Invisible Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jerusalem Marathon 2012 (video)

Jerusalem Marathon 2012

I know I owe you a lot of writing. I have been negligent in this regard. For now, to hold you over, here is a new video showing the route for the Jerusalem Marathon 2012. If you are familiar with the route form the 2011 marathon, you might notice that it seems like they have made some changes..

As they say:
The second Jerusalem Marathon which will take place on March 16, 2012, holds a unique and picturesque roads, leading you through museums, national institutes, parks and gardens, for a great experience of sports and good time.

Sit back and watch our course map, take notes, enjoy the view and visit the official Marathon website for tips, running stories, training programs and much more.

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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Marathon Runner Gives Birth Shortly After Completing Marathon

After this, can anyone have an excuse for not running (or doing whatever your preferred form of exercise is)?

From the Chicago Suntimes:
Amber Miller slowed her usual pace for Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, taking 6 hours and 25 minutes to complete the grueling 26.2 mile race, but she had a great reason for finishing three hours off her personal best time.

Miller was almost 39 weeks pregnant when she hit the starting line and finished despite running through contractions — then delivered a daughter Sunday night about 7 1/2 hours after completing the race.

Still, she said, the marathon was the easiest part of her day.

“The race was definitely easier than labor,” Miller said Monday as she cradled her new daughter, June Audra.

Miller, 27, a veteran marathon runner, decided to take part after getting the OK from her doctor — and because she and her husband had already signed up for the race.

She’s also been running regularly through her pregnancy without any problems.

“I know what I can handle. This is something I’ve been doing for a long time,” said Miller, who has completed eight marathons.

In fact, Sunday’s race wasn’t even her daughter’s first marathon — Miller was 17 weeks pregnant when she ran in the Wisconsin Marathon earlier this year.

The Westchester resident competed in another marathon when she was about 17 weeks pregnant with her son, Caleb, now 19 months old.

She set an easy pace, running two miles, then walking the next two, Miller said. Her husband, Joe, ran with her to keep a close eye on her.

She said some other racers did double takes when they noticed the visibly pregnant runner in the white T-shirt jogging along.

And some medical workers and race volunteers seemed startled to see her on the course.

“They kept looking at me,” she said.

While she experienced some contractions during the race, she’s not sure she actually was in labor because she typically feels some contractions when she runs while pregnant.

“I don’t know if I actually was in labor during the race,” said Miller.

She figures her labor really started about 3 p.m. just after she finished the race, but she still felt well enough to grab a late lunch before heading to the hospital.

“I thought I should probably get some food first,” she said.

She and her husband drove to Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, where their 7-pound, 13-ounce daughter was born later that night.

The little girl, who slept through a Monday press conference, is in “excellent” shape, said Dr. Jeffrey Loughead, a neo-natalogist at the hospital.

The biggest risk Miller faced in running was dehydration, which could have sent her into labor, said Loughead, a doctor for 21 years.

But he said it was clear she was in good physical shape when she ran — and her pregnancy was already full term, though Loughead said he can’t recall any other patient running a marathon before giving birth.

“This is a first for my career,” he said.

Miller, for her part, said she felt good and was looking forward to going home on Tuesday.

“I don’t feel tired,” she said, smiling as she held her daughter.

But the race and delivery really took a toll on her 32-year-old husband. He said he didn’t train as hard for the marathon because he really thought his wife wouldn’t run because he expected their daughter to be born first.

“I was completely exhausted. I was placing my bet on June being here already,” said Joe Miller.
Hats off to you, Amber Miller.

To paraphrase a talmudic expression, Hillel obligated the poor people, Joseph the handsome people, and Amber Miller all the pregnant women (l'havdil)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Run Through The Roglit Vineyards

I have not written here in a while, but I have been running. Today was a great early morning run. I ran 21+km through the Roglit Vineyards.

The group was running 30km, and I would have liked to run about 24-26km. Due to my schedule I was overly tired and that was just too much, so I cut it short at 21. I planned to meet my running partner at the entrance to Aviezer - he was driving and I was running there, as he wasn't looking to run more than 18km.

So, I get up at 4 AM to get ready and headed out at about 4:30. We met at Aviezer at just after 5. We ran up to Roglit and then found the gate to the path through the vineyards locked. We climbed over the fence and ran. The air was cool and the early morning was beautiful.

The path through the fields and vineyards starts with a long climb up to the back of Aderet. It is a tough climb, but the view behind us was stunning, which we saw when we got to the top. This picture is not even close to giving due credit to the amazing view.

As we crossed over the peak and ran down through the vineyards, the air turned much cooler. The vineyards were a strong green and the terrain was beautiful We turned around at about 8km through, and ran back. The run back was tougher, as it was a longer, albeit not as steep, uphill run. At some point we crossed through a flock of goats. This was very timely and made us consider the "sa'ir la'azazel" we are going to read about in the coming days on Yom Kippur. We would have taken a couple, but the shepherds would not have liked that idea, so on we ran.

On the way back out, the gate was still locked. Those moshavniks must have been sleeping late, as it was already 6:45 am. We climbed back over and ran down to the car.

Great run through the Roglit Vineyards.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And Thus Concludes Week 2 Of Marathon Training...

Week 2 of Marathon Training was not great, but it finished well. The week started off poorly, with me under the weather. Saturday night and Sunday I could not run because I was under the weather, while Monday morning I got a light run in. The rest of the week I did not run because of a busy schedule, late nights, and an under the weather running partner.

Friday, long run day, was looking particularly daunting. After a low-intensity week, we had 24km scheduled for Friday. The route, a nice, albeit difficult, route, would be along Highway 383. Going out is a nice run, with a largely downhill trend. the way back would prove more difficult - with a largely uphill run, and a fairly strong headwind, the final 12km would prove to be difficult.

I started out the run thinking I might cut it a bit short. I did not feel I needed to run 24km so soon into the season, and it would depend on how the run was going. I would have been happy with a 21-22km run as well, with an absolute minimum of 18-19km.

We started out as a group of 4, until the main running group would pass us. At about 7.5km 2 guys peeled off, as they were looking to run only 15km. We continued on, and shortly after the main group passed us by. The run out was great, as I felt strong and confident. The run was smooth, and I ran it at a fairly fast pace.

That fast pace was probably a mistake, as I was a bit winded and unprepared for the 2nd half of the run. Turning around meant long uphill climbs, though not steep climbs. I have always been poor with hill running, and I dropped back from my running partner, and slowly but surely lost a lot of ground. Eventually I thought maybe I should stop running and let him come pick me up with the car when he finishes, but I kept trudging on telling myself just a little bit more. i felt ok, just tired from the hills.

Eventually I made it back to the end, concluding a 24km run after being totally unprepared for it.

