Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jerusalem Marathon 10km - I Did It!

The day started out cold and wet. Looking out at the slick roads winding their way below my brother's Jerusalem apartment, I imagined that I'd be doing more sliding than running in that day's race. But, as the old Aussie song goes, "Will you tie it up with wire, just to keep the show on the road?" - yep, the show will go on, and I'll do whatever it takes to make sure I'm in it.

The taxi had difficulty reaching Givat Ram. Thousands of people were converging on the stadium. Some jogged slowly, warming themselves up for the race, others arrived by car, bicycle, and groups in sporty uniforms disembarked from coaches near the entrance.

When I arrived inside the grounds at about 8.00am, the festivities were in full swing. A band was playing Israeli tunes, with an unlikely bagpipe accompaniment. At the registration tent, I obtained my runner's pack, complete with a t-shirt, timing chip to strap to my shoe, and an energy bar.

Shortly afterward, I met my wife at the entrance. She had come in separately from Ramat Beit Shemesh. Then my brother turned up. Both halves of my cheer-squad had arrived. The half-marathon (21km) race got underway at 9.15am sharp and we watched as hundreds of them streamed along the stadium's running track towards the exit. As the last runner disappeared, I started to slowly prepare for the 10km race.

y the time I began my pre-run stretches, the sun had come out and I knew the roads would be dry. My brother gave me some last minute advice about pacing myself - apparently the last hill would be a killer. I took a very slow jog around half the running track to the starting point. I needed to loosen up a bit. I could literally feel the tension.

Standing a few meters behind the starting line, I found myself packed in amongst hundreds of other race participants. I was jostled from every side, but I tried to keep focus on the task ahead. I was about to run in the race I had been training for for nearly a year. We were only a few minutes before the starter's gun would sound. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous, but I kept repeating to myself the running strategy I had developed over months of training. An older gentleman next to me asked what my personal best time for the 10km is. I told him it was just over 56 minutes. He nodded and said that his PB was about 53 minutes and that he was going to try to break the 50. We exchanged a few wisdoms about training, noticed we had the same running shoes (Brooks Adrenaline GT9s) and then set our watches to stopwatch mode.

The countdown over the loudspeaker began: 10, 9, 8... this was it. It was now or never. The pressure to perform was on. ...3, 2, 1, BANG! If I wouldn't have started moving when I did, I would have been trampled by a stampede of running shoes. I was slowly pushed forward. As I passed under the giant inflatable arch, which was the starting line, I activated my stopwatch and I was on the way. I briefly passed my wife and brother who were standing on the sidelines, watching the avalanche of people slide by. I gave them a quick wave and the current of people swooshed me out of the stadium's exit and onto the street.

The crowd started thinning out, but it was still difficult to run w
ithout bumping into someone or having someone cut me off. The first five minutes were the most dangerous as each person tried to find a path through the swarm of people.

Only about ten or twelve minutes into the run we passed a water station. I didn't want any water at that stage, but I noticed that the day had heated up. It was no longer cold. I thought a good splash of water would be beneficial. I he
ld my arm out and swiped a water bottle from the distributor's hand, all the while keeping pace. I was pleasantly surprised to note that they had already removed the bottle cap. The ice-cold water down my back was very refreshing. I tossed the bottle to the side of the road and it was promptly scooped up by one of a team of bottle collectors.

I had no way to know how far I had run. Apparently there were signs every kilometer or so, but I didn't see them. Perhaps I was too busy concentrating on other things.

At about 20 minutes into the race a stitch began to form in my side. I altered my breathing and tried every trick in the book to rid myself of the pain. But in doing so, I felt I was losing pace, so I decided to just work with the pain and let it ride. At some point, a stream of people passed me by and I was certain that I was running in the last group. At about 30 minutes, which I assumed was approxima
tely half way, I picked up the pace, pushing myself up the hills, overtaking those who had the audacity to pass me by.

I remembered Rafi's words and wanted to save some energy for the final uphill. But I couldn't let myself slide back. I had to get a move-on.

