Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Tel Aviv Marathon

This is going to be some random thoughts strung together about my experience at the Tel Aviv Marathon on Friday.
Passing the 40km mark.
See my Vibram FiveFinger Bikilas in action!
  • I went into the race with no expectations. This was going to be my third marathon in 3 months, my second in two weeks. Having just run the tortuously hilly Jerusalem Marathon, I figured this basically flat course would be a nice easy run at no specific pace. I started off that way, but by the middle I realized I was feeling great and strong and still could have a chance at a personal record. I had a great run, though I missed my personal record by a minute and a 20 seconds.
  • Lots of people still asking me if the Vibram FiveFinger Bikilas are comfortable and if I wore them for the whole thing. I tried a bit of humor at times and mentioned that I only wore them for half the run and changed shoes in the middle. They didn't realize I was joking. They also looked shocked when my response to "are they comfortable?" is no. Then I explain that they are not meant to be comfortable. they are not padded.
  • A lot of people were telling me they run in Vibrams but only short runs or occasionally. 
  • The first 30-45 minutes after completing the marathon are excruciatingly painful. You have no control over your legs, they hurt like nothing else, you cannot talk to anybody, you cannot focus, your leg muscles are spasming. It is just horribly painful. That is when we say things like "I will never do this again". After the first 45 or so minutes, you are sore for a while, a couple of days even, but you are mostly ok. And then you feel great. I feel great. I am ready to run again. I am even thinking of starting to look for when the next race is, though I know there is no full marathon in Israel any longer until January.
  • A great distance for a long distance race is about 30km. Beyond that is ridiculous, with little purpose. the average long distance runner will still generally feel good up until about 30km or so (some 31, 32, 33, 29, etc, but 30 on average is my guess). Until that point you can run a great race. The real struggle, where the mind kicks in and it becomes more of a mind over matter issue, is after 30km. I guess that is what makes the marathon more than just a race.
  • The Tel Aviv Marathon course was not fun. There were very few people outside cheering. The course took us out on some main roads that were basically empty, rather than through the city. It was a good run, and the terrain itself was not bad for the most part, but it was not an interesting, fun or enjoyable course.
  • The Tel Aviv organizers were completely unorganized. They did not have enough food at the end. No fruit. No popsicles. Not enough yogurts. They had plenty of water though. The ushers in the pre-race could not direct me to the gear check-in, as they had no idea where it was.
  • The water stations were pretty good as far as frequency is concerned, though they distributed cups of water most of the time. It is hard to run with a cup. They should have used small bottles. Less waste, less cups blowing around and better for the runners.
  • The nice parts of the race were basically through park HaYarkon, though the terrain there was more difficult - bridges and bumpy narrow trails, and on the boardwalk along the beach next to Sde Dov airport. That stretch on the beach was beautiful, but it was very hot and windy.
  • There were many sections, including Park HaYarkon and along the beach, where there were many non-marathon-runners and walkers, and bikers, and dog walkers, that just got in the way. 
  • There were many runners who did not bother registering. I don't know if it is theft for them to be taking water and gels at the stops when they did not pay the fee, or maybe the sponsors don't care as they still are doing their advertising. 
  • The road was very crowded, and for large sections, mostly until about 17km, it was difficult to get good footing and into a good rhythm because of how crowded it was. 
  • I ran with my running partner. We fell into rhythm with the 3:45 pacer. At about the 17km my partner disappeared. I figured he had stopped to take a gel with the water, but when I noticed he was gone I could not spot him. I kept running, and a bit later I started to feel very strong and I felt I had a chance at a really great run. I picked up my speed. For the next 10 or so km I ran very hard at a very fast pace. I knew I was being stupid, as I was hurting myself for the end of the race, but I could not stop myself. Sure enough at about 28 or 29km in the park I started to slow down, and some of those people who I had passed, including the 3:45 pacer group, passed me. I ran through the rest but it was not easy. 
  • I finished at 3:56:07, just 13 seconds before my running partner who told me he could see me about 100 meters ahead of him for most of the race after we had split. It is amazing how you see nobody unless they are immediately in front of you or immediately behind you. Everybody else is invisible.
  • The weather was strange - at the beginning of the race it rained, a light steady rain for a few minutes. Then again later, maybe at 13km or so it rained hard for a few minutes. It was also sunny for much of the run. During the last 8km or so it was extremely hot. At points I thought I might not make it because of the heat, but thankfully the water stations were in abundance and every time I started to feel like that I would hit a water station or someone with a hose spritzing water.
  • It was funny to see but early on along the route there were a couple of spots where the Tel Aviv prostitutes were still out working the streets. You could right away tell that this was Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem.

