When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, I didn’t know that running was a sport. I played baseball, basketball and football in school, but no one I knew ever ran for recreation.
When I was 40 years old I was working for a computer corporation, Unisys, and I was helping install software for the Suffolk County New York Police Department. For 6 months I worked together with police officers who were assigned to the data processing department. Every lunchtime the officers would go to the locker room to change into running gear and then go outdoors for a 5 mile jog.
I was intrigued and decided to join them. The first day that I went out with them, they quickly took off and I was left far behind. That was fortunate because they could not see my embarrassment when, huffing and puffing, I had to stop and catch my breath after 1 or 2 blocks.
Thereafter, during lunchtime, I went out by myself and slowly built up stamina needed to be a runner. I taught myself to listen to my body and not start out faster than I could handle, to learn to breathe in a manner that I would take long, deep breaths rather than short jagged ones, and slowly I extended the distance that I could run at a time.
I remember my exhilaration of the first time I was able to do one mile at a time, then three miles, and finally, by the end of my six month tour of duty with the police, I was able to run with them, although not at the pace of the fastest of them.
I continued my running afterwards, especially on Sundays near home, where I comfortably ran five miles with no problem. And then I signed up for the Long Island half-marathon. I was a little concerned, as this event was for 13.1 miles, but I managed to complete the course in 2 hours and 42 minutes. In the ensuing years I trained on treadmills to increase my speed, and eventually got my speed in the half-marathon down to 2 hours and 6 minutes.
Then I made Aliyah to Jerusalem, some 9 years ago. The hilly terrain of the city was quite different than the flat highways of Long Island, and I had difficulty running here. I signed up for the Jerusalem half-marathon in 2015, but when during the race I found myself near my home, and having already completed 10 tough miles, I called it a day.
Soon after I stopped running altogether. Unsurprisingly, I started to get out of shape, my weight moved up to points previously unexplored on my home scale, and finally my yearly blood test showed I was moving into very unhealthy territory.
In the fall of 2019 I decided that enough was enough and that I had to take charge of my personal health. I started only eating healthy foods, and once again put on my sneakers to follow the ups and downs of Jerusalem, mainly on the Tayelet, the beautiful promenade in South Jerusalem, overlooking the Old City.
When Covid-19 lockdowns began to be enforced, I continued running. At first I was limited to going up and back tens of times an allowed distance 100 meters from my home. As regulations eased I was again running a few kilometers each morning. My weight dropped. quickly (30 kilos, i.e. 65 pounds) in one year, and my blood work was once again showing me to be a healthy person.
Now I’m 70 years old, and I’ve decided to once again attempt to run the Jerusalem Half-Marathon. I’ve been training every day, but I will not be able to match my 2:06 pace of twenty five years ago. It must be that the hills of Jerusalem will be slowing me down. 🙂 But I think I have a chance to match my initial run of thirty years ago when I did it in 2:42.
To further encourage myself, and make the race meaningful, I am running to benefit the Michael Levin Base, This wonderful organization provides much needed services to Lone Soldiers and Bnot Sherut (national service volunteers). I have been posting in local WhatsApp groups, and writing to friends and relatives to help me raise money for my campaign.
Anyone who is interested in helping me in my campaign can join in at https://campaigns.causematch.com/tmlb/12596
I’m out to prove to myself that 70 is just a number, and, that when I set my mind to something, I can accomplish a difficult task – and at the same time, do a Mitzvah!