Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Very Israeli Half Marathon

**this post is quite long, I'm sorry, but I'm too tired to cut it down after I just spend an hour writing**

My luck began when Eli and I, among other Ulpaners, were dropped off at a random bus stop on the side of a road in the North. The bus from day trip we had been on with our classmates was headed back to Jerusalem and we wanted to go to Tel Aviv (it was the day before race day). While multiple 921 buses drove by the bus stop not oneof them stopped because they were full. We began to realize that we would very well end up sleeping at this bus stop if we proceeded with this hopeless tactic of catching a bus to Tel Aviv. So, what was the only other option? To tremp. Tremp is the Hebrew word for hitchhike and it is kind of funny because it definitely comes from an English word, most likely "tramp." So tremp we did, Eli, a South African girl from my ulpan, and I. It was a pleasant hour or so drive with a high-tech (obviously) working dad who happened to be going exactly to the area where Eli's parents live in Ramat Aviv, right near Tel Aviv University where I used to live :). Perfect luck, free ride, didn't even feel bad because the guy obviously gets company gas for his fancy company car.
Eli and I arrived at her parents house at about 8pm and were catered to wonderfully with some delicious soup and baked fruit and cake for dessert. The problem was I had already eaten too much on our trip to the north and I was stuffed! Of course I ate the food anyway, mistake number 1. We went to bed at 11ish and I woke up at 4:55 to get ready for the race. Eli's dad made us yummy eggs with cheese and I had bread with peanut butter. Mistakes number two and three. Two: I wasn't hungry because of the night before and I ate anyway. Three: probably the only food that I have ever discovered that I cannot eat before I run is peanut butter. Anyway, I packed up my things, said thank you to Ei and her parents 20 more times, and headed out into the dark Ramat Aviv morning to find a cab. Mistake four: entering the wrong cab number into my phone. Here is where the real "balagan" (I actually don't know a translation for that...big mess?) began. I frantically walked around trying hopelessly to hail a cab at 5:30am on a not-so-main road. I saw a few cabs but they were full and began to freak out a bit. I couldn't decide which direction it was best to walk in so I sort of walked in circles...stupid. I started to cry for a few reasons, mostly I was angry with myself for not calling a cab the night before. Eventually I called my sister, crying, explaining my situation, knowing that there was really nothing she could do as she was already at the race site setting up her work info station. I tried, and failed, to call information and get another number for a cab and decided that going to the mall was the best place to find a cab (after all, when I was studying abroad there were always tons of cabs sitting there waiting to take us into the city for a night out). Fail, one cab with no driver at the mall. I continued walking to the main road having no idea how the hell I am going to get to the race and my corral opened in 25 minutes. A taxi driver across the street called out his window (apparently he had been witnessing my pathetic situation from a 24 hour "toast and coffee" shop on the corner). He asked if he could help me. I told him I needed to get the the dolphinarium for the start of the marathon asap. Perfect, I found a taxi. I open the door and get in...not so perfect.
This taxi driver is apparently also the Jerusalem Post newspaper delivery man. The whole backseat of his taxi was filled with newspapers that he had to deliver and therefore could not bring me to the race. He told me he would drive me to the main road free of charge and I could get a taxi there. Perfect.
Well, the main road was already closed off for the race (and no, I was no where near the starting line). We started driving in the opposite direction from where I needed to go and I continued panicking, and crying. We tried, unsuccessfully, to hail other cabs but the few we saw were full. We pulled over to the side and the driver got out and walked around the the backseat on my side. He started searching in the backseat underneath the newspapers for upwards of 4-5 minutes. I am becoming extremely restless and have already asked him multiple times for a number to call another taxi, but somehow he just did not see my urgency. After more than 5 minutes of searching in the backseat the driver pulled out a single JPost newspaper and handed it to me. I immediately become extremely angry and tell him that I do not want a newspaper and do not need it, that I need to get to the start of the race immediately because I am going to miss the race! Through all of this angry, frustration and nervousness, however, a little part of me deep down chuckled a bit at this gesture. After all, this was Israel and I should have expected nothing less from this situation, all he wanted was to give me a free newspaper, his only hope for making me feel better.
Just as I am beginning to lose all hope another taxi driver pulls over across the street and he has just taken someone to the start of the race, he knows just how to get there! Perfect.