3 comments:

Abigail said...

luv it!!! so happy i did j with u instead!! great decision making bro!!

Chaim said...

Rafi:
Mazal Tov on the completion of your second marathon in two weeks. Quick questions though:
1: If a minimal shoe ( vibram five fingers) is so uncomfortable, why do you wear it for 26.2 miles?
In other words, what is the benefit of barefoot running?
Do your feet get stronger?

2: Who was the person that invented the distance of a marathon? Why 26.2 miles ? If a marathon was 20 miles wouldn't someone that ran 20 miles have accomplished the same unbelievable "feat" that a 26.2 mile marathon. (pun intended :-) )
Or, am I missing the boat?

Rafi G. said...

1. it is not uncomfortable. It is just not comfortable. it is nothing. it is meant to be barefoot. uncomfortable would mean it hurts my foot in some way.

the theory behind it, whether you ascribe to it or not, is that it forces your body to use muscles that were designed to hold the stress of rnning. When you use shoes, the theory goes, the shoes force you to use parts of your foot and leg, and stress muscles that were not designed to bear such stress. That is why, they say, running injuries continue increasing with the further development of running shoe technology.
Personally, I felt an injury developing, so I stopped training (over a year ago). I read about this and decided to give it a try. Since then I am running better and still injury free. it could be that had I tried a different brand of shoe I would have been fine as well. I am not saying I am 100% sure that the barefoot theory is correct. But it does work for me.

2. from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon : The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon (in which he had just fought),[3] which took place in August or September, 490 BC.[4] It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming "Νενικήκαμεν" (Nenikékamen, 'We have won.') before collapsing and dying.[5] The account of the run from Marathon to Athens first appears in Plutarch's On the Glory of Athens in the 1st century AD which quotes from Heraclides Ponticus's lost work, giving the runner's name as either Thersipus of Erchius or Eucles.[6] Lucian of Samosata (2nd century AD) also gives the story but names the runner Philippides (not Pheidippides).[7]
There is debate about the historical accuracy of this legend.[8][9] The Greek historian Herodotus, the main source for the Greco-Persian Wars, mentions Pheidippides as the messenger who ran from Athens to Sparta asking for help, and then ran back, a distance of over 240 kilometres (150 mi)[10] each way.[11] In some Herodotus manuscripts the name of the runner between Athens and Sparta is given as Philippides. Herodotus makes no mention of a messenger sent from Marathon to Athens, and relates that the main part of the Athenian army, having already fought and won the grueling battle, and fearing a naval raid by the Persian fleet against an undefended Athens, marched quickly back from the battle to Athens, arriving the same day.
In 1879, Robert Browning wrote the poem Pheidippides. Browning's poem, his composite story, became part of late-19th century popular culture and was accepted as a historic legend.[citation needed]
Mount Penteli stands between Marathon and Athens, which means that, if Pheidippides actually made his famous run after the battle, he had to run around the mountain, either from the north or from the south. The latter and more obvious route matches almost exactly the modern Marathon-Athens highway, which follows the lay of the land southwards from Marathon Bay and along the coast, then a gentle but protracted uphill westwards towards the eastern approach to Athens, between the foothills of Mounts Hymettus and Penteli, and then mildly downhill to Athens proper. This route is approximately 42 kilometres (26 mi) and set the standard for the distance as run in the modern age. However there have been suggestions that Pheidippides might have followed another route: a westward climb along the eastern and northern slopes of Mount Penteli to the pass of Dionysos, and then a straight southward downhill path to Athens. This route is considerably shorter, some 35 kilometres (22 mi), but features a very steep initial climb of more than 5 kilometres (3.1 mi).