Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's going to be a hot summer!

This morning I went out with a few guys for a nice easy 10km run. It was super hot, and we all got wasted pretty quickly, but ran through.

A couple of us ran out to the satellites and back, while a couple other guys split off just before the satellites and ran out on a path by Tzomet Aviezer through the fields.

It seems like it is going to be a hot summer!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Post Marathon Recovery Run

This morning it was finally time to go out for a run, the first since the marathon. I really wanted to go out yesterday, but my schedule did not allow it. So a running buddy and I scheduled to run this morning, a short and easy paced run.

We went out, and it was getting very warm. We went out at an easy pace, on our regular route: out to Road 10, the 375 to Tzomet Aviezer and then back.

It felt great, and I had no pain. I ended the run at just over 10km.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jerusalem Marathon 2011: Why Do We Do It? Why Run Marathons? Anybody Can

While running up to Mount Scopus during the Jerusalem Marathon, I was thinking to myself, wondering why we do this. Why do we put ourselves through this much pain? I dont have an answer, but I decided then that this would be it for me. I dont see a purpose in it. It is not healthy, and I no longer see the challenge in it. This was my third marathon, and probably the most difficult one I would ever run, no matter how many more I would ever run in, and I know I can do it. Even more so, I never hit the wall, I did not even train so hard, and while it was difficult, and this is due to the great training program we have in Bet Shemesh where even without following it completely you are well prepared, I was mostly fine throughout. I did not have to walk long stretches like other people. I ran 99.999% of the route. But I dont know what the reason is to do this. My feeling of accomplishment has gone down since the first marathon. That one was amazingly fulfilling, but since then, while each one is a challenge to overcome, the sense of fulfillment has not been the same.

climbing the entrance into the Old City
Another point is something I saw posted on Facebook last week in response to the news item of the 400 pound Sumo wrestler who completed the Los Angeles Marathon in 9 hours, asking what the big deal is that people get so excited about running a marathon - clearly anyone can do it. Old people do it, fat people do it, sick people do it, injured people do it, so whats the big challenge and big deal?

The question kind of bothered me and nagged at me. Right, whats the big deal? To me it does not matter if I run 10 minutes faster or slower - I am not a professional runner, and I am not making mroe or less money based on my finish time, and the difference is really insignificant. So what's the big deal for me to run a marathon, if anybody could?

I further wondered as I heard the cheers from people as I ran by. They were calling out all sorts of things, but the cheer most heard was probably "Kol HaKavod!", meaning, good for you, or kudos. I was wondering, as I was hearing things, what did I do so special to deserve that? I didnt save a life or anything like that - all I did was run for a crazy amount of time.

Of course you can answer that nobody has the right to ask the question until they have run it. there are tremendous challenges to overcome in preparing for, and running, a marathon, and until you do it, you cannot understand it. So many more people drop out of it due to the difficulty, than those that complete the training. Everybody who sets his mind to it, and I believe the mental aspect of the marathon and the training is far more difficult than the physical aspect, can do it, but there are tremendous difficulties to overcome.

But I have done it already. Why am I still doing it? What is the big deal if anybody, or almost anybody, can do it? What's the big deal if many people walk through it and can say just as well that they finished the marathon? Maybe finishing a marathon is not really such a big deal!? Just to see if I can do it 10 or 15 minutes faster? Who cares? What difference does it make to me or to the universe?

While running I thought about this. Talk about mind games. The craziness your head feels at kilometers 33-37, just makes you crazy.

The view from the entrance of the Old City
The truth is it does not make any difference. And there really is no reason to run a marathon, at least not more than one. However, saying anyone can do it, just because we see old people, fat people, injured people, do it, is demeaning and disrespectful. Yes, if you put your mind to it, you can do it too. Now let's see you put your mind to it and do it! The fact that old people, fat people, injured people do it, shows how great of an accomplishment it is, not how easy it is! Everybody has his own challenges he must overcome. In all aspects of life. One person is overweight, one person has bad knees, one has bad feet, one smokes, one has asthma, one lost a leg in an army accident, one has mental problems, one has family problems weighing him down, and some of us have multiple variations of combinations of problems. The fact that people overcome these challenges and do something that is so difficult, so challenging, so outside of a normal person's reach, that is a testament to the fact that each of these people is a champion.