As I ran, I thought of my last blog where I said how I would push myself beyond pain into victory. My words were being tested. My knee was holding out fine, but the stitch in my side was not going away. I had to ignore it. I strode out, trying to make up for seemingly lost time.

At some point, the map showed that the runners go along a straight road, turn and go back up the other side of the same street. I could see those who were some distance in front of me coming back towards me on the other side of the road. The sight of all those people spurred me on to push forward. I was determined. I gritte
d my teeth and let my legs take control.

I rounded the corner at the bottom of the street and made my way back up the other side. Looking back over the guard-rail at the runners who were behind me was awesome - there were thousands of them coming up behind me. I was definitely not in the top 100, but I wasn't running last, either. Then I looked to my right and saw the man I conversed with just before the race. I passed him and thought that if he does 10km in less time than I do, and I'm overtaking him, chances are I'm doing pretty darn good.

I soon found myself running up the final hill. Rafi was right, it was a killer. But I had HaYarden and HaYarkon - the two super-difficult hills in Ramat Beit Shemesh that I battle with on a regular basis. This one was nothing compared to those hills. I figured that if this is the final uphill, there is nothing left to save myself for. I looked at my watch and I was doing excellent time. I powered up the hill, overtaking more people who were struggling to reach the top.

My legs were screaming in pain. I
tried to ignore the burning sensation, telling myself that it will soon all be over, just bear with it. I rounded a corner and the beautiful soft red running track of the stadium came into view. This is it, this is the last 400m or so before the finish line. Give it everything you've got. I heard Leah and Rafi's voices encouraging me to the finish line.


I tried to push m
yself more. I tried to envisage myself sprinting to the finish line. I tried to recall what my leg muscles feel like when I break out into a fast run after a long jog. But I couldn't. I was completely spent. There was just enough juice in the tank to get me home. I pumped my arms in triumph as I crossed the line.

I looked up at the official clock - I had smashed my previous personal best (56:06) by four minutes. I ran 10km in 52:14 (the pic shows 52:13, but the officially recorded time is 52:14 - the clock showing 1:37:16 was for those completing the 21km run).

In the final analysis:

According to the stats on the official website ( I ran the first 5km in 31:59, which means I ran the second 5kms in 20.55 (that's 4:11 per-km for the last 5kms!)

I came 397th out of 1,265 participants. That means that I made it into the top third of all participants. I came 55th out of 135 people in my age category. That means I made it into the top 41% of my age category.

the real race was always going to be against myself. Breaking my PB by four minutes was a magical feeling and it is the statistic I will remember the most. There's nothing like working really hard, overcoming physical and mental barriers and achieving this kind of success.

I won.

Monday, March 15, 2010

J'lm Marathon Training #13

Monday, 15 March 2010

Well, this is it. The moment of truth approaches. The race, scheduled for 18 March, is right around the corner. Here is how I have been preparing:
  1. Got myself a knee brace. It is adjustable, so it fits well. I went running with it last night and ran 5km without feeling any twangs or twinges in the knee. Perfect.
  2. Last Friday I took a run at 10am. I decided that I really should practice running at the same time of day as the race. Boy, what a different kettle of fish (no carp jokes!) The sun beating down as I jogged impacted greatly on my performance and I was an absolute gonner after only 5km. I hear it might rain on race-day, so perhaps that will save me. In any case, I'd better remember to adequately liquify liquidate hydrogenate hydrate myself before the race.
  3. I spent last week camping with my bro in the Galil/Golan, one day of which was dedicated to hiking, climbing, jumping and swimming through a very challenging trail. 7.5hrs of near non-stop leg-workout, with a maniacle sprint on the highway at the end (wearing backpacks and with hiking boots on), just to prove we were completely nuts.
  4. Salads. Yep, for this week I'm on a strict diet of undressed salad, possibly with tuna and egg for protein and such. I don't want to overdo the dieting thing, but I'm keen to feel as light as possible on race-day. I have lost quite a bit of weight, but still feel a bit top-heavy. I don't know if this will make any difference.
  5. I'm not doing anything. Nothing. I've decided not to go running this week at all. I did a not-so-fast 5km run last night as my training grand-finale. The hot winds blowing through Ramat Beit Shemesh at 9.30pm were difficult to deal with, but I didn't want to push myself too hard, so I completed it in a reasonable, but slow, 28:59.

