6 Lessons to Learn from the Jerusalem Marathon

I’m sure that pre-marathon training is essential if one doesn’t want to wake up all sore for the rest of the week. The fact that, really, I had no training whatsoever and perhaps only ran 300 meters in one go  until the day of the marathon classifies me easily as a non-runner i.e. an individual with no long-term physical endurance skills whatsoever.

However, knowing what I know now about the Jerusalem Marathon, retrospectively, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and I wonder why it took me so long to participate in the run. Year after year I have observed my friends running endless kilometres and I knocked myself on my forehead thinking that it must be the craziest thing a person could or want to do. On top of this, knowing that “the victory is ours” were the last words ever spoken by the first Marathoner before he died only made the prospect of joining the race gloomier.

Yet, even the fraction of the Marathon, the 10k experience, ended up teaching me so much about life that probably an every-day life event wouldn’t because my heart would have been in a completely different place. Here, dealing with, unusual for me, physical strain, adrenaline rush and the constant voice in my head telling me not to give up sharpened the way I registered things and, eventually, enjoyed the run even though every muscle ached and my lungs were on fire.

What were the thoughts roaming through my mind at that time?

1. Be excited about life.

The moment we stood at the start line this was the moment to either start worrying about what was going to happen or be excited about what waited for us ahead. Of course the energy of 30 thousand plus people, the music and the general excitement contributed to the more unusual stirring of emotions, but I really feel that this is what the life is about: the place where were hopefully look ahead despite of what may happen and being absolutely excited about the chance of participating in this unexpected, unusual and beautiful journey to which neither of us has ever signed up, nor were we given a manual at the time of our birth.

2. Don’t give up at the first sign of difficulty.

That came VERY quickly. At the first incline I asked myself a very simple question: “what the (insert) do you think you’re doing? You’re not a runner! Where’s the exit?”

While undertaking many challenges in life we may quickly question ourselves that perhaps we have bitten off significantly more that we can chew and quitting before the failure stares in our face is highly advisable so we can save our already crumbling dignity and not suffer the pain of having to let go off what you have grown to truly believe in and appreciate.

However, when you somehow reach even one-third of the race-track, the magical middle or more you begin to realise that you’ve gone further than you ever would in your entire life, had you been given  a chance to rationalise your decision, plan ahead, assess the dangers and evaluate your then-existing skills.

You would have never known that you can do so much more than your wildest dreams could conceive if only you realised that the only option you have is giving up, but yet you really don’t want to. The result will be only thus: you will reach the finish line though you probably won’t remember exactly how you got there.

3. Look out for little joys.

Luckily many people were doing much better than I. There were a number of different groups who enjoyed every metre they run. They sang and danced along the way and I simply wondered where they got all that energy from. While I was simply trying to control my breath I continuously heard them repeating one line: “don’t be afraid of a long way”. The way was long, but it turned out that at each station the music was being played, songs were being sang, the water was being distributed, even though one might have already been so tired that the bottle failed to find their mouths, families were encouraging themselves to keep going while enjoying the weather and the feeling of unity was in many respects exactly what pushed us ahead.

Seeing those little pieces of human endurance, singing along with the music, both played and sang, and having a quick chat with fellow runners made the experience equally enjoyable as it was exhausting.

4. Sometimes just a pat on the back can mean the world.

Normally we don’t appreciate simple words. We have it imbedded in us that if someone is supposed to help, they should just simply do something tangible instead of just talking. Furthermore what can they know about the pain if they are just watching you but aren’t actively running? Throughout the entire run regular bystanders, soldiers, police or the Marathon staff stood and simply encouraged us to keep going telling us how great we were doing.

I don’t like admitting to myself that I need other people. I am lone wolf, but yet, those were the moments that I run the fastest.

5. There are always the fellow runners.

While being completely spaced-out and focusing simply on taking the next step I noticed little of other people’s ordeals.  Yet each time someone from behind me would run up and say that we don’t have much left. Or that we will be soon running downhill (that is the best news one can hear while running in the hilly Jerusalem). Or that the day was beautiful.

I saw people pulling others who lost their strength behind them, mothers running with husbands and pushing buggies, someone was pushing one of their friends that struggled to take another step. As we approached the 10th kilometre I overheard the conversation (thank G-d I wasn’t wearing earphones) where two friends, who were running together, encountered a wall. As much as one was motivating the other, the latter just couldn’t pick up the pace. He urged his friend to keep moving and leave him behind. All I heard was “No, I am not leaving you. We got in this together so we will finish it together”.

There are always people who feel exactly what you feel and are going through similar experiences. These are the ones that are pushing and pulling you to make sure that you complete your race.

6. It doesn’t matter that the pace isn’t constant.

I think the biggest discouragement for me was the fact that I couldn’t maintain the pace. Sometimes I ran, sometimes I jogged, sometimes I walked and sometimes I simply felt like I wanted to crawl. Yet, when I saw the finish line I couldn’t absolutely believe that I managed to complete the race. At that moment at the finish line whatever pace I run or I didn’t, it really didn’t matter. I got there despite everything and that was what truly mattered in the end. At that moment, regardless of who came when, we all stood at the top of the world, Jerusalem, and we felt like absolute bloody heroes!

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