No small number of Israelis visited the Western Wall this past year. Others went as far as the pilgrimage site of Uman in Ukraine to feel closer to their creator. I "only" needed the half marathon to feel I was about to meet him at close quarters. A few meters after the 18-kilometer signpost, I nearly lost consciousness. My brain, which hitherto maintained clarity and determination, became fuzzy.
A strange fog engulfed me, even though the sun was shining. Instead of the house music playing on my primitive MP3, I heard the words of ultra-Orthodox singer and actor Shuli Rand's song: "Lord in heaven, if we may speak openly, sometimes I don't have the strength to live in Your world .... Here is a Jew who hangs by a hair. Fights the sadness and desperation gnawing like a worm. Happiness has fled me as has wisdom. Voices from the past whisper to me to stop, but I continue to press through the darkness and ask: Where are thou?"
I regretted not having a proper opportunity to part with my family and relatives, and didn't even announce who would inherit my stamp collection.
Until that point, I had galloped at a faster pace than during training in the Jerusalem Hills. At the starting line, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai spoke to us - a few days before the municipal election could not but fire the starting gun - and wished us all that we meet again at the Tel Aviv Marathon in April. Around me waited another 2,076 runners.
It's not clear whether it's the race or the place, but as opposed to Jerusalem where everyone looks nervous, ugly and old, here everyone was so beautiful and young, with annoyingly wide smiles on their faces. The weather was almost perfect, almost too hot.
Then it began. We left toward Rokach Boulevard, and from there toward the sea. The original plan had been to open at a comfortable pace for me (4 minutes 50 seconds per kilometer), and then try to accelerate in the second half of the race. But the sight of Tel Aviv's coastline, the beautiful girls lining the route cheering us on, and the "big city" atmosphere pushed me to show all those coastal-plain dwellers who's really the man.
I easily breezed past the eight-kilometer signpost, snatched a plastic bag of water and continued toward Jaffa.
Then a pain hit that had troubled me all week. My stomach muscles had started tightening during my final pre-race training run, six days earlier. Twenty-four hours before the race I was treated by a particularly sensitive physiotherapist called Rafi Warshavsky. This man, who could easily serve a permanent roadblock in the territories, adopts the strategy of an interrogator in the Shin Bet security service: He presses where it hurts. But a minute after the pain appeared, it disappeared and I wanted to shout with happiness.
Following my race plan, I slowed down to five minutes per kilometer. Everything was going smoothly and I even managed to enjoy the run. Then came the 18-kilometer signpost...
I tried to remember whose idiotic idea it was to run 21 kilometers. Was it the editor? The news desk secretary? Was social pressure applied on me, or at work? I'm an idiot. I continued, spasmodically, until the finish line. See you next marathon.
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