Over the past few years I’ve been lucky to participate in quite a few races. This week’s Nike Tel Aviv 10K Night Run was among the best I’ve been in. It was very well organized, the course was fantastic and being part of a celebration of some 20,000 runners conquering Tel Aviv in a sea of pink, was a great experience.

The organizers gave a lot of thought to the race and the message they wanted to send to the larger community. 50% of people in Tel Aviv exercise, they told the runners while they were waiting for one of the five separate launch times. By next year, they want that number to up to 70%. It was all about a great way to exercise and improve health. But it was also about the personal accomplishment each and every one of us who runs has, every time he or she goes out there and runs.

The writer (left) with Yehuda Halperin at the Nike Tel Aviv Night Run

The writer (left) with Yehuda Halperin at the Nike Tel Aviv Night Run

I started running relatively late in life. At age 47, my company was offering a running class. The last time I had run in any serious fashion, was back in 1989 during the Officer’s Training Course at Bahd Echad. I needed to run 2K to qualify. And I almost didn’t. On that first run around the track in beautiful Herzilya Park, I was out of breath after 2K and it took a long time to bring down my heart rate. But I was hooked. Within six months I ran my first race, the Raanana 10K, and over the past few years I have even run three half marathon races, including the New York City Half marathon in March 2012.

It really is amazing what you can accomplish if you put your mind to something and for me, the most important thing about running is that feeling of personal accomplishment. But there is no questioning the health benefits of the sport. It is one of the fastest growing sports around, focused on individual accomplishment, where the only people we are competing against are ourselves.  And each time I cross the finish line, especially after feeling I was tiring along the way but didn’t give in, I have a high that is hard to describe.

I have found that when I run is also a great time for thinking and reflecting, especially when going through challenging times. I have read that the body gives off certain enzymes during sports activity that has a calming effect.  But the quality time you have to think, to relax, to listen to music and in the words of country music star Jason Aldeen, “Dig a little deeper when you think you can’t dig no more.” is irreplaceable.

The Tel Aviv Night Run played well on all those themes. Each kilometer marker was lit up like a carnival. Bands were playing encouraging the runners. At one point, just after kilometer 8 towards the end of the race while going under the Ayalon highway bridge in Park Yarkon, the loudspeakers blasted cheering and clapping and video clips of people in the stands rooting for the runners were screened on the walls. And families were waiting along the course and at the finish line with huge signs with pictures and congratulations to their loved ones on their achievements. It was all about a sense of accomplishment, about finishing strong, about doing something important in which you can take pride.

Sea of Pink at Nike Night Run 2013 - Picture by Nir Amos from Shvoong website

Sea of Pink at Nike Night Run 2013 – Picture by Nir Amos from Shvoong website

No doubt, it was a treat to participate in this well organized race. So to quote one of Nike’s famous marketing tag lines, if you are standing on the side and considering jumping in and becoming part of something fulfilling, healthy and special, “Just Do It.” It’s well worth the sweat.