Neither I, who finished at 4:36, nor my sister who finished at 6 hours and a bit, nor the old lady who finished 20 minutes later, nor the guy who finished at 3 hours, nor the sick fellow, nor the guy who had to crawl across the line or anybody else (except for the professionals) did this to win money or to save the world. We each did this as a way of defeating demons. We each have our own demons, our own challenges, and each person who completed the marathon, no matter what his or her final time was, for some even if they just went out there and tried and maybe did not even finish, is a champion for figuring out how to overcome those challenges, for pulling out the strength and inner determination, and succeeding. Anybody who does this, can do anything. It is a life-changing experience.


Now I can say I have no need to do this any longer. I am going to retire from long distance running. I see no purpose in doing this any more, for me. Maybe I will participate in shorter races, maybe not.

Then again, I already registered for the Tel Aviv Marathon that takes place in two weeks. Maybe I will retire after that.

The Jerusalem Marathon 2011 Experience

The Jerusalem Marathon 2011. The first full marathon hosted by Jerusalem.

I must say kudos to mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, a runner himself who ran the half-marathon, who decided he was going to upgrade the annual Jerusalem Half-Marathon to a full marathon, and actually pushed it through and made it happen. Along with Barkat, kudos to the organizers, the sponsors, the volunteers and the security forces for making, what must have been a nightmare of an event to plan into, a tremendously successful event that was efficient, organized, fun, and challenging.
me and my sis in the freezing cold pre-marathon preps

With the forecast calling for a cold and wet morning in Jerusalem, we lined up at the starting line ready to go, expecting a tough terrain and possibly bad weather. My sister came in from Chicago to run the marathon with me, adding an exciting dimension to the run.

Running Jerusalem was going to be an historic experience, albeit tremendously difficult. The hills of Jerusalem are unrelenting, as it says in Psalms "Jerusalem, the Mountains surround her", and this was sure to be a marathon that would present a serious challenge to even the best of runners, let alone to someone like me. While looking forward to it, I knew this was not going to be a run where I would even get close to running my normal pace.

Me, Vic, and David running through the Old City
With a tough hill right at the beginning of the run, we knew what we were up against, but not the magnitude. As we headed up and through downtown Jerusalem, the difference between running a marathon like Tiberias which is mostly outside of the city on the highway and one in Jerusalem which cuts right through many residential neighborhoods was clear - there were people watching and cheering us on, almost throughout the whole event.

Running through ancient Jerusalem, crossing through one part of the Old City, was timeless, as we went from the ultra-modern Jerusalem to the ancient, and back to the modern in a heartbeat. While it would have been nice to run past the Kotel and stop for a momentary prayer, we entered via Jaffa Gate and exited through Zion Gate, only crossing the Armenian Quarter, so it was not meant to be.

Crossing through some more neighborhoods and residential areas eventually led us to Emek Refaim street, which is a bustling neighborhood that was a lot of fun to run through, as everybody knew somebody that was out there watching. Music was playing, people were cheering, we were talking about catching a shwarma at our favorite restaurants, and it was a blast.

Mind you, despite the murderous hills, it was still a breeze. Running felt great. Eventually we made it out through Talpiot, and after a long climb, we headed across Derech Hebron Street. This was a long stretch, and it was here that I lost my rhythm. I am not even sure why. This road was mostly flat, maybe a slight uphill on the way out, but it was long and fairly unexciting. About halfway through the way out, I started to lose my pace. This would have been at about kilometer 18 or so. I fell back from my running partners, and was on my own from there on out. I made the loop, and on the way back I struggled more as we went back through the neighborhoods we had just run down, now we were running them back up. It was getting a little better, even with the hills, but my pace was adjusted downward. I was still going steady though.

On Palmach street I saw former, and possibly future, politician Aryeh Deri, and said his as I passed him. he gave me a smile and a wave and another distraction was finished. Coming out from Tcharnichovsky street was tough, as the full marathon route and the half marathon routes crossed paths and you had to pay attention to your route. Half-Marathoners had to go left towards the finish line, while Marathoners had to veer right to the continuation of the course. Passing the half-marathon finish line was invigorating, as I saw a number of people I know who were cheering on their family members, and their words of encouragement as I passed them gave me a boost.

The truth is that my sister had been complaining a lot about the marathon before the race, and as I passed the area of the half marathon finish line I suspect that she might quit when passing it. This was already a tougher run, even at only 26km, than anything she had run before, because of the hills, and I suspected she would give up. I was happy to see later that she was not a quitter and continued to be a masochist like the rest of us.

Passing the area of the finish line, with still about 15km to go was tough. We still had another section of the city to traverse. We ran some of the original route again, and headed out to what was sure to be the most difficult part of the race. We ran back up Betzalel street, which is almost like climbing a wall, back down King George and down Jaffa Road. This time we hooked around the Old City and headed up to Har HaTzofim - Mount Scopus. This was a ridiculously long and difficult climb uphill, and doing it at the 30km marker was just  nuts.