I've been actively training for this race since 1 November 2009, but my fitness kick started about March 2009 when I joined the gym and hit the treadmill. So I suppose that this race is a year in the making. In my first J'lm Marathon Training blog-post, I said the following:

I'm going to train for the 10k Jerusalem marathon. My new aim is to do 10k in 45 minutes. That's about an average of 13.3km/h. I'll pound the pavement and wear out the treadmill until I reach my goal. Then I'm going to find out what the times were for the top 100 people in last year's race and I'm going to aim to match it.

Well, it aint gonna happen exactly like that, my friends. My best time is about 26 minutes behind last year's winner. I blame it on my injury in February 2010, which set me back about two months (see J'lm Marathon Training #10). I'll be lucky if I break 55 minutes, let alone 45 minutes. But, who knows? I trained on a pretty tough course. Perhaps the Jerusalem 10km will work out easier. I've heard that the adrenaline, excitement and atmosphere helps to push you to your limits.

And, don't forget, "I am a self-motivated, goal-oriented, success-driven, fanatical-fitness-freak (it helps)". A mere knee injury can't take that away.

The one thing that the whole training experience has taught me is: If you want it bad enough, just go and get it. Don't let things such as physical weakness stand in your way. I quote myself:

It will hurt, the pain will yell at me to stop, my senses will shout at me to slow down. But I will not capitulate to imaginary voices. My muscles will burn, my legs will ache and my lungs will gasp, but I will settle for nothing less than magnificence.

As I run through the streets of Jerusalem, I will think of these words I penned all those months ago. I'll remind myself of the seemingly neverending 1.2km HaYarkon uphill. I'll think of the countless times I pushed myself up the torturous Yarden, leg-burning 700m climb. I'll think of the times I battled the wind, defeating it with sheer willpower.

  • Pain: does it matter? No bloody way!
  • Fatigue: does it matter? No bloody way!

I will beat my best time. I will run smart. I will be an aggressive, voracious running animal. I will not give up. I will not give in. I will be victorious.

Monday, February 15, 2010

J'lm Marathon Training #12

Sunday, 14 February 2010

It was hot, and unexpectedly so. Setting out on a run at 10.15pm might not exactly be the easiest time of day to go for a 10km run, but it should have been cooler. It wasn't.

And I was hot. Angry, actually. I shouldn't have been, but I got upset at little nothings all evening and then I let it out on myself. I dressed in a hurry, slammed on my Brooks Adrenaline GT9s and ran out of the house, nary a stretch, my body unprepared for the grueling hour ahead. But I didn't care. I just needed to let off steam.

At first I wasn't certain I would go the whole 10km. I was still wary of damaging my knee. But it was self-destruction time. I was in one of those moods. So out I went, into the unnaturally sweltering night.

The first ten minutes went quickly. I ran, rather than jogged, and could feel the heat of the sweat gathering ominously under my shirt. My breathing steadied and I climbed the Yarden hill. The wind seemed to push me back at every step. My back-to-front baseball cap clung faithfully to my head, despite the slick liquid escaping its rim.

Three-quarters of the way up the hill, my legs started to ache. My pace had slowed, but I was still angry. Slow running and aggressive emotions are incompatible. Something had to give. I bent my head towards my toes, my eyes shooting thoughts of speed into my feet. I pumped it, sprinting the remaining 175m to the top of the hill. The pain in my thighs was glorious.

My knee held out, which surprised me. My breathing became irregular and I quickly developed a stitch. I spent the next eight minutes regulating my air intake and exhaling forcefully. By the time I reached Nachal Meor, I had brought the stitch under control. My thighs no longer hurt. My knee seemed to revel in its regained health. It was time to get serious.

