I had this really weird dream last night that I went to Jerusalem and ran a marathon. Not only that, but I traveled with 15 other “strangers” who quickly became life long friends. Too bad this type of thing doesn’t happen in real life…or does it?
It was February 3, 2015 (5 weeks pre-marathon) when I got the most random and intriguing email of my life:
I thought it was a joke. All expenses paid to run in the Holy Land? Yeah, right. I actually emailed back asking if it was a joke and saying it wasn’t very funny. Nope, no joke.
While I’m no super hero, I am glad I’m in the type of shape where I can pull a marathon out of my ass at the last minute if I have to. It certainly wouldn’t be pretty, but I could manage it. I could have run the half or even the 10K but there was no way I was traveling 7,000 miles and not running 26.2 full miles. Give me a challenge and I will take it every.single.time.
I don’t know where to begin with any of this, so I’ll start with the race itself. Many people have asked what my favorite thing was from the trip. Hands down, it was the race. This marathon combined all that life is and should be about: pushing one’s limits, being present, connecting with others and feeling plain and simple joy.
Who knew that an expo in Jerusalem was strangely similar to an expo in for any race, with some Hebrew thrown in. Lots of samples, stuff for sale, photo ops.
Me and my partner in crime, Teresa. I’m glad I got my lunging done the day
before the marathon because after the race my quads were toast.
The night before:
I have never been so unprepared or done so many stupid things before a race. From only getting three hours of sleep to stuffing my face with all sorts of wonderful dishes that could certainly foreshadow crapping one’s pants, to drinking wine – I decided to be a rebel and accept the mantra “do everything NEW on the night before race day” just to see what would happen.
I did manage to lay out my clothes. Some people asked where my shirt was. I decided not to wear a shirt because it just gets in the way. I figured the spectators would understand.
Can you spy the long finger toe in this picture? Yeah, it traveled to Jerusalem as well.
I first did the obligatory hotel room in the mirror selfie.
There were only four of us running the full marathon out of our group: me, Teresa, Dax and Adam. We met at 6:15 a.m. to walk to the start (7:00 a.m.). The weather was perfection: 45 degrees, no wind, deep blue skies.
The crew. Adam needs to lose some weight. Teresa needs to cheer up.
Dax needs to look at the camera. I need to find a bathroom.
Teresa and I settled in around the 4:30 group. We were going for a PW (personal worst) time because that’s why you do when you are under trained and hoping to take pictures, meet friends and enjoy every step (40,000 in all?)
There were not a lot (or any) porta potties at the start, so people took things (literally) into their own hands.
We started running and Teresa was not excited.
She must have a really big thumb (see below. I could have cropped it out, but I thought it was funny). I’m not sure what I doing here. Raising the ceiling? :
I have never run and tried to take pictures at the same time, so I have a lot of these now:
We ran by our hotel:
Here is where I tell you that this course is no joke. I mean just look above. Do you see any flats? The answer is “no.” You are always either ascending or descending. I think the total gain was almost 1,900 feet, which is pretty bad ass for not even being on a trail and running over mountains. Jerusalem, you and your hills are impressive.
On top of Mt. Scopus following a wicked climb. I know you think you can see the outline
of my nipples, but those are just my gels stuffed in my bra. Don’t get too excited.
Mile 15 or so and this was our favorite aid station by far. Yes, those are fresh veggies and hummus. There was also a coffee urn. I stuffed my face with some of those pickles.
There were about 25,000 people running this race (all races combined). I am guessing about 7,000 of those were marathoners. The U.S. is the most highly represented country after Israel. This is only the fifth year for the race and it grows exponentially each year.
There is a part of the course that actually goes through the Old City of Jerusalem.
You run on cobblestone. This is the part where I kind of cried. It was just too surreal and overwhelming.
My video footage:
The support and spectating along the course was amazing. No shortage of water, well wishers or smiles. Below is a typical aid station. The water was all in short water bottles, which were opened for you when you grabbed them. Yes, all were recycled! GUs were served generously on the course.
Around mile 18, I was starting to peter out big time. Teresa was seeming amazingly peppy (#bitch), so I told her to go ahead. I started walking some of the hills. My legs were screaming. The finish came after another long hill (see above), which is mean but probably the only correct way to end a marathon this challenging.
I came into the finish about 15 minutes behind Teresa, but we quickly reunited.
Shortly after the finish we ere interviewed by ESPN Latin America. American girls in Israel interviewed by an Argentinian #oneworld.
Along the way I thought a lot about how this marathon differed from those I’ve done in the states:
- No running skirts to be found (except mine)
- The guys wear very short shorts. Not a bad thing.
- There was hummus
- Porta potties seemed scarce
- Many fewer women than men (I think in the US it is the opposite)
- Not many people listened to music
- I only saw 2 women running in sports bras with no shirts. They were complete eye candy and stared at constantly.
- No mile markers, only kms – duh!
But, really – the differences were minimal and trivial. I was once again reminded that running is the great unifier of people regardless of culture, age, religion, speed or ethnicity.
Yeah, so this was my slowest (non Ironman) marathon by far. But I earned every single step of that 4 hours and 37 minutes. I didn’t miss a thing. I suffered righteously without whining and in the best way possible. Every marathon brings unique memories and an astounding sense of accomplishment, but this one…well…it was literally out of this world. I could not have asked for a better day.
Do you want to run an international marathon some day? Where would be your dream place?
What’s the most challenging marathon you’ve ever done?
I am going to post at least once more about the sightseeing we did (Jerusalem, Dead Sea/Masada/Tel-Aviv). So, stay tuned in the days to come. And, if you are feeling wild, sign up for the 2016 Jerusalem Marathon HERE.
Disclosure: My trip was funded by the Israeli Tourism Board. All opinions are of course my own!