Tzippy Levy

In Which I Wax Sentimental About the Marathon

Two days a year, Jerusalem kids are free to run around in the streets without fear of cars: Yom Kippur and the day of the Jerusalem Marathon.

[Note from the fact-checking committee: This is true only on the race routes, apparently.]

The full extent of my letting my kids run around in the streets on Yom Kippur is generally letting the older ones run ahead of me to shul and letting the younger ones cross the street without holding my hand. This past Friday morning (the day of the marathon), I, well, had breakfast, so we had a little bit of a larger potential stomping ground, and my children were able to race to their heart’s delight down some of the biggest streets in the city.

I guess it’s strange that I’m writing about the Jerusalem Marathon in a year when I didn’t run. I ran the 10K last year, but I couldn’t think of anything more interesting to write than, “Hey, guys, I ran the 10K! It was fun!”

Endorphins are a creativity-killer, apparently.

[Note from the fact-checking committee: This is not true, apparently.]

And though running in the race (when I’ve trained for it) is empowering and uplifting, there’s something to be said about taking in the event from the spectator’s perspective. Standing on the sidelines, clapping and cheering–I enjoy it with a level of enthusiasm/sentimentality that Daria Morgendorffer would not approve of. (That being said, if you live your life in a way to try to get Daria to approve of you, you’re kind of missing the point of Daria. And also, she’s fictional.)

First of all, you get the aforementioned car-free experience, which is a rare treat for someone who hates cars but loves living in a city. And watching the runners is inspiring, whether they’re out there purely for fitness reasons or whether they’re one of the many people with customized shirts representing the charities they’ve raised money for (I’d like to get the numbers on how much all of the money raised by people running in organized races adds up to, by the way).

By the way, for the anti-marathon grumpsters who grump about 42 kilometers being a ridiculous, over-the-top length: according to the stats here, out of all of the runners in the 2015 Jerusalem Marathon, only 11% participated in the full marathon. 31% ran the half, and 58% did the 10K.

Anyway, back to my stint on the cheer squad. (“We cheer and we lead! We act like we’re on speed!”)

In previous years as a runner, I really appreciated the people who came out to the streets and cheered. There I was, just jogging down the street, and people would shout, “Kol hakavod! You’re awesome!” I would look around for a second to see whom they were talking to, then turn back to them, tentatively, like, Who, me? Yes, me! That stranger on the sidewalk thinks I’m awesome! And not even in a pervert kind of way!

Of course, you have a few idio well-meaning people who consider yelling at you to pick up the pace a legitimate form of cheering, and that makes you want to shout back not-nice things about how long you’ve been running and how insanely steep the hills of Jerusalem are and what have they been doing all morning aside from harassing people, anyway? But on the whole, most of them are swell.

So in the years when I’m not running, I try to go out there with my kids and be one of the swell ones. To witness that moment when a runner’s face lights up: Who, me? I’m awesome? Or to watch a line of kids standing an intersection, sticking their hands out, as a champion goes by and gives them all fives on the way to the finish line.

At about the five-hour point, we were walking by a street in a downhill section toward the end of the marathon. What’s fun about over-five-hours-marathoners is that they’re pretty chilled out, especially in a downhill section. They’re usually either distance runners who don’t give a what-what about speed, or they’re combination walk-runners, or they’re over 60 and running a freaking marathon (Yes, you! You’re awesome!), or they were stuck in traffic and started the race late. These runners are usually extra friendly, since they’re so relaxed about finishing.

We were crossing the street, and my two-year-old was walking near one of the runners, so the guy sticks out his hand for a high-five…and my very generous son hands him the cap of his water bottle. The guy laughed and circled back to hand it back to him, and my first thought was, Wow, this guy is so laid-back that he doesn’t even mind that this will cost him five seconds on his race time. But then again, I guess when you finish at 5:25:32, you don’t beat yourself up about giving a kid his bottle cap back because otherwise you could have made a 5:25:27.

So that was my experience this year. Next year, in Gan Sacher!

About the Author
Tzippy grew up in the vicinity of Teaneck, "Ir HaKodesh." She made aliyah because there just wasn't enough kosher pizza.
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