And thus concludes Week 2 of Marathon Training

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Benefit Of Running With A Partner

After a late night and big meal last night, I was not sure I would get up in time for an early run this morning. Running this morning would also be a test of my calf and the muscle pain I experienced on Friday. The pain was almost completely gone, but there is still a lingering touch of pain, at a very dull level. I also expected my running partner to sleep in, or I was at least hoping he would, but when I sent him a text message in the morning he quickly replied, so running was remaining on the morning agenda.

That is actually a very good example of the primary benefit of running with a running partner over running alone. Had I planned to run alone, I would definitely have stayed in bed. Knowing I had someone else out there expecting me to show up, even though he would have understood, knowing that I would have looked a bit lazy to him, that encouraged me to dress up and go running. On a day like today, at 5:45 am after a long and tiring night, that is the only thing that got me out on the road.

We ran 6km down to the Junction of Roads 10 and 375 and then back. The air was slightly warmer and more humid than it has been normally at that time in the morning. I felt the pain slightly, but it did not really hurt and was not at all disabling. Even after the run and after having rested and cooled down, at the point when the pain normally gets worse, it remained only a slight dull discomfort. Hopefully that means I am really past it.

It was a good run. I would still have liked to run tonight with the group, but that is not going to happen due to a conflict. I am still under-mileage for the marathon training, though it is still very early in the season. Our coach gets into high gear very quickly, but as long as I stick with it even in lower gear I should be able to pick up the pace a bit later.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

First Long Run Of The Marathon Season Ends Not Well

This past Friday was the first long run of the marathon season. The run was scheduled to be 22km, but since I have not run more than 15km all off-season, and even that only a few times, I decided to alter the route slightly. My altered route would total 19km, and depending on how I was feeling at the end I would possibly extend it a bit. I call it a long run, because it is my longest since my last marathon. However, my coach does not call it a long run - he says long runs are only called long runs if they are of a distance of more than a half-marathon (21.1km). Anything less is only a medium-long run at best.

I met with a couple other guys who were going to run part of it and then turn around, as they were not going to be running more than 14km. We were running the Lamed Hey route from RBS, being starting in RBS across Road 10 to the 375. Up 375 to Elah Junction. Across 38 to Bet Shemesh, and up to RBS. The run includes two major hills, one being the hill of Zechariya and the second being the Tzeelim hill up to RBS.

After my running partners broke off a bit after Tzomet Aderet, I continued the rest of the way on my own. We were getting a good run. I have not run with a watch in a long time, but now that marathon season is back I decided it was time to start monitoring my speed and distance more accurately again. A few quick glances at my watch let me know that were were running at a pretty fast pace. It is not unusual as that stretch of road is at a slight downhill angle and it is easy to not pay attention and run much faster than normal without realizing.

After they broke off and I continued on towards Elah Junction, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my left calf. It felt almost like a small bruise, but I am pretty sure it was a slight muscle pull. Nothing specific caused it - I didn't misstep suddenly or trip or anything that i noticed. The pain just suddenly appeared. I stopped and stretched it out a bit, and then kept going. it still hurt, but I had to get home, so my only option was to keep going.

The only thing I could think of that caused it was perhaps running too fast, It is a classic mistake at the beginning of the season. Thankfully, it was not bad. I was able to continue on, slowing down a bit. i made it up the entire Zechariya hill respectably.

Only when climbing the Tzeelim hill did I have to stop and walk a bit as the pain increased with the hill. I got to the top and finished the run at 19km and did not extend it. Obviously the pain increased over the day, but then over Shabbos it began decreasing. i still feel it slightly, but it mostly gone. I expect by tomorrow I should be running again.

Besides for the pain, the timing worked out after I turned at the Elah Junction that I saw a beautiful view of the mountains just after sunrise with the sun over the Elah valley and the mountainous backdrop. It was stunning and the air was beautiful and cool. The run was beautiful, albeit slightly marred by the slight muscle pain. If everything goes well, it looks like it should be a great season.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Double-Morning Run That Didn't Happen

Today's run was going to be unusual. Due to a convergence of events, I was planning to run two separate runs this morning. I was going to run at 5 am with one running partner, and then at 6:15 am with a second. When the possibility of this happening came up I decided to go for it. i figured marathon training season just began - the whole idea of running, and training for, a marathon is going beyond your abilities. Running the marathon itself is crazy, so when you train you sometimes have to do crazy runs as well.

Anyways, it did not work out because my first running partner overslept, so waking up at 4:30 am turned out to be a waste of time.. I still ran a great run at 6:15 am, logging 7km in the nice cool morning air.

I am going to soon start ramping up my mileage...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Runner's Guide To Israel: Burma Road and Nachshon Nature Reserve

This morning was the last run of the off-season. Friday off-season runs are almost always trails, often trails that the group has never before run. The group scheduled a casual 14km run on Burma Road.

  1. When the group says "casual" or "easy" or anything of the sort, I know I am in trouble. i always expect it to really be a slower pace than they usually run, but it never is. With me being much slower than almost everyone else, I often get left in their dust.
  2. I have run Burma Road before, and know it is a beautiful run, and doable in my Vibram barefoot shoes.
So, I decided to join the group for this last trail run of the off-season. And it was really nice.

The group really did run a semi-casual pace, and they stopped at frequent enough stops to let the laggers like me catch up.

And, it was only partially Burma Road. We started off on Burma Road, and then hooked into the Nachal Nachshon Nature Reserve. Burma Road was as beautiful and pleasant as always, but the Nachshon Nature Reserve was really stunning. We ran through vineyards, crossed a soft-dirt field that had just been freshly turned, along a field of grass, and sheer beauty of nature and the Land of Israel. We also ran by a couple people who were using the vast empty space to fly a remote controlled airplane. They had the plane about 150 or 200 meters up in the air.

The run started northward, turned east and then we ran parallel to Highway 1 for a bit. Then we looped around back to Burma Road and back to Al Derech Burma store to shower and daven.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Marathon Training Season Cometh

This morning I ran my third run of the week, with another 6.5km run. The early morning runs are great in the still-cool air and mostly empty roads.

With marathon training season about to begin, the runs are going to have to start earlier in the morning and go longer distances. Runs of 6.5 to 8 km are not going to cut it starting next week. The training is great, but the change in schedule is going to be tough, getting up so much earlier, and then running distances that will take me until my day actually has to start with kids going to school and work.

Looking at it now, I could easily see how I could talk myself out of doing it, saying I don't have the time or whatnot. good thing I just registered in early registration for the 2012 Israel Marathon in Tiberias to be run in January 2012. Now that I paid the money I am committed and have to train.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Runner's Guide To Israel: Beit Natif

I have fallen behind on my writing here. Today i did not run, but I have run four days straight until today.

