Today at 6:40 am, near the Jaffa (יפו) clock tower, I began to walk. As I moved towards the Charles Clore park (גן צ’רלס קלור), people started to pour in from the near-by streets and slowly the stream of people grew to hundreds of people. The sky was low in the sky, hidden by large thin clouds, and rays of light blazed the sky through the clouds. When I finally reached the park, there were already thousands of people waiting.
At 7:00 am, I started moving towards the start line, along with many other people. Some ran bit, others stretched, and everyone were preparing. At 7:10 am, we were allowed to enter the gathering area before the start line. Gradually the area was filled, with 5,000 people, and it became pretty crowded. While we were waiting, some electronic music was played in gigantic speakers to get us all pimped up with energy. It drizzled a bit, and after 2 minutes it stopped.
At 7:25, a pistol shot into the air, signaling the beginning of the Tel-Aviv Marathon (מרתון תל-אביב) Urban Run Race - A quarter of a Marathon (10 Kilometers) race for people from all ages. Inside the huge “body” of participants, I started to move slowly towards the start line, and when I crossed it I began to run.
After several hundred meters, when the speakers were far behind us, there was a magical moment. It was silent, and the only noise that broke the silence was the soft pound of thousands of shows on the road. It was surprisingly silent, I thought that it would be much noisier.
After the first few kilometers, in which we went through a sleeping City, we saw people on the sides. Some of