My only complaints were the finish line disaster, and the sign-age along the routes. While there were a lot fo signs, I did not notice most of the, The ones I did see, I noticed were hard to see, in placement, color and design, and there was a lot of text to see, as they gave different instructions and kilometer marks depending on which race you were running. There were plenty of stories of runners who made a wrong turn because of the bad sign-age.

Climbing another hill, after the Old City

I took advantage of the water, food and gel stations to walk a few dozen meters while eating and drinking giving my weary legs a slight break, and then continued on.Up, Up and further up. I saw friends running back down from Mount Scopus on the other side of the road, and they looked worn out. I knew this was going to be trouble. I made it up to the top fairly ok, albeit very slowly, and then the even more difficult part was upon me - running around Mount Scopus itself. I dont know why this was more difficult, but for me it was. There was still some more uphill, some sharp downhill, and then some slight climbs on the way around and out. I felt some knee pain, and ankle pain, and I think it was because of the ups and downs, though I was not sure. I decided to walk a bit to stretch it out, and it helped. After a few minutes of walking, I continued running and headed out of Mount Scopus. On my way out the 4:30 pacer passed me, and I thought he was either running faster than 4:30 because he had nobody in his group, or else I was on serious trouble. I had expected somewhere in the range of 4:15-4:20, and with the 4:30 pacer pulling away into the horizon, I had no idea how much off my pace I was. What really kept me going was the thought that how can I walk when they shut the roads for us - people on the side would say they had to shut the roads so this shmuck could walk around!

I felt some relief when I heard him call out from the distance that this hill we were about to run up was the last hill and then it would be downhill the rest of the way. I made th climb and then the downhill was some relief, but by then even the downhills were difficult. On the way back down I even saw somebody else in Vibram FiveFinger Bikila running shoes, but he was standing off to the side stretching. I saw my sister heading up on the other side of the road and I was so happy to see she had not quit and was still pushing on.

At this point I needed  a bathroom, but was now about 4 kilometers from the end, and decided I could wait rather than cross the street and use the lavatories and take what might be a fatal break.When I got to another serious uphill, coming back up around the Old City, I was ready to kill that pacer who had said there were no more hills. It is definitely a good thing he was nowhere in sight at that point. Somehow, at the approach to every subsequent hill I heard someone say this is it, just one more hill and then it is all downhill. I knew they were lying.

After passing the Old City walls, we ran down, and hooked around onto Agron Street. This was nice and gave a boost of energy. The last 10 kilometers or so had been mostly empty road with few people watching and cheering. People there were lined up on the streets cheering us on, clapping, playing music again, and it got invigorating. I was nearing the end and I could feel it in my bones. I had my second wind. The climb up Agron to Rehavia was difficult, but I was pushing.

I look pretty good for kilometer 40.
Especially because this was at 5km.
Just joking. It really was 40km.
About halfway up Agron, I noticed somebody coming from behind. At that point he started singing a song from Tehillim, a very appropriate song as we climbed this long hill at about 39km, singing Esa Aynai El HeHarim  - I lift my eyes up to the mountains. It was more like a chant than a song. I dont know where he got the energy, but this guy was singing, and he eventually passed me for a bit.At the intersection he joined up with a spectator and they ran the rest of the way holding hands - I dont know if she was his relative, girlfriend, or just an excited spectator, but it was fun and made the last 3 or 4 km more enjoyable.
Passing the Gilad Shalit protest/solidarity tent I took two ribbons and tied them around my arms. At the top of the hill now, it was time to finish strong. 2km to go, and it would be downhill most of the way. I started to fly, and quickly passed the joyous singing couple. I still listened to the singing, but from behind me now instead of ahead of me. I was going. It is amazing how slow I was running, and it still felt like I was flying.

41km. I could feel it. i was going to fly right through the finish line. I had it in me.

As I get down to the bottom of the hill, the course is suddenly diverted off the road. this was very disappointing, and I thought the last 700 meters were horrible/ After such an amazingly efficient event, they really messed up the finish stretch. It went from this big, smooth and clean road, to some little path, i think through the edge of the botanical gardens, towards Sacher Park. The path was cracked cement, and even worse was full of people walking around, cars driving, people walking dogs, riding bicycles, and it was just disappointing after having such nice wide routes until then. Then after popping through a tunnel, it dumped me out into the finish line. I saw a beautiful looking stretch sectioned off. I could see it was designed to provide every runner with the strong finish he wanted to experience and remember. Then I stepped onto the plush artificial turf, and nearly fell over.