On Friday we had a small group running out shooting for about 14km. The main group was going to be running a 22km run through the Dolev Nature Reserve to Bar Giyora. Just last week I had gone on a jeep tour of the nature reserve and I saw that it would be impossible for me to run these trails. The trails in Dolve Nature Reserve are very rocky and difficult, besides for the difficulty of the long mountain climb, the steepness and the general terrain.

So our small group ran out to Kibbutz Lamed Hey. From there we went in to the entrance of the kibbutz and followed the path around the back. That took us in to the Beit Natif Nature Reserve. Beit Natif is a mountain range outside of Bet Shemesh with beautiful trails and terrain. Parts were rocky, parts were soft, and overall it was beautiful.

We started off running through a vineyard. Much of the run through Beit Natif was uphill, as we were climbing from the very bottom, from the kibbutz, and crossing over the top to get back to Bet Shemesh. After the vineyard, we hooked onto a trail that was part of the Shvil Yisrael trail - the cross-country Israel trail. We ran along that for a bit, until it continued too far south, while we had to be turning eastward at that point. We followed some other trails up, eventually forcing us to stop running. We knew which way we had to go, but we did not necessarily know which trail would take us there. We basically hiked for a bit climbing from trail to trail until we found the main trail that took us back to the top of Beit Natif.

Along the way we found a well, an ancient olive press, an ancient cell phone tower, and more. The path then took us down past the area where the new nighborhood of Bet Shemesh is being built, just below tel Yarmout. and that brought us back to RBS.

the total run, not including the hiking, was probably about 16km, though that is an estimate. None of us were wearing a GPS watch.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to 7km

It has been a while since I have written anythign here, but it has also been a while since I went running. Due to smoe personal scheduling issues right now, in addition to the heat and general laziness that is always difficult to overcome, I ended up not running for the past 9 days. Besides for that, I have been eating like a pig and could feel myself going to waste...

But I went for a great 7km run this morning with one of my running buddies, and that is a start to getting back on the road properly. It was tough. The run was hard, the hills I normally take just fine were difficult. But I was back out there and it felt great.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Running Early

A run is a great way to start the day.

This morning we went for a basic 6.5km run. Saw a bunch of other runners out. It felt like it is going to get hot pretty early, so it was good we went for an early, instead of late, run today.

Friday, August 5, 2011

And Sometimes Barefoot Means Barefoot

We put a small group together, four runners, and ran about 15km this morning.We ran out to the Junction of Aderet and then back. Running back we detoured by Eziyona Junction and ran on a path through the fields. The end of the path is pretty rocky, but not horrible. The run was mostly uneventful.

When we got back to the top of RBS and split ways, I stopped to remove some pebbles and thorns from my Vibram Bikilas. While I had my Vibrams off, I decided to run the last kilometer completely barefoot. So I did. and it was not bad. if I do it a few times, my feet might get used to the feeling of the surface. I must say that it felt great to put the Bikilas back on for the last 300 meters...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Running Through Elul Into The Tanakh

This morning's early run was great. We ran 7km, and got out early, starting my run at 5:23am.

When starting out, while running up Kishon/Yarqon, it was still dark and the sky was just starting to show some light. The crickets were cricketing in full force, there were no cars on the roads, and it felt like running in Elul. What does "felt like running in Elul" mean? When marathon training season starts, at the beginning of September, usually in Elul, we revert to doing most morning runs very early. Early, as in, when the crickets are still chirping, the sky is still mostly dark, the cars are far and few apart... and during the run, if running in the neighborhood, you can even hear the distant shofar being blown. Today we had all of that except for the shofar, and it made me feel like Elul had arrived, and I was almost waiting to hear the shofar.

My running partner is participating now in a Tanakh conference. During the run he described to me some of the interesting lectures he had heard yesterday, and we discussed various issues from Tanakh and politics and social justice. It was a great run as it was stimulating for the body, stimulating of the mind and stimulating in a spiritual sense. Our runs are just about always stimulating for the body and for the mind, as we discuss all sorts of issues, the extra stimulation of the spiritual senses was an added benefit today.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

6KM Not Enough

My right ankle has been sore, feeling like I twisted it at some point, though I don't remember actually doing so. Because of that I was not able to run a for a few days. Now it is feeling much better, albeit not 100%, and I am running again.

I ran the other night with a friend and a fellow visiting who is an experienced Comrades runner. Comrades is an ultra-marathon run in South Africa that is a 90km run. This fellow ran for 11 hours! Talk about making you feel insignificant! I can't even imagine that, though it reminds me of the days when I could not imagine running 42km..

This morning I ran a nice 6km run. The early morning air was still cool, and the atmosphere was pleasant. We had a great run at a good pace.

By the end I felt like 6km was not enough. My body still wanted more.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

NB Minimus: Hot Coals (video)

NB Minimus: Hot Coals

This video promotes barefoot running, specifically using New Balance Minimus barefoot running shoes.

NB Minimus is like barefoot, only better. Watch as our barefoot buddy takes NB Minimus for a spin and discovers the advantages of running minimusly.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

All You Wanted To Know About Top of Foot Pain

I was recently asked about my experience with TOFP, or Top Of Foot Pain. It seems to be a common ailment barefoot runners suffer from.

Being that I personally do not, and have not, suffered from TOFP, I had to do some research to discover what it was, what caused TOPF and how to avoid it and get rid of it.

After researching Top Of Foot Pain, I wrote my article on it on my Run Barefoot Marathon website. All you wanted to know about Top Of Foot Pain; what is TOFP, how to get rid of TOFP and how to avoid getting ToFP.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Serious Trail Barefoot Running

This past Friday we went out on the trails of Park Brittania. I have run through Park Brittania many times before, but always on the main paths, not the trails. This run was going to be a mostly trail run, anywhere from 13km to 16km.

The trails in Park Brittania, I quickly found out, are very hard trail, extremely rocky. Making the rugged terrain even more difficult is the constant fluctuating between ups and downs - we were going uphill, then downhill, then back up, then down, etc. you get the point. So it was not just the difficulty of the rocks and the feet, but the concentration of running on the rocks to avoid pain and injury along with the frequency of changing style from ups to downs and back.

Far more difficult than running barefoot on rocks is running barefoot on rocks when running uphill, constantly looking for good footing. And even more difficult than that is running on rocks downhill, as you try to avoid going too fast, as you are sure to misstep and hurt yourself on a stray rock.

I must say, this run was a lot of work. I was wiped out by about 12km, but had to keep going. It was a great run, until I tired from the over-concentration. After that it was mostly a struggle.

The other runners were amazed that I was able to do it at all, considering how rcky it was. My feet are mostly ok with it now, considering that I have run numerous trails and my feet are fairly well-conditioned for it by now. I still have to be careful, and my heel came out a little bit sore from some obvious missteps, but overall it was pretty good and mostly painless.

