I consider myself to be in fairly decent physical shape. Certainly, after charging up and down the football pitch for 1 1/2 hours on a Monday night (every monday night without fail!) I'm puffing and panting less than most of my regular team mates. So when the idea of running the Jerusalem half marathon was suggested by a couple of friends, I reasoned that it would be a good chance to see how fit I really was whilst raising a few shekels for Tzedaka. I was a little worried by the short time scale - 2 1/2 weeks training time is not too long but after completing a 10km training run before signing up I was reasonably happy with my chances and set myself the target of finishing the race in 2 hours.
The weather in early 2004 has been unseasonally hot and so it proved to be on the day of the race with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. Having negotiated the various road closures on the short distance between my flat and the start (it would have been quicker to walk), I met up with the two initiators of the idea at Givat Ram stadium. Two colleagues who had intended to join me were forced to pull out through injury which was a shame but hopefully we'll organise a larger group for next year.
There is a very obvious problem when it comes to planning a race route through Jerusalem; it is a hilly city. Knowing the area of the city in which it was to be run particularly well, I was aware that the 10km route which we would be running twice had large uphill sections which would be uncomfortable on the first loop and just plain nasty the second time around. Undaunted, 328 of us stepped up to the start line as the 10 km race which had preceded the main event drew to a close.
Looking around me I was amazed by the variety of runners - a few youngsters but also quite a decent sized contingent with grey beards(I note that I was beaten by at least 6 60 year olds!); mainly men, but quite a few women in the mix too; there was even a father who ran the route with his child in a push chair! Whilst the London Marathon is filled with people in fancy dress, running the race for charity, it seemed to me that this was more an issue of personal achievement and finishing in a good time - quite serious and certainly no-one running in a Pantomime Horse outfit.
Uri Lupolianski, Mayor of Jerusalem spent a long minute posing with the starting pistol for the cameras before he set the race into motion. The pack of runners slowly spread out, completing a lap of the stadium before heading out onto the streets of Jerusalem. The route took us down towards my home, past my local supermarket before heading up in the direction of town. A left towards the Central Bus Station took us down towards Gan Sacher which we looped around before heading up the oh so steep Rechov Ruppin, turning opposite the Israel Museum towards the Knesset. We ran past the entrance to the Knesset and on towards the beautiful Supreme Court building, around past the Foreign Ministry's new home and back down onto Ruppin for the run back past the Science Museum and the Israel museum where we rejoined the original route to take us back to the Stadium.
So far so good - I made it back to the stadium and through the 11 km marker in a few seconds over 52 minutes. I could feel myself slowing down already however - a combination of not enough training and the inclement weather (in previous years the race has been held later in the year - not a happy thought!) At the 14 km mark, a spasm in my left calf let me know that I was in trouble. For the next couple of kilometres, I half ran and half walked - determined to get to the end. From about 15 1/2 kilometres I was able to manage without further spasms until I hit 20 km - agonisingly close to the finish. I half limped and half ran up the hill to the end where I just missed my 2 hour target by 28 seconds.
Aching - I grabbed a litre of water and then returned to the finish to cheer on my mates who came in 10 and 27 minutes later respectively.
My sense of achievement is tempered by the fact that I'm very aware that had I trained a little more, I could have finished in a far better time - I will be aiming to do so for next year. I will also be sending out sponsorship forms a little earlier. Even so, I found myself amazed by the generosity of my sponsors and to date have received pledges totalling in the region of NIS 6500. Many thanks to all who contributed. The Charity that will be benefitting is Soadim, a Tel Aviv based non-profit that feeds some 400 needy people a day, helps fund medicines and medical treatment and provides educational assistance for disadvantaged children.