The artificial turn on the finish line was covering a bog of mud. But they did not put a board down under the turf, so it was like running in mud without the getting dirty. You could not run. It was like going through the motions without going anywhere. And then I crossed the finish line. I had done it. 4:36 was my official time. I had conquered the Jerusalem Marathon!

While I sat there, in pain, with my wife waiting for my sister to finish her run and cross the finish line, I thought about walking out to find her and run the last bit with her and cross the line together. Then I stopped thinking about it, as I could hardly stand up, let alone walk. We got up to cheer her across the last 100 meters and over the finish line. She is a champion!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pre-Jerusalem Marathon Musings

The anticipation of tomorrows Jerusalem Marathon is killing me. Both the wait to actually run it, and the question of how cold and rainy the weather will be.

A couple things I noticed on the marathon map that was included in the runners packet:

  1. They spelled Jaffa Gate wrong. They spelled it "Gaffa Gate". You'd think the City would spell such a significant landmark correctly.
  2. They marked off how many of each type of stop and where they will be throughout the marathon. Water, sponge, bathrooms, gel, food, etc. The symbol for the food stop is the normal symbol you see on highways, being a plate with a fork and knife. Makes me wonder if they will be serving us full sit-down meals at the four food stops, rather than just orange wedges and bananas..
  3. They are incredibly organized. In my short life as a runner participating in a number of running events of different magnitudes, I have not seen any other event as organized and thought out as this one. We'll see tomorrow if it works as efficiently as it looks like it should.

Mufti Claims Jerusalem Marathon Judaizes Jerusalem

Complaints against the Jerusalem Marathon were registered long ago. The Arabs opposed the marathon, as it runs the route through parts of East Jerusalem. They claimed that the intention of the marathon was really a way of "Judaizing" the city. They tried to get Adidas, the main sponsor of the marathon, to pull their sponsorship. The mayor of Jerusalem had said he would not change the route, and Adidas never pulled out.

According to a report on INN, the General Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein has again registered his complaint about the marathon, saying it is an attempt to Judaize the city. He said that the City of Jerusalem takes advantage of sport as a political tool in order to force its position into Palestinian areas. Israel, by way of the marathon, is trying to send a message to the world that the places holy to Islam and Christianity in East Jerusalem belong to her. As well, the name of the marathon is "The International Jerusalem Marathon", and its route runs through East Jerusalem. And the organizers are planning to shut the roads that lead to the Al Aqsa mosque on Friday, without taking into consideration the sensitivities of the Muslims who pray on Fridays in the mosque.

Hussein then called upon the whole world to respond to Israel's new policy in attempting to Judaize Jerusalem.

Sounds to me like a great reason to run tomorrow in the marathon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Marathon Minyan

Despite today's horrible bombing near the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, as of right now the marathon is going on as planned.

As a public service announcement, the organizers scheduled, amazingly, a minyan for shacharis at Gan Sacher, I think at 6 am. The full marathon begins at 7 am. Gan Sacher is about a 10 minute walk from the marathon starting line.

Someone in my group arranged a shacharis minyan at Chenyon HaLeom, which is right next to the starting point, though about 10 minutes away from the finish line (which is at Gan Sacher). So you have to decide if you want to park closer to the starting line or closer to the finishing line, and then daven in the closer minyan.

So, if you want to daven at Chenyon HaLeom, the minyan will meet at 5:55am at the entrance to the parkign lot and then find an appropriate spot for the services.

The Fresh Air Fund

The Fresh Air Fund is in need of host families for the summer for the kids. If these kids can get placed by host families, this will give them the opportunity of the summer of a lifetime.

if you can host for The Fresh Air Fund, be in touch with them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Holey Vibram FiveFinger Bikila

These are the larger of the holes in my Vibram FiveFinger Bikila shoes.

The first is not a big deal. Even though the hole is fairly large, it is placed in a place that doesnt affect my running - the toe doesn't pop out of it and get scraped.


The second, on the other hand, hurt a lot. You can see remnants of blood around the edge of the hole.. 2 days later my toe still hurts from the scrape it had.

These logged a lot of kilometers before needing to be replaced - my estimate, based on 1.5 marathon seasons (I was running in Vibram KSOs until about halfway through the first marathon season), is that these shoes logged probably in the range of 2000 or so kilometers. At least my new pair is coming next week!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A killer 33km

Today's run started off great and turned into a killer. Me and my running buddies wanted to get another long run in before the Jerusalem Marathon. After some scheduling issues, we decided today would be the day. We were shooting for a run in the range of 32km.