Running trails in Vibrams FiveFingers is very doable. It takes some effort, and a lot of practice building up the foot. Start out on soft trails, and move up carefully to more difficult trails. Your feet will adjust their abilities.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Running Early, Running Often

The week has been pretty decent for running. It has been pretty hot, and I have so far been successful in scheduling my runs not in the heat, as I usually end up doing. Saturday night, and then early Monday and early Wednesday mornings when it was still cool.

Monday my running partner overslept, so I ended up running myself. i was a bit pressed for time, so I did a siple loop around RBS, about 5km. I ran it at a recovery pace, taking it easy - something I have not done in a while.

Wednesday I met up with my running partner and we ran an extended loop around RBS. What has become our extended loop is a circuit around RBS. When coming down Kishon, we turn on to Ein Gedi and run down to the end. We cross Tzeelim and enter the path through the fields. This path takes us up along HaYarqon to the top.

At the top we split ways and I run back down the hill towards my house. The total extended loop for me is about an estimated 8.5km.

I am feeling great and running great. The only problem is the distance. I am not running any significant distance runs. I guess that will have to wait until marathon training season begins in September.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Runner's Guide To Israel: Tel Yarmout

Today's trail run was unplanned. Our small group met up at 6 am for a local run of 10-12km. When we met we decided to run a trail instead of our normal routes in the area.

We ran down and headed out of RBS towards the 38. At the bottom we turned on to a trail and ran across the trail, almost parallel to the highway. At some point we would have to follow the trails up to the left and climb the mountain to come around the other side.

Tel Yarmout is the site of an ancient village from biblical times, currently an area very rich with archaeological finds.

After running across the trail, we located the correct trail heading up the mountain to tel Yarmout. Coming across the top, we ran through the edge of the site of construction of the new neighborhood of RBS C, and then down the steep decline to the fields at the bottom and across back to RBS A.

The trails up to Tel Yarmout were probably the hardest trails I have run barefoot. They actually alternated between very soft trail sections and very hard, rocky sections. Thankfully my feet have adjusted nicely and, while I had to take certain sections slow being more careful, overall I did pretty good and came out of it mostly painless. Had I known in advance I would probably have worn my Vibram Five Finger Treksport shoes rather than my Bikilas, but I did just fine with the Bikila.

The total run for me was about 13.5km, and was a beautiful scenic route, with a nice early-morning cool breeze.

I closed this week with 4 runs, the longest being the hilly trail of 13.5km, with a total of an estimated 39km.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Damsel In Distress

This morning's run was really a killer. With the hot weather in full force, we got started a bit after 8:30. Truth is when we started the weather was still reasonable. It was hot, but not bad, a slight breeze, the sun was not strong, and it was mostly pleasant.

We had a good run out to the end of Road 10, and then after a few moments of a break to cool down, we continued out on the 375 to Eziyona Junction. By then it was already getting hot enough to start becoming uncomfortable. We stopped at Eziyoina and sat in the shade for a bit to cool down.

After a short break we turned and headed back to RBS. A few minutes in we came across a damsel in distress -  a woman was biking and her chain got all tangled and knotted up. She was on the side of the road stuck. We stopped to try to help, but after 15 minutes or so of wrestling with the chain unsuccessfully, we could only give up. She called her husband who was now on his way to pick her up, so we continued on our run.

By now it was getting REALLY hot, and the stretch back on the 10 and then up the hill to RBS was very difficult. I finished the run today feeling completely drained, and drenched all the way through with sweat.

I felt bad for her, as she headed out looking for a good morning workout - in the end her morning was now killed, she didnt get her workout, and the whole morning would probably end up wasted as she would have to take the bike in to get the chain fixed and whatnot. That can really kill a persons day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Hot 9KM Run

Had a fabulous 9km run this morning. Despite the heat, we decided to go for a run. It is going to be hot the rest of the summer, so either we run at 11pm, 4am, or we buckle up and run in the heat.

We met and ran about 9km, around RBS, then down Nahal Ein Gedi and up the path through the fields across RBS to the top of Yarqon, then we split and I ran the last 1.4km home.

The only animals we saw today were when we passed the flock of about 150 or so sheep grazing in the field. There was also some scurrying in the brush at times, but we had no idea what animals were there.

It was hot, but not as bad as yesterday. It was bearably hot this morning.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Saw Deer On Today's 15km Run

Just because I don't write (here), does not mean I am not running.

I ran four times this week, Saturday night, Tuesday Morning, Wednesday morning, and Friday morning, but am only posting here now.

The Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday runs were about 8-9km each, and today's run was about 15km, though I have not worn my Garmin GPS watch all week, so these are estimates. That makes this week's running total to be in the range of about 41km.

Today's run was the toughest. I have been feeling very strong recently, and despite running with no watch I have felt that my ace and running strength has been improving recently. Maybe it is my imagination, since I am not wearing a watch, but my most recent runs have been at hard paces and i felt strong on them.

Today though was a killer. the first half out was great. We ran hard, maybe too hard, and went out about 7.5 km to just a couple hundred meters past the Aderet Intersection on Highway 375.

Then we turned around, but when we got to Tzomet Etziyona we turned in and took a trail back to Road 10. the trail through the fields was nice, and it was my first time on this trail. We saw some deer running a bout 150 meters way from us in the field. There was no way we were going to catch up with them! The prancing deer were far nicer than the dead snake and dead hedgehog we saw the other day...

The road run from tzomet Etziyona back to Road 10 is a slight downhill making it a great stretch for a tempo pace, but this trail took us mostly, until near the end of it, on an uphill incline, making it unexpectedly difficult.

My Vibram FiveFinger Bikila are still holding up nicely, but with all this added trail running (not really a lot, but more than usual), they are probably starting to wear down faster than expected. it might be time to prepare new ones soon.

Today's run was a nice mix of road running, trail running, flat and hill running, and seeing the deer prancing ahead of us was an added bonus!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

NIKE Has Brilliant Marketing Teams (video)

NIKE Has Brilliant Marketing Teams

NIKE felt the need to make running more interesting and fun for the younger crowds, so they went on a major marketing campaign, and in just 6 weeks saw great success.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A good start to the week

I don't know if I will run this week as much as I ran last week, but it is off to a good start. I ran tonight about 8km around RBS. The weather was beautiful and there were lots of people out taking advantage of it. Lots of walkers and runners enjoying the cool air.

After that i went for a walk with my wife for about 1.5km.

Will I run much this week? Will I match last week's mileage, or as we say in Israel "kilometrage"? Will I run every day? Will I run less? A more normal 3-4 times instead of 6-7? As of right now, I have no specific plans... we'll see where the week takes us.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Runner's Guide To Israel: President's Forest

Run #7, and the final run, of Running week, was a 14km run in President's Forest. I did this run with the Bet Shemesh Running Club as part of a group run on the summer Friday morning Trail Run series.

