Last Friday, I did a highway practice run in preparation for the Tel Aviv (half) Marathon, and experienced an epiphany.
It started around kilometer four, and I fully appreciated it after completing all 16km.
By 4km, jogging uphill under a warm 7am sun, I was done. I really was ready to slow to a trot, turn around, get in my car and give up. I had my phone on me; I’d call my husband on the walk back and vent about not having what it takes.
But I didn’t. A tiny tiny part of me was moving my feet. A voice I couldn’t really hear clearly was forcing me to keep going.
The epiphany is not that running – or any physical challenge – is 90% mental. I knew that from four previous 10k’s in the last year and a half.
It’s how brilliantly amazing athletes are at combining the powerful self talk with any level of fine physical ability and empowering chemical reactions.
Running is a 360° high, and all at once, I understood there is always a place in the self talk for achieving that.
This was a week after spontaneously registering for the Tel Aviv Half Marathon; after Jerusalem, I literally said fuck it and knew the only thing stopping me from running a half was saying to everyone and myself I wasn’t ready to run a half. After each of my last three 10k’s, I knew I could have done more. A lot more.
This past Friday, I ran the Tel Aviv Half Marathon. There were a lot of excuses available, offering several respectable outs: The forecasted heat wave, which postponed the full and pushed our starting time up an hour. The fact that my furthest distance in my two-week training was 16km, and I had done it just once. The four hours of sleep I ended up getting the night before.
But I arrived at the starting line at five minutes to 6. It was already hot, but I felt prepared. I was watered well from three days of binge drinking, well-fed, had read an excellent article about keeping an elite state of mind, and told myself over and over I had absolutely nothing to lose.
I felt free as soon as we started. By kilometer 5, I knew I would finish the race. By kilometer 10, I knew I would finish it running. It felt great to have that confidence and control. It wasn’t an ego thing; it was knowing my body, being familiar with my preparedness and most of all, feeling totally at ease with my self talk.
After reaching 16km, the excitement really kicked in. I was passing my furthest distance and I felt fresh. Then something totally new started to take place after 17. I don’t really know how to express it other than I had this totally emotional response with every new marker I passed.
I literally felt so good about each kilometer achievement, I had an overwhelming emotional desire to cry every time. I was overcoming some enormous challenge every time I saw a new number – 18, 19, 20. After a year and a half of procrastinating and making excuses, I was here and just doing it.
To be honest, it’s probably part of the ‘high’ I was on; like any other high, feeling the world in the palm of your hands… But that’s what it was. I looked around at all my running peers, and could hug every one. We were all together – most of us not pros, maybe a lot of us doing this for the first time – and we were each doing this to feel amazing, to achieve something personal, to just do it. There was a freedom in its meaningfulness and meaninglessness, and the world was a better place because tens of thousands of people had made the same decision to do something big within their own personal lives.
It was powerful, empowering, and between 20 and 21, I was flying.
It’s obvious that most of us don’t allow ourselves to take big leaps all that often. Maybe it’s wise to keep it at a moderate pace.
But when you’re fresh enough, fortunate enough, focused enough to hear that tiny tiny insistence that you can make this happen… know there’s an all-powerful high at the other end, waiting to blend your sweat with your tears.
The following are some pics and details from Tel Aviv Marathon day. Earlier in the week, the full was postponed due to the predicted heat wave. We started earlier, at 6am, when it was reportedly 26°c. The aim was for everyone to finish by around 8:30am, when it was 29°c.
Set out early to make it for the new start time – 5am Tel Aviv:
Tragically, the marathon ended with one death – a 29-year-old half marathon runner who collapsed. Out of 35,000 runners, 50 were in need of medical care of varying degrees – from first aid to critical hospitalization.
I do think the marathon organizers were very well prepped throughout – giving warnings, broadcasting tips, pushing up the starting time, adding majorly to the water supply, providing rinses.
But walking towards the starting line, I’ll admit it was daunting to pass such a fleet…
It was already pretty exhilarating while lining up with thousands of my peers.
And just to drive the point home a little harder… While stretching my legs at the starting line, I spot this guy:
See you at Rishon Letzion on May 3?