Were the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv marathons just two weeks apart?
Or rather, were they two whole worlds apart?
Last year, I decided to forgo running 10K in the Jerusalem marathon, a decision which I later regretted once I heard how special the atmosphere had been, it being the first full marathon to be held in the capital.
So there was no way I was going to miss out again this year.
That is, until I heard the weather forecast on the radio that Friday morning. Ugh! Do understand that although I agree that there is nothing like the feeling of running outdoors in the fresh air, taking in the breathtaking scenery around me as I do so, I hibernate during the winter months and resort to the treadmill instead. So, although I was tempted to stay in bed instead of braving the weather, my conscience got the better of me. I’d forked out 120NIS to register after all, and what’s more, my 12 year old son, Yair, was running it with his schoolmates, and if he could do it, so could I, right? I’d also signed up for the Tel Aviv marathon in a fortnight, just out of curiosity really. I thought that a compare-and-contrast between the two runs might turn out to be an interesting experience.
So, yes, together with the other 12,000 runners, I was rained on and hailed on as I ran, (or rather slid) up and then down the hilly streets of Jerusalem in the freezing cold. But the highlight for me was when I ran hand in hand with my son up the hill towards the finish line and we celebrated our personal victories together with the other first time runners from his school, their parents and a couple of teachers. Sadly though, we departed quite hurriedly, preferring the warmth of the bus that was waiting to take us back home to the icy drizzle in Gan Sacher.
Two weeks pass, and I’m off again, swept away in the Red Sea of shirts parallel to the blue Mediterranean. Today, Yonatan, my 15 year old is my running partner. We are just two of 13,000 runners taking part in this 10K. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and we are blessed with a light breeze. Usually, going to Tel Aviv feels like going to Chutz La’aretz, but this time, oddly, it doesn’t. The unity of the participants’ enthusiasm coupled with an unspoken feeling of belonging to a special sector of the Israeli population with whom I share an unspoken love of running, make me feel proud to be participating in this, the largest marathon ever in our small country.
Thanks to the gorgeous weather, Yonatan and I lounge around afterwards on the huge expanse of grass , grateful recipients of creamy yoghurts and plastic cups of fruit juice, generously supplied by Muller and Prigat respectively. But apart from the benefits of the sun and the view of the sea in Tel Aviv as opposed to the rain and strong winds two weeks earlier in Jerusalem, I conclude that there is really no difference in my experience at all.
Because for me, running is the ultimate way to celebrate life, whatever the weather. Whoever I’m with. Wherever I am.