President's Forest

beautiful view from President's Forest trail
President's Forest is a trail through a KKL (JNF) forest, just utside of Bet Shemesh, planted in memory of Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann. The forest is part of the Tzora Forest, and at it's highest point it reaches an altitude of 401 meters above sea level. There are spectacular views all over the forest, and at different points one can see views of the coastal plains, the Judean Plains and The Judean Hills.

Alongside part of the trail is Derech HaPsalim - Sculpture Road. There are statues created by artists, emphasizing the history and the landscape of the area, including pieces such as the one depicting Shimshon (Samson of "Samson and Delila").

There are also caves, tombs, cisterns, and winepresses throughout the forest.

same beautiful view from President's Forest trail
but with the runners of the BS Running Club
The trail is about 3km out and then about 8 km of a circuit trail, and then 3km back. The trail is a tough run with up and downs the whole way, and I must say it sure felt like they were mostly ups.

At about 7km we stopped to take in the view. At that point the view is absolutely stunning. I usually don't take my phone out on runs, but I did today, and took advantage and snapped a few photos of the amazing view.

another beautiful view from president's Forest

Run 6 Of The Running Week

Run 6 of Running Week started off at just before 6 PM under th still-hot-but-starting-to-cool sun. We met up and ran out to Tzomet Etzion, the intersection on Highway 375 right before the satellites. We ran there and back, totaling for me 9.5km

Run #6 of Running Week brought me to about 52km on the week.

I have been asked why I am doing this, running so much. Am I training for something?

The answer is no. I am not training for anything specific. Since the Tel Aviv Marathon in April I have hardly run, and not on any regular schedule. In the two months since, I have only gone to run a handful of times. I was starting to feel like I gained a lot of weight, I was feeling heavy and lethargic. I was feeling like i was starting to go to mush. It was time to start getting back to training. I actually only planned to run "a lot". I was thinking along the lines of 4 or 5 runs for the week.

Then I started running. And I felt great. Yeah, my legs were feeling tired from being a little out of shape. At a certain point I was starting to feel worn out. Yet overall I was starting to feel great again. My energy levels were up and overall I was feeling great. After the first 3 runs, I decided I was going to try to run every day this week.
And so far so good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Run 5 of Running Week

I had thoughts to run a 12km run this morning, but things don't always go according to plan. Actually, they rarely go according to plan.

My running partner was tired this morning, so he was not in the mood to run with me. Add that to the knowledge that tonight I have a softball game so would not be able to run later, but also don't want to be too worn out to plan, I decided to run in the morning anyway, but cutting it to a short run. Another factor is that all week long the weather has been unusually pleasant and cool, especially until mid-morning, made me want to take advantage of another potentially cool morning.

So I went out myself, with plans for a 6km or so run. Heading out I decided to go out on Nahal Tzeelim, being a 6 km out and back course. I used to run Tzeelim fairly regularly, but have not done so in a long time.

The weather was warmer than I expected, and the way back up the hill was difficult, but I finished the run at 6.13km.

The running week is up to 5 runs totalling 42km, and it continues tomorrow...

Running Week Continues

I thought I would take today off from running, considering that I have run every day this week and my legs are feeling very tired. I decided not to take the day off, and arranged a late-night short run.

We met at 10:45 PM for a short, 6-7 km run. We ran out to the end of Road 10 and back, at an easy pace.

Tuesday night, 4 runs for the week so far, 36km logged.

And the running week continues...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

3rd day of Running in a row

Tonight for a change of pace, we, me and my running buddy, decided we would run with the group at the group run through the Bet Shemesh Merkaz for an 11km run. Things did not work out as planned, and we had to come up with other plans for a slightly later start.

We decided to run in Bet Shemesh anyway, as it was an opportunity for different scenery, and we came up with an alternate route. We ran from RBS down to Bet Shemesh. We ran around behind the Kirya Haredit toward Migdal HaMayim. We crossed Migdal Hamayim along the upper road of houses, and then swung back around through the main Migdal HaMayim strip of shops and then back to RBS.

The weather was cool and pleasant, and the run was a very hilly 12km.

For me that is 3 days in a row of running, so far totaling for the week 29km. My legs are feeling tired, so I might take tomorrow off, or maybe I will just do a short run tomorrow evening.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Start of A Great Running Week

As far as running is concerned, this week is so far so good.

After running 8.5 km last night, I was thinking about running perhaps 11-12km tonight. When my buddy called this morning wanting to take advantage of the unusually cool morning, i could not resist.

We went out for a run around RBS, with me finishing at 8.7km. We ran around RBS, turning down at Ramat Shiloh, by Ein Gedi street. We ran down to the end, then crossed Tzeelim. We ran along the path in the fields that is adjacent, almost parallel, to Yarqon street.

After a short break at the top, to catch our breaths and have a short chat, we split up each running home in opposite directions. It was already warmer than expected, but there was still a decently nice breeze. It was nice to take advantage of cool weather, run with a partner, and get off to the start of what will likely be a great running week.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

First Run In 2 Weeks Was Great!

I have not gone out running in 2 weeks. I have not run consistently, on any sort of regular schedule, since the Tel Aviv Marathon at the beginning of April. And I am starting to feel the results. I am starting to feel heavy and sluggish, overweight and lethargic. It is tough running when you have no specific goals to train for.

I am trying to get back into it, and I want to start training hard again. the heat is going to make it very difficult, and most running will have to be either very early morning or late at night.

Tonight I went out for a 8.5km run around RBS. I did not want to take my GPS watch with me, as I wanted to enjoy the run and not worry about time, but having not run for 2 weeks I wanted to keep an eye on my pace. Right when I turned on th watch, I saw it was about to die, so there was no point in taking it along. So I ran with no watch, which is always the best.

I started out running across Kishon. When I run by myself I like to start off with running across Kishon and back, as it gives me a good 3km flat start. Then I ran around RBS, making it about 8.5km, at I have no idea what pace.

I was very satisfied with the run, and it was a beautiful night with a cool breeze. Lot of runners and walkers out. Hopefully I will find time tomorrow to go out again. I need to start building up my running again, getting my muscles fit, and dropping some weight.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review Of Vibram FiveFinger Treksport for road running

So I went out for a run this morning. Even though I was not running a trail, I still wanted to try out my new Vibram FiveFinger Treksport shoes. I also wanted to compare them not just on trails but also running on the road and see how they match up to the FiveFinger Bikila, or other shoes.

I got them in this nice orange color, and they are pretty cool.