I ascended Nachal Meor in short order and glided easily down Refaim. I glanced at my watch and saw the hand tick over to 30 minutes. I was at the half-way point and realized that the eight-minute stitch recovery had seriously damaged my time. I would have to work hard to finish under 60 minutes.

A long road lay ahead of me. Literally. The 1.2km HaYarkon uphill taunted me. I shouldn't have looked up. The daunting incline, where I had once damaged my knee, laughed at me as I struggled to keep pace with myself. The wind coming in strong off the mountains buffeted me, pushing me sideways, trying to make me fall. My shadow shivered across the railing as I ran by, followed by the ever-present wind, which strummed the bars like a harp, jeering and haunting. But I made it to the top of HaYarkon before the wind could catch me.

At about 7km into the run I did an injury check. The knee was holding out just fine. No stitch and my breathing was steady and strong. The clock said that I was on track, but only just.

The relatively flat 200m or so gave me time to recover from the difficult HaYarkon uphill. I reached Nachal Refaim and coaxed myself up its steepness. The wind had never left me. It had taken a shortcut through the streets and met me head-on as I lifted my knees high, trying to increase my speed on the ascent.

I tread lightly and nimbly, using my toes to propel myself onwards.

I conquered Nachal Refaim in only a few minutes, but I could feel my body starting to protest its late night punishment. I looked at my watch and saw that I had not kept to schedule. It was doubtful that I would make it to the finish line in under 60 minutes. I also noticed that it was nearly 11.15pm. My entire day stretched out behind me like a life-sized calendar of events. I couldn't believe that I did all that and then went for a run in the tropical, blustery heat of the night. The fact that I hadn't stretched prior to the run did not escape me. But my muscles were keeping up, and the knee hadn't twinged at all.

The anger I felt at the start of the run smoldered threateningly beneath the surface. During the last 50 minutes it had surreptitiously morphed into an emotion that I can only describe as fierce, self-competition. I knew I wasn't going to achieve my record, but I'll be blown if I don't finish in under an hour.

The wind came at me in a head-on rush, charging at me like a thousand rampaging sumo wrestlers. It battled to hold me back. My teeth, bared to its onslaught, I fought with every ounce of strength. I could feel my leg muscles contracting and expanding with every stride. In my mind's eye I could see my knees pumping like pistons at the wheels of a race-car.

Dolev appeared and I knew I was nearly home. 54 minutes. It was going to be close. I challenged myself to sprint, to repeat the performance of nearly 40 minutes ago on the Yarden hill. My legs refused and I didn't have the strength to persuade them. I was spent. The wind had stolen my energy, but not my resilience. Despite its best efforts, I would not quit. I could smell the finish line.

The Ayalon intersection came into view and I welcomed the downhill. I gathered some speed, more because of the inertia than because of the effort. The wind whiffed weakly at me as I rounded the corner onto Nachal Sorek. It was pitiful how my adversary had given up. I was going to finish the race. I was going to win. 200m to go. I tried to squeeze out the last drops of fuel, but to no avail. My body refused to go any faster.

A group of boys walked towards me and I was forced to run on the road. A bus traveling in the opposite direction grumbled by as I entered the final straight. The wind had given up completely, knowing I would be victorious. The only breeze was the warm air rushing past my face as I nailed the last few meters. I flung myself across the finish line in 59 minutes.

Blog Domain Change (Sort of...)

Blogger will soon remove its FTP service. This means that I will not be able to publish directly to However, all traffic to that domain is now redirected automatically to

So you can retain your current bookmarks and keep coming back to for all the fun - and tell your friends!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

J'lm Marathon Training #11

Sunday, 7 February 2010

I'm back!

Since my injury on 23 December 2009, I have been training extremely lightly. 3km here, 5km there. Low-pressure jogging to keep the body going, but nothing strenuous. In fact, that was all I could manage for a while. I would run a few kilometers and then my knee would start hurting, so I'd stop.

I saw an orthopedist who said my injury is a common one. Just a strain that will sort itself out in time. I don't have time! The marathon is on 18 March and I have to get into shape. But ill patience is what got me injured to begin with, so I forced myself to take it easy.

