Saturday, November 5, 2011

Intriguing Personalities at Merutz Yekavim

On Friday I ran in the 3rd annual 18km Merutz yekavim - the winepress race. The Merutz Yekavim is an 18km race (they also have shorter races such as 3km and 5km) that starts at Kibbutz Nachshon in the Ayalon Valley and run through the trails in the fields and vineyards of the area.
Many of the Bet Shemesh runners at Merutz Yekavim

With the rainy weather, the race was looking to be a challenge. Even if it would not rain during the run, the trails would be muddy and difficult to run.

I got to meet two intriguing personalities during the event, making the race all the more memorable. I met Benny Halevi and Professor Shaul Ladany.

A friend told me Benny Halevi was there, and when he saw I didn't even know who Halevi was he explained that Benny Halevi is the barefoot running "guru" in Israel. He runs barefoot running groups and events and is the main guy promoting it in the country. Sure enough, as I was walking around, I spotted him - he was the guy barefoot. Actually, he was wearing his haurache sandals that he runs in when he can't run barefoot because of the terrain. I introduced myself and we chatted for a bit.

Professor Shaul Ladany
The second personality, Professor Shaul Ladany, I also had not heard of before, but was immediately awed by his courage and his perseverance. I heard a few words about his accomplishments there, and have since done some Internet searching for more information. Professor Ladany is pushing 76 years old, and is a world-champion race-walker. He is an Olympian, he has race-walked 300 mile races, and holds a world championship in a 100km race-walk. At 70 years old he became the first person to walk 100 miles in less than 24 hours.

Ladany  is a Holocaust survivor, having spent time in Bergen Belsen, but his troubles didn't end there. he has fought off repeated bouts of skin cancer and lymphoma, he has survived much legal trouble, and an emergency landing of a plane that lost one of its engines in flight. Ladany is an Israeli Olympic athlete who survived the Munich Massacre. His accomplishments include patents, scientific papers and books, along with his accomplishments in sports.

It was humbling to meet Ladany and see all that he has accomplished in his life, all that he has overcome in his life, and see him still going strong at the age of 76.

Back to the race, the run proved to be as challenging as expected. the trails were wonderful for barefoot running, being soft on the feet, but the muddiness of the trails made it difficult and slowed everyone down. Running for fun, that didn't really matter, and I just enjoyed the beautiful terrain, the vineyards we ran through along with the fields and orchards. The terrain was rolling hills, with a couple steep climbs. At the top of the most serious hill we had a view of the entire valley and it was breathtaking.

I finished the run at 1:49:10. I am still running slower than last year, being out of shape and not yet at optimum training fitness, and the mud made me even a bit slower. It was a fun run, and unfortunately I could not taste the wine they were giving samples of as the bottles had neither a hechsher nor any indication that the wine was mevushal.

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