The differences between Bikila and Treksport, that I personally noticed:

  • The material upper of the Treksport is a little bit more flexible and softer than the material of the Bikila.
  • The velcro strap is designed a little differently. As a matter of fact, I have wondered why on the Bikila shoes the velcro strap is designed the opposite direction of normal velcro straps on shoes. I still don't have the answer to that, but on the Treksport they are facing the normal direction like most velcro straps on shoes face.
  • The velcro strap on the Treksport is flexible and can be adjusted, to a point, whereas on the Bikila it is set and not adjustable. 
  • The soles on the Treksport are a bit thicker, with heavier cleats along the edges and under the toes, for better protection. This means when running on the road that your foot feels the road less. According to Vibram it gives better traction, and maybe it does, but I like the feel of the road beneath that I get with the Bikila.
On one spot of my foot, on the inner sole, some skin wore off from the shoe. It happened the first time I ran with the Bikila as well. I might not have adjusted the shoe properly before I ran, causing friction from below. When it happened with the Bikila, I adjusted it a bit the next time I ran and was fine. I expect it to be the same with the Treksport.

Here are the images and descriptions of the soles of both the Treksport and the Bikila, from the Vibram website..

Treksport soles

Interestingly, the label that came attached to the Treksport shoes has an image of the sole with a description highlighting the features, and it is slightly different than the image above. I scanned it in to show you the difference:
As you can see, on the label it mentions the cleated rubber outside, which is not mentioned in the image on the site. They also point out the adjustable strap, and the Coconut Active Carbon upper material...

Basically, the Treksport are built very similar to the Bikila running shoes, and I look forward to using them to run trails. For running on the road I am going to stick with the Bikila as it gives me more of the feel of the road beneath me.

After I use the Treksport on the trails, I will write about how they held up and if they really provided better protection.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Initial Review Of The New Vibram FiveFinger Treksport

I am very excited. I just received my new pair of Vibram FiveFinger Treksport Barefoot Outdoors Running Shoes.

Vibram FiveFinger Treksport
I tried them on and they feel great. The Treksport is very similar to the FiveFinger Bikila Running Shoes, but just a little bit different.

The main difference, which I plan to test out on my next trail run, is that the Treksport is built with a bit more protection on the parts of the foot that are more prone to injury and pain from the rocks of the trails.

Besides for that, the Treksport shoes are a bit more comfortable than the Bikila. The design of the shoe seems to be a better, more comfortable fit. Granted, so far I have only worn them for a few minutes, but this is my initial impression. The velcro strip is different, and better. The material seems a bit softer. The fit is a bit better.

Wait for my review after running in them on the trails. These are only my initial impressions. I am impressed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A week with less promise

What started off as a promising running week last week turned into a real dud. With nothing specific to train for, I seem to find every excuse in the book to not go out and run. One day it is too hot. The next day I am too tired. The next I am too busy. etc.

This week has started off with less promise, and we will see where it takes me.

I enjoy my Saturday night runs. It gets me out after cleaning up from Shabbos. It burns some calories after overeating on Shabbos. And it feels great. Last night, though, I did not run because of the Lag B'Omer bonfires. Both because of the need to take my kids out to the bonfires, and because of the lack of desire to inhale smoke while running.

This morning I went out for a nice 5km run. the air was pleasant and the roads were empty. I ran around RBS at a nice pace.

This week will be busy, between work, family, softball, a wedding and engagement party and 2 separate relatives from the US who are coming to visit, this week will be tough to  schedule runs in..

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Meeting Run

I had a work related meeting in Bet Shemesh this morning. I decided to run there, instead of taking a bus or taxi.

The run was great. A nice 5km after last night's 7.5km. The meeting went pretty good, but after the meeting I decided not to run home. My muscles were tight and I needed to get back quicker for work.

It is great being able to run to a meeting. Oh, and no he did not mind - he rode his bike to the meeting, so we were both in t-shirt and shorts. But I was the only one in Vibram FiveFinger Bikilas.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Night Special

Tonight I met up with a few guys and we ran the first run of the week. We ran about 7.5km out to the end of Road 10 and back.

Saturday night is usually a recovery run, running at an easy pace. We did not run an easy pace, but ran a fairly quick pace. The weather was great and it felt great to burn some calories.

Tomorrow morning I expect to run to Bet Shemesh for a work meeting.

Runner's Guide To Israel: Tel Zofit

Now that marathon season is over, until September, in Israel, the Bet Shemesh Running Club spends the summer Fridays running various trails in the region of Bet Shemesh.

Running barefoot presents a great challenge when running trails. While my feet can handle it much more now than it used to be, I still have to be careful and run a bit slower, and check in advance what kind of trail it is, and how hard/soft the trail is.

Friday we met and ran out the trail to Tel Zofit. This is a trail that begins along the Highway 383, just across from Sedot Micha, just after the Sedot Haaretz wedding hall when coming from the Bet Shemesh direction. The trail begins on cracked asphalt, and eventually switches to full trail.

It is about 8.5km to the end, where you meet up at the bottom of the Tel Zofit mountain. Running through those fields is a beautiful terrain. There was a large but dead snake in the middle of the trail at one point. It was  beautiful run out, and part of it was fairly rocky but it was pretty good. I decided not to go up the mountain, but a few of us ran back instead.

Running back was more difficult. It was starting to get hot and sunny, and there were more uphill sections on the way back. As well, this was the longest run i have gone on since the Tel Aviv Marathon a month ago. This was ended at 17km (8.5 each way), and my previous long run was less than 11km.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Are Marathons Worth It?

There is an interesting article on 3 Quarks Daily that asks "are marathons worth it?". It is definitely worth a read.

To excerpt parts of the article, the author writes:
It's 10:00 on a beautiful Sunday morning in California. To my left is some of the most spectacular coastline America has to offer. I'm walking along a road on Point Lobos that is ordinarily packed with cars on days like this, but today, thanks in part to my $135 entry fee, the road has been closed to traffic.

There's only one problem: I should be running, not walking. Over the past year, I've spent hundreds of dollars on running gear and race entry fees. I've logged more than 1,600 miles training for this event, including nearly 1,000 miles in the past four months alone. I've lost over 35 pounds and steadily improved my speed and stamina. Why can't I make my body do what I've trained it to do?

Dozens of runners pass me on either side, each of them experiencing varying degrees of misery similar to my own. Most of them, like me, have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to get here, spending $500, $1,000 or more to participate in this event, the Big Sur International Marathon. Like Boston, New York, Paris, and Berlin, Big Sur is a "destination marathon," a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is so beloved, many runners return year after year.
Last year, over 500,000 runners completed a marathon in the U.S. alone. Nearly all of these runners had absolutely no chance of victory: The 625 marathons held in 2010 yielded only 1,250 slots for victors (male and female). To encourage more runners to participate, many races offer a variety of other awards: Age-group winners, a master's division for runners over 40, awards for runners above a certain weight, for runners who live in snowy climates and so have limited opportunities to train, for relay teams, even for best costume. But even when you account for all these awards, only a tiny fraction of competitors actually wins anything.

