were just going to be harder and more uphill.
By the way, people think these stops are for sissies and make the run easier. While the need to drink make these stops necessary, and it was meant to be an easy run, not a race, the stops actually make it harder. When you stop running for a couple of minutes, your muscles settle and tighten up. To get started again after a stop is very difficult and even painful. You have to run a couple hundred meters before you get back into your pace and routine.
We stopped at the 18km marker for a water break, and a couple more pictures. The next stop was the 21km marker, just to gather together before the big hill. Or as somebody else dubbed it - the elevator shaft.
By now I was starting to feel the run in my feet and in my knees. I was already well past my longest distance, still feeling good overall - meaning not wiped out - but my legs were starting to feel like they had hit their limits.
There we are, looking up at the montain we are about to run. A few words of encouragement and avice and off we go. The goal, for me at least, was not to run at any specific speed, but just to make it up the hill. Really to make it up without stopping, but making it up would also have been pretty good.
And off we goo. I fell behind pretty quickly, as my legs were already worn out, and I am the slowest guy in this goup anyway. But I was not too far behind. The interesting things was that the bikers had it even harder. This uphill was murder on them. No matter how slow I was running, I was still passing bikers.
There were points on this mountain that were so steep that I could not put one foot in front of the other lifting it without hitting ground sooner than expected.
Anyway, I ran it pretty slowly. But I kept it going and eventually I made it to the top. The really hard part, except for the mountain and all the steep parts, was the last part of the mountain. It was already not overly steep and much easier, but by then you think it is over. You already see the end in front of you and say I just ran all that, I'll just walk the last 200 or 400 meters. But you keep going. That is really tough.
I made it to the end! Without stopping even once. By then my legs were pretty numb, and my knees were feeling it. I stop at the cars and take a drink of orange juice. Everyone was already washing off and getting ready to daven. I sat down and started rubbing my calves. Then I really felt it. Someone said to me if you think you are sore now, wait until tomorrow.
For the next 15 minutes or so, it only got worse. My calves got so sore, I said to somebody that I feel like I am going to cry, and not from emotion, but from soreness. I could hardly walk.
Eventually the pain started to ease off. My knees were sore all the way through Friday night, and then the bottoms of my feet felt the soreness. Now I am mostly better and ready for the next run.
And I have not even written about the exhilirating experience of running to Jerusalem! To think that the original mitzvah of aliyah la'regel was to do it by foot, and I just did it by foot....It really was an amazing experience, and the fact that I was able to complete it was totally mind-boggling. thank God for giving me the strength of wherewithal.