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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What The Rehovot Run Showed Me

I have not written here in a while, and the truth is that the holidays really messed up my running schedule and discipline. I ran on occasion, but I couldn't get myself onto a regular running schedule. I am trying to now, largely because of my run this past Friday.

Friday was a scheduled 34km run. To Rehovot. My absolute favorite run of the training season, and the most difficult. the most difficult because of the distance, the terrain and the water breaks. My favorite because of the terrain, the difficulty, the camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment.

The Rehovot run was scheduled to be 34km. I was not physically ready to run 34 km, as my long runs have mostly been in the 19-21km range, with only a couple reaching the 24-25km range until now. I debated with myself whether to join the group on the run or not, and decided to do it just because I didn't want to miss the first Rehovot run of the season. I knew it would be tough, but I figured I could make it. And I figured if I could eke out a 34km in my condition, I could start from my house and eke it out to 38km, and if not I could stop anywhere in Rehovot and walk or take a taxi the rest of the way, after having passed 34km..

Setting out at 5 AM, earlier than the group because of my slower running speed, I embraced the challenge. My run started in the dark, but fairly quickly the light increased. The challenging hills, the beautiful terrain, the cool air, all made the run worthwhile. Until Mazkeret Batya.

Mazkeret Batya is the last water stop before Rehovot, and that is where the running really gets tough. From there it is about 4km to Rehovot's entrance, and then about another 4km in Rehovot to the finish line near Weizzman Institute. That 4km after Mazkeret Batya is difficult - after stopping for a few minutes at that point the legs are starting to tighten up, the stretch of run there is exposed and sunny. The temperature is already getting to be fairly warm. And the next 4km in rehovot is spent dodging cars and people, some congestion, and bustle.

The 4km from Mazkeret Batya was very difficult for me, but I was very determined to at least make it to Rehovot. I trudged along at decreased pace, my legs were like heavy slabs of meat by that point, and I was cursing my decision to run, now knowing how unprepared I really was. Somehow I made it to Rehovot and even ran in a bit. Then I just came to a stop. After a few moments I said I cannot continue, but I had already run nearly 35km, more than the scheduled distance, and I had made it into Rehovot. I had nothing left to prove. I started walking, but everything was already starting to tighten and cramp up, and even walking was becoming difficult. I flagged a taxi and went to the meeting point, for an ice shoko and the sharing of war stories with the other runners.

That run showed me how unprepared I am, and let me know that if I really plan to run the marathon, I really have to start training better.

Remaining sore and tight through Monday morning, I did not run again until last night. I have not run the Monday night workout runs with the group in a long time, but I did last night. We went to Nofei Aviv and ran fartleks. I gave up after 2.5 cycles, and finished my distance at 10km. Still sore from Rehovot, this was a combined workout and recovery run, and I was happy to reign it in at 10km.