No, the runners in all these races are rarely actually competing against the other runners. Most runners have only one opponent: Themselves. Once you've run one marathon, you need to run another one, to see if you can do better. The PR — personal record — has become everyman's definition of a "good race," whether he finishes in first or three thousand and first.

The quest for a new PR can lead runners to spend hundreds of hours training, and thousands of dollars on gear and services designed to help them trim a few minutes off their previous records. Running shoes now routinely cost over $100 a pair, and Mizuno this weekend cracked the $200 barrier with its latest offering. Supposing these new shoes actually make you faster — a dubious proposition — does it really make sense for an average runner to buy them? This runner isn't going to win any races regardless of what shoes they wear. Even if they set a new PR, what's the value in that if it doesn't actually reflect improved conditioning?
A few days after the race, the race organizers email me a link to a site where I can preview my official photos — and download them, for a fee, of course. There I am, crossing the finish line. There I am, looking strong in the early part of the race, with the waves of Big Sur crashing to the shore in the background. But I'm most intrigued by a photo taken around 10 a.m., on Point Lobos. I'm walking, not running, and the look on my face is somewhere between exhaustion and despair. That photo, more than any of the other professional photos or the ones I took myself, captures what it's like to run a marathon. I had never pushed myself as hard in my life, even during those hundreds of miles in training. It's a feeling I've never experienced before, and one I don't want to experience again in a race, but it left me with an almost overwhelming desire to be stronger than that, better than that, and damn the cost.

I wish I could say the feeling was unique; it's probably not. Indeed, it's probably a feeling most runners get in most marathons. There's almost certainly something better that marathoners could be doing with all that time and money. Running a lot of marathons, in fact, may not even be good for your health—while the research on the effects of long-distance running is mixed, it stands to reason that a more moderate workout regime puts much less stress on the heart. While many races benefit charities, they also feed for-profit companies like The Competitor Group, which manages the wildly popular Rock-N-Roll series of marathons. Surely there's a more efficient way of getting resources to people who need them.

In America, marathoning is a rich person's sport. There's certainly no way my stepbrother Mark, who I've discussed here before, could afford it, even if his health permitted it. My brother's situation, for me, is the strongest argument I've yet encountered for ending this whole business. So far I haven't succumbed, though. I'm registered for another one in Colorado next month. Maybe I'll get a PR.
I disagree with his assessment. Running need not be a rich man's sport. Runnign can really be the cheapest of sports. There is no need for a gym membership. No need for expensive gear.
There are really only two things about running that cost money:

  1. You need is to buy a new pair of shoes once in a while. So you spend $100, or $130 in a good pair of running shoes twice a year.
  2. Race entry fees. It sounds like in America marathons cost more for registration than they do in Israel, but even so, how many marathons a year is a person going to run? 1 or 2? Sure there are some crazy people who will run 10 or 20 marathons in a year, spending way too much money on this, but most people do not.
I don't see the money being a big factor in running, especially considering that other sports are so much more expensive. Take up swimming and you have to pay pool memberships. Biking, you have to buy a bike, and replace parts regularly. Pretty much every sport requires the participant to purchase equipment, and many force you to join a gym. Running is relatively cheap - put on a pair of shoes and get out onto the road.

Regarding his point that runners are narcissistic, I would say that among the runners I know, very few are like that. Yes, some are. Some love to look at their picture crossing the finish line and revel in how good they look doing so. Personally, I like to look at the picture because it reminds me that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I can overcome the greatest of challenges. The marathon is a challenge that is beyond the human's normal abilities. The fact that I was able to complete it, and even complete it respectably (without collapsing and needing to crawl across the finish line), gives me a tremendous boost in other areas of my life. So yes, I like to look at my picture from the marathon, but it is because of what it motivates me to do and not because I like looking at myself.

Yes, some worry about every second and look for ways to shave off time wherever they can. Most runners that I know are not like that. Most take the challenge of the marathon as a challenge of a lifetime, they train their hearts out, they run the marathon and that's it. While many continue to run, with some always looking for the PR, most just want to run. they participate in marathons because it presents them with a challenge. Some need to look for a PR to get the challenge that motivates them, while others just want to run, and the paid entry is enough of a motivation. I have run 3 marathons in 2011 - I set my PR in the first of them, and the others I just ran to enjoy and to challenge myself again. Am I a better person because I ran 5 or 25 minutes faster than the previous time. Probably not, which is why most runners just want to finish.

Are Marathons Worth It? That is a very personal question, and, I think, it depends on why you are running the marathon. For the most part, marathons are worth it. When you complete a marathon, the first one at least, it becomes a life altering event.

Monday, May 9, 2011

9km Steep Trail Run

After 9 days of no running, and 3.5 weeks of minimal running, I went out for my second run of the week this morning.

The first run was a 7km run on Saturday night, We ran around the perimeter of RBS, which is 4.8km, and I ran halfway around a second time.

This morning's run was going to be a path we don't normally do. We were going to run out to Road 10, turning left instead of right, then running up through Zanoach and on the trail out into RBS. Along the way, one of the guys wasn't feeling well and dropped out. It was hotter than expected. We decided to turn up a different trail instead. This trail was very steep and rocky, but I have gotten used to running rocky trails. While needing to take it slow at rockier points, and the steepness of the downhill required a slower descent, overall it was pretty good.

Along the way we passed some Bedouin who had set up tent along the trail. They had a small pen of young lamb, along with doing laundry by hand and everything else that is part and parcel of a Bedouin tent.

After continuing along the path, we eventually got dumped out at the junction connecting RBS B and RBS A. I turned off and ran home on Kishon, concluding my run at 9km, while my running partner ran the other way up Yarqon towards his house.

It was hot, it was a difficult trail to run, especially because of how steep it was, and it felt great at the end.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gaza Marathon Underway!

The news is reporting that the first ever Gaza Marathon is underway! With out me, I might add.

The news is reporting that 1400 runners are participating, though only 9 are planning to run the full marathon. The majority of the rest plan to run varying distances from 1-13 kilometers. The UNRWA raised 1 million dollars through this marathon that will go to support the summer camps for children of Gaza.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bum Knee and New Male Model Career

I have not run this week yet. After Friday's 10.5km run I went and played basketball. It was the first time I played since 5 or 6 weeks before the Tiberias Marathon in January.

Even though I have played basketball nearly every Friday for many years with this group, as it gets closer to the marathon it is difficult to play, mainly for two reasons:

  1. fear of getting injured, like twisting an ankle or jamming my knee, and being unable to run and train for the marathon, or possibly even needing to drop out of the marathon completely.
  2. timing. Friday is our main day for long runs, as that is the day most people don't work. It is usually not possible to do a long run and get back in time for basketball, and usually after a long run I am too sore for basketball.
So this Friday was my first time playing in my old regular game in a long time. And of course I hurt my knee. It is mostly better now, but after the game it was swollen to about 3 times its size and I could not put any pressure on it. Now I can put most of my regular pressure on it and there is very little pain. Another day or two and it should be fine, unless I injure it at my softball game tomorrow night.