Well, it is now 6:08,corral opens at 6:25, it's official, NO WAY I'm making that, hopefully I can make it to the starting line on time, 6:45. The taxi driver says he's not going to put on the meter because it will be really expensive since he has to drive a very roundabout way to get there because of all the street closings. What a nice gesture, and anyway I am not unfamiliar with this since I rarely use the meter here anyway, usually it's a rip off, you just haggle the price of a taxi. Anyway, we go on the highway in order to avoid going through the city but once we get off we are immediately met with both traffic and street closings. We being winding around roads while the driver contemplates the best way to get there. All the time I am thinking, c'mon, man, I've seen you Israeli drivers, I know you can drive A LOT faster than this!
We see two more people hailing a cab for the race and pick them up along the way. These two nice guys made it clear to the driver that they were in no hurry as their race didn't start for another hour or something. Here I begin almost yelling in crappy, crying, frantic Hebrew..."there are many races today, mine starts in 20 minutes!!" Anyway, we get as close as we can to the starting line and the taxi driver tells me it will be 80 shekels. 80 SHEKELS?! I could have been driven basically to Jerusalem for that price! (not really but it's still a LOT for the distance we covered) Anyway, I give him the money, jump out of the cab, and begin running with my duffle bag to find Allie at the starting line.
Initially I was planning on meeting Allie at the finish (200m from the start) and dropping off my bag, having plenty of time to warm up, pee, etc and get to the starting line, this plan went out the window a log time ago. I made it to the starting line with about 7 minutes to go until my heat started and I had to pee like a racehorse. I ran to a ditch to pee in because OF COURSE, in very Israeli style, there were no porta-potties at the starting line. (If you run or have ever run distance races you know how ridiculous this fact is. Somehow I wasn't surprised.) I went back to Allie, took a few pictures, and had to pee again. Combination of nerves and the fact that I really just had to pee meant that it could not wait, or it would come out while running (sorry for the graphics) Back to the ditch I went, as they called out, 3 minutes until race time.
By the time I had arrived back at Allie my heat had already taken off, good thing I had my timing chip on my shoe and it didn't matter when I crossed the starting line, that was when my time started. (no, I didn't remember this until I arrived or maybe I would have been a bit more calm).Eventually I made my way towards the start and began the race. I instantly remembered why I put myself through all of this, the training, the planning, the Jerusalem hills, it was for that feeling of something that I can only describe as euphoria when I crossed that starting line. Not just a weight off my chest, it was also the feeling of oneness with the pavement as I heard my steady footsteps, it was the huge smile on my face as I looked to the right at the rising sun, and to the left at the beautiful sea, it was the knowledge that it was just me and the road for the next 13.1 miles and the ability to succeed or to fail lay completely in my hands (or feet).
Now it was time to play catch up, I started about 4 minutes after my heat so I knew I would be passing a lot of people at first in order to get to my goal pace. 2KM in, running up Allenby, the race course set up provided us with the chance to watch the elite marathoners run down Allenby in the other direction. This was really fun for me because I always disliked the fact that running a race meant I couldn't cheer on the runners as they passed by. I tried to keep myself on pace but this was really hard for a few reasons. First, I was only able to jot down a few goal times on my arm (i.e: KM 5 should be at 25:50), not every KM like I intended, since my morning was so hectic. Second, I didn't actually figure out until I finished the race that I should have been paying attention the the BLUE km markers for the half marathon and not the orange ones for the full marathon. Oops, thats why I thought I ran a 7 minute mile pace about 3 miles in, I knew that wasn't right.
The race was incredibly enjoyable and I barely remembered that I was running for most of it. The elite marathoners passed me again while I was running in Hayarkon park around KM 13-14, what a treat! I totally missed the GU/banana/orange station at KM 15.5 which I avidly regretted come KM 16/17. Somehow, after eating too much dinner, too much breakfast, not warming up or stretching, pacing myself incorrectly, and not consuming 1 calorie during the race, I managed to come within 2 minutes of my "reach" time, and smack dab in the middle of my actual estimated time. I really wanted 1:50, was pretty sure I'd get 1:54, and ended up with 1:52. Seeing Eli and her mom at KM 18 really helped, and knowing that Allie and Adam would be waiting and watching me at the finished pulled me along too. Of course along with the long list of 21 people or groups of people (one per KM) that I wrote down whom I was running for.
I had a great time running, I am so glad I did it, and in retrospect, if it had happened any other way it just wouldn't have been right. I wouldn't have wanted my first official race in Israel to be any different, or it would have been just like I was running it anywhere else in the world. And let's be honest, Israel isn't like any other place in the world :)

the finish line and the view!

1 comment:

  1. wah! this was crazy, i was practically nervous reading this. But congrats Lauren, you're so awesome.