Today I did my first 10km since 23 December. I ran strongly for the first 6km. Heading up the hill where I originally hurt my knee, I started to feel a twang. It got steadily worse. I decided to ride out the pain for just a little bit. Perhaps it will settle down.

About 700m into the 1,200m climb, the knee started to steady. The pain was still there but didn't get any worse. I was jogging slowly, my time would suffer, but at least I'd finish. At the top of the hill the pain in my knee had almost disappeared. There was only a hint of pain, nothing I couldn't handle. I thought I'd go on - steady as she goes - slowly up Nachal Refaim.

I tried jogging unevenly, trying to sway the pain away from my left knee. I don't think it worked, but I gained another kilometer trying. I was going slowly, but the pain was not getting any worse at all.

In fact, by the time I got to Dolev, with only another 2km to go, I was taking full strides. There was no pain, although I could still sense that there was something lurking, waiting for me to push myself too hard.

With only 500m to go, and with a downhill to help, I picked up the pace. I wasn't going to beat my record time of 56:05, but I was well on my way to finishing the 10km, which was my goal for this run.

Sprinting to the finish line, I felt a rush of exhilaration course through my body. I lunged over the 10km mark at 63:00. Not bad for my first 10km run in about 1.5 months - with an injury and all. Oh, and I didn't have a stitch of any kind during the entire run.

Now, it's careful planning time - training hard without overdoing it, but pushing myself enough to make improvements. My original plan was to beat 45 minutes. With the time I took off from my training to nurse my injured knee, I doubt I'll achieve that now. But I'm back, and I will run in the race, and glory is within my grasp!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Future Man

I'm from the future. The problem is, I can't prove it. That's the most frustrating part. If I was going to travel through time, it would be handy to have at my disposal a ready way to prove to you that I am from the future. But I don't.

I'm only from two weeks in the future, so the technology is pretty much the same as today. There's no point in pulling out my new iPhone, e-book reader or some such other device because you could easily say that all I have is a prototype of a soon-to-be released version of the product. Besides, I didn't bring any of them back with me. I suppose I could give you tomorrow's winning lottery numbers if only I had taken note of them. Sorry.

I didn't mean to travel back in time, but here I am. I'm stuck in your timeline now and have to make the best of it. Truth be told, if I was going to purposely time travel, I don't think I would travel two weeks into the past. That's pretty boring. Perhaps I'd go back to some historical event, like the splitting of the sea or something like that. But to Ramat Beit Shemesh in January 2010?

How did I get here? Fascinating question. By chance? By luck? In fact, I don't remember. One minute I was in my own time, and the next I was here, wearing the same clothes, walking in the same direction. It is very disconcerting. I have no idea how it happened. Is this like a Groundhog Day experience? Am I simply reliving the same two weeks over and over and over again until I suddenly realize that I have been given a rare opportunity to achieve greatness in two weeks, where it would take others a lifetime?

But it can't be. I haven't any recollection of the past two weeks. Nothing. Not one bit of information travelled with me. Perhaps those who control time travel have imposed this rule on us so that we cannot take advantage of it. It is like my mind has gone blank - two weeks' worth of memories wiped clean out of my mind!

All I know is that I'm definitely from the future. I know this because I turned up to my doctor appointment and it says right here on the printout that my appointment is for Tuesday. But not this Tuesday - Tuesday in two weeks time. Yet here I am, standing outside the doctor's office at the clinic. Since I could not possibly make such a silly mistake, I must be a patient from the future.

Update: 26 January 2010 (added graphic) - thanks, CL!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Truth

I urge you all to read Caroline Glick's article as it appears on Jerusalem Post:

Upon returning from Cairo on Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proclaimed, "It's time to move the peace process forward."

The most sympathetic interpretation of Netanyahu's proclamation is that he was engaging in political theater. It was a low and dishonest statement uttered at the end of what has been, in the immortal words of W.H. Auden, "a low and dishonest decade."

Everyone with eyes in their heads knows that there is no chance of making peace with the Palestinians. First of all, the most Israel is willing to give is less than what the Palestinians are willing to accept.

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