Understanding the Marathon Man

“How can you love to run?” “Why do you run so much?” These two questions, out of all the questions I’m asked, come up the most. As a professional runner, I’m always asked questions about it. I try to answer these questions in the best way possible, but its a difficult task. I have been running for over a decade and have never really thought about what running means to me.  It’s just really hard for me to explain… it’s something I do… I can’t just put it into words but I will try. So lets see how this goes.

Ten years ago I was just getting out of my chubby stage, and not on the “most popular” list in school. I became allergic to white flour (which, by the way, probably had a big part in my losing weight), and I was starting in a new school, which meant a new beginning. One of the first weeks at school, we had a trip day to Yad Vashem. As is the way with school buses, we got stuck in traffic and needed to get out and walk. A few blocks down the road, we found out what was causing the traffic. There was a marathon going on in Jerusalem. I remember this moment well. This was the moment I fell in love with running. I remember standing there, just looking at these people thinking to myself, “Why are these people running in this heat?” “Running in Jerusalem with all the hills, are they crazy?” But they all, each and every one of them, looked happy and free. And then it came to me- i wanted that, i wanted to join them!

We had a treadmill at home which no one used- for running that is. I started off slow. A month went by and something made me try and run outside. I will never forget that first outside run. No matter what I describe to you now, I cant explain what I was really feeling, or how I looked- it was a relief, an amazing feeling. I was disconnected from every one and only heard my heart beat, the wind in my ears, and felt the sweat on my body. It was amazing!

This went on for about two months, till one day at school, a friend talked about a race he was in, blabbing about how much fun he had (he was on the schools track team). I picked up my nerve and asked him about it. He said that his dad drives him to these things to train him. I told myself, ‘This is your chance’, so I went for it “Can I go with you to the next race?” shocked till today, he actually said “Sure” with a face”Can you run?” he asked me, I said right away “Ya, I run all the time”. No way was i telling him i had barely broken in my new started sneakers.

Two weeks later was my first race. My friends dad drove us up there. I got out of the car and was almost run over by hundreds of runners.My heart was beating so fast; I was nervous and a little scared. We stretched before the run, and my friend’s dad gave us a pep talk before he let us go to the starting line. “Start hard- end harder, head up- never look down, and don’t forget you guys are already winners for just trying. Don’t need to prove nothing to anyone, and don’t forget during the run that I’m waiting for you at the finish line”. He said some other stuff but I was already not listening.

What he said really hit me: ‘Don’t need to prove nothing to anyone, and I am waiting for you at the finish line’ ran in my head that whole race. I ran faster just knowing he was there waiting. It was a really hard race, 10k my first one. I was out of breath at the finish line, when my friend came running over. He slapped me on my back and said “Nice job man” Out of breath and dizzy I said “What?” he laughed at me “Did you not see your time?” See my time? What time? i never thought of that before. This was a real race with running times, prizes and more. I looked over at the main clock and it was showing 41.53. “Is that good?” I asked stupidly, “Is that good?” he said, “Dude- i am the fastest runner in school and i do 39 minutes, no one comes close to me”. Since then I realized I could run. And since then, time had a meaning.

Three weeks after that race, I found out that my friend spoke to the coach, and got me on the track team. Now, ten years later, after 3 years on the high school track team, won the title of the fastest senior in my region, been in over 50 races in my life, winning a number of them. In the army, I was picked to take place in three army Olympics and had the pleasure of competing in many different categories. I have ran 4 full 42.2K marathons in my life, and hold a personal record of 36.98 minutes in a 10K race, and 3:22.45 hours in a full marathon.

Today, I run 3 times a week, 10-15K each time, and every run is a new journey. No run is like the one before. I still can’t really explain the feeling, but for now I’ll call it nervous excitement (so that you understand). I still get nervous and excited before every run. Every time! Running today for me is everything, my drug, my cigarette, my therapist, my thinking cap, my doctor (physically and mentally), my anti-depressant, my world within this world. This world (running) is where I go when I’m mad, happy, nervous before something big, where I take a break, and more. When i run im disconnected from the world, i physically feel like I’m in control of my life. Something most of us dont feel very often. If i want to go fast i could, if i want to give up- i also could. No one will say anything to me like loser, quitter, or point fingers at me, nothing!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard when your head it telling you to give up but your legs are telling you “… are you crazy? keep going, your almost there…” When you finish that run, its the greatest feeling in the world. Its supposed to be hard, the hard run is what makes it great. You need to feel it to understand it.

Besides the physical feeling you get during the run, there are some psychological things that running does to you. Running has taught me stamina in anything I do: in sports, I am in better shape to play and last longer in the game; in school, im able to sit and learn longer. Running keeps me sane, from all the insane people in this world. Running I’m sure has more effects on me that i don’t know about, so for that reason ill leave it at that.

Its hard for me to explain a decade of running and what it means to me in a few words. To me all this is just a glimpse of what running really means. If I have inspired you to think about running, or to even think about any sort of sport that interests you, I am happy. Finding an activity that is good for you both physically and mentally is a challenge, but when you find your beat, if you are dedicated and passionate about it as i am, i promise you, at some point, you will feel like i do.

To those who still need to know why I feel the need to run, I can only say “If you have to ask, you will never understand. It is something only runners know why. We runners, who put ourselves through pain, dedication, time, and devotion, run after run, week after week, year after year, only we know how good it feels, and that’s why we keep doing it”.

About the Author
Ari Wruble has a BA from Ariel University in behavioral sciences and is a certified life coach. He is a full-time advisor and advocate (Hasbara) for Lone Soldiers, Lone Bnot Sheirut and olim families regarding national service at The Michael Levin Base. Ari loves to find the time to write things as he sees them.