And in other news, Gillette, the main sponsor of the recent Tel Aviv Marathon, has asked me for my permission to allow them to use my image in the promotionals. I gave them permission and they sent me the picture they will be using. I think it is a pretty good shot of me crossing the finish line:
Look at that wing-span!
My new male model career is being launched

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tough 11km Hilly Run

This morning we went out for a nice run in the pleasant morning weather.

We went out to Park Brittania. The trail there starts off flat, but quickly goes into a very steep, but not long, uphill. After that is a long downhill, which is great, except on the way back it meant it was a very long uphill.

Overall the run was great, albeit tough. I am still a bit out of shape from not having run much, except a couple of short runs, since the marathon in Tel Aviv 3 weeks ago and all the holiday food.

Wee finished the run at just under 11km.

and in other news, my new pair of Vibram TrekSport shoes have shipped. My nephew should be bringing them when he comes to visit in a couple of weeks. These should make running trails a little bit better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Can't Run In The Gaza Marathon... This Year

So I have been thinking about, but not seriously considering, running in the upcoming Gaza Marathon. It suddenyl struck me that I should not even bother to think about it until I find out if it is even possible, should I decide i want to.

I took a look at the UNRWA website, and it seemed form the information there that the marathon is only for Gazan runners, and UN staff. I sent off an email to the contact listed there for information, asking if it would even be possible for me to run, should I want to.

The following was his reply email to me:
Dear Rafi,
First of all, thank you so much for reaching out to me and for your interest in the Gaza marathon.
Unfortunately, as this is the first year that we have run the event, we're still working through a lot of the administrative details and it doesn't seem like it will be possible for us to accommodate people ordinarily living/working outside of Gaza this year. Also, as an Israeli citizen, you would likely not be permitted entry into Gaza (the Government of Israel has a strict ban on this) so you unfortunately probably would not be able to join us for the marathon in any event.
Thank you so much once again for your interest, and I very much hope that in the years to come we may find a way for you to come and run in Gaza! In the meantime, please do think about organising some kind of sister event (eg an event with your regular running group) on the day of the Marathon so that we link up.
All the best,
Gemma Connell
Executive Assistant to the
Director of UNRWA Operations
Gaza Field Office
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)
Office: +972 8 288 7265
Mobile: +972 599 891464
So that solves that. Even if I wanted to, I would not be able to. i was even thinking about running it in a Free Gilad Shalit body suit..

Oh well. I guess we should just say "Next Year in Gaza"

Serene and Pristine

What a beautiful morning for a run!

serene and pristine
Because of the holiday, the roads are pretty empty in the early morning hours. People take advantage of the holiday schedule to wake up late, go to later services, take vacation from work. So when i got up early for morning services and went out for a run afterwards, i was looking at mostly empty roads even though it was already after 7am.

The weather was beautiful, just cool enough with a pleasant breeze. You could hear the breeze rustling through the trees. I could hear the birds chirping. And I was mostly alone.

I ran with no watch, but my distance today was probably about 9-10km. Maybe tomorrow I'll go out for a medium length run of 15km or so.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pretty Good T-Shirt

One of the habits I have fallen into is that for the first run I go on after a marathon, or the first two or three even, I wear the "marathon shirt" on those runs. It almost feels like a victory lap, going out on a couple of 10km runs wearing the medal of honor of having finished the marathon.

This afternoon I went out for a 9.5km run. My first since the Tel Aviv Marathon on Friday. I have felt great all week, but it just has not worked out for me with the schedule to find running time. This afternoon I went out with my running partner for a short, easy-paced run. I wore my Tel Aviv Marathon t-shirt. It was actually a very good t-shirt. very high quality running shirt. I was very impressed. Sometimes they give out decent shirts, sometimes junky, but this was very good.

The run was great. Good to go out and stretch the legs, get the rhythm back, get the blood pumping. We went out on the 10 and then turned left at the end. We went up to the KKL sign and turned around. That way is uphill, so I said to my running partner that we are beginning our training for the 2012 Jerusalem Marathon...

Running The Next Marathon?

And just like that I already feel ready to run my next marathon. Since I have no intention to travel and spend serious money just to run marathons (unless someone wants to sponsor me - if you do, drop me an email at israeli.jew @ gmail dot com), I am kind of limited to marathons in Israel. That now gives me about 3 per year, plus some shorter races such as half-marathons and 10km races.

At least it did until now. With the upcoming Gaza Marathon, there is a new marathon in the area that is just a 45 minute drive away from me...

From The Jerusalem Post:
Gaza means many things to many people, but rarely does it bring to mind a runner’s Mecca.

Nonetheless, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees is hoping that the coastal territory will bring hundreds – if not thousands – to take part in the first-ever Gaza Marathon on May 5. The marathon is being held largely as a fundraiser for UNRWA’s 5th annual summer games.

“The idea is that it’s a fundraising for the Gaza summer games. We supply these games each summer for up to 250,000 children – we have sporting activities, cultural activities and remedial activities for children there because the situation is so terrible for them in Gaza,“ UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said Tuesday.

UNRWA is looking to raise $100,000 for the games. As of Tuesday afternoon its website showed that donors have contributed $2,259.

“Gaza Marathon is very much about raising money and raising awareness. It just shows the world that kids in Gaza just want to be like kids anywhere else in the world. They don’t want to live in this terrible and locked-up environment,” Gunness said.

Fortunately for the marathon planners, the mostly flat Gaza Strip is almost exactly the length of a marathon, at around 42 kilometers from north to south.

According to Gunness, most of those planning to take part in the run will be local Gazans, volunteers and employees from UNRWA and other NGOs, as well as a few members of the Palestinian Olympic team.

He added that there are currently no plans to bring any big-name east African runners to participate.

Gunness said that the marathon will run from the very far northern tip of the Gaza Strip through Beit Lahiya, to the seashore, where it will continue down the coastal road.

However, he said the coastal jaunt could present some difficulties as it will pass areas such as “Wadi Gaza,” where large amounts of raw sewage sits in the open air – posing what he calls “a serious health risk“ that “really does stink.”

On the other hand, he assured that there are no other war-related risks to be posed, adding that “it will be a very pleasant and fun day.”

Assuming all goes as planned, the Gaza Marathon will take place on the heels of the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv marathons, a fact that is not lost on Gunness.

“We’ve had the Jerusalem Marathon, the Tel Aviv Marathon – and now UNRWA is staging the last in a trio of Middle-Eastern marathons: the Gaza Marathon.”
Anybody interested in joining me to run this?

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.