We look super fast, don't we? Photo courtesy of Jonny
Heading out at about 8:20 AM, we right away felt the unseasonable heat, and knew it would only get hotter. We ran out of RBS, across Road 10 and up 375. We made our first water stop, at 10km at the gas station at Tzomet Ha'Elah. 

From there we continued on, planning to turn up at Zeqa Junction, and run up another 2-2.5km, and back down to the 38, adding 4-5km to the total. The reason is that the perimeter run we were doing, the perimeter of the whole Bet Shemesh, is only about 28 or so km, so we wanted to add to it.

We took a bottle of water with us from Tzomet Ha'Elah and dropped it at Tzomet Azeqa, for when we would return from our detour.

After that we ran up Zechariya and back down continuing on to the entrance to Bet Shemesh. At 25km, when we arrived at the Paz gas station at the entrance to the city we took another water break.

5 minutes for Gilad Shalit. Photo courtesy of Jonny

Continuing on, we hooked around the BIG mall, hooking up with the end of Road 10, and ran up Road 10. At the main entrance to the city, out side of the BIG mall, there was the 5 minute protest for Gilad Shalit holding up traffic.

Road 10 was difficult. It was a killer. It is all uphill, it was hot and dry, and there was strong headwind against us. At this point I was struggling.

At Zanoach we decided to take a detour instead of continuing on Road 10. We cut through Zanoach and ran along a beautiful soft trail that took us to the edge of RBS B, right before the junction where it meets up with RBS A. The only problem with this detour is that it was a serious uphill. It was a struggle, and I had to walk the rockier parts, but we conquered it.

From there we split up, and I ran home along Nahal Kishon, finishing at the shopping center at 33km. There I bought myself a Freezee and walked another block home, nursing my drink.

I think my Vibram FiveFinger Bikilas have seen their last days and last runs. I have been getting holes around the toe area. So far thye have been small and I have been able to ignore them. Today they got much bigger. Pebbles were getting in and disturbing me, but even worse, for about the last 4km I could feel a pinching on one of my toes every time I stepped down, and it hurt increasingly more as it went on. Turns out that the hole by that toe had gotten pretty large, and my toe was scraped up and bleeding from the striking against the pavement.

Good thing my sis is bringing my new pair next week!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cold and Wet

Last night I went out for a short and easy-paced run. The past couple of weeks have been horrible for my running schedule. Bad weather, very tight schedule and guests from abroad kept me from running regularly.

Last night I got out. I ran 9km around RBS and out to the end of Road 10 and back. It was pretty cold when I began my run, but the running warmed me up after a few minutes. That was in RBS. When I got down to Road 10 it was much colder. It is only 1.5km in each direction, so I figured it couldn't be so bad on such a short section. Little did I know that my hands would freeze very quickly. It was that cold. I felt they would just crack off like icicles.

The fact that I run in Vibram FiveFingers did not help. We were post-rain, so the ground was cold and wet. The FiveFingers were completely soaked, so my feet and body were that much colder.

Anyway, I made it through a pretty good run of 9km..

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Me and the Car Windshield

I have recently been totally off schedule with my running. Too many things getting in the way of the schedule, along with general laziness.. After a bunch of days of not running, I went out this afternoon for a run. I planned for an 11-12km run, but when I started running I decided I would just do the whole loop and make it 18km.

As soon as I started the run I said to myself - amazing, I was born to run. All of the sudden I just felt great. The lethargy was gone, the aches and pains suddenly disappeared, and I just felt great. Not to worry - that feeling went away pretty quickly.

After a couple kilometers I suddenly felt like there was something wrong with my gait. My left leg was feeling overused and heavy. I kept trying to adjust but after short buts, I would be right back there. I thought about changing back to my original plans and turning around at kilometer 5 or 6 and cut it back down to about 12km, but decided to keep going.

The weather was unusual. It is hot and dry, but the air is thick. I can normally run 18km without a water break, no problem, but today my throat was very dry and uncomfortable.

Overall the run was great, albeit it tough. I made it up all the hills, both Zechariya and Tzeelim, without stopping, and I finished the run completely drenched in sweat - both from the heat and from the difficulty of my run.

So what does the title refer to - me and the car windshield? Well, I now know what it must feel like to be a car windshield. I dont remember a run in my past where I had so many bugs flying into my face during the run. I had bugs in my mouth, bugs slapping into my nose, arms, cheeks and glasses. It was disgusting. i dont know why they were out in full force tonight and why I kept running into them, but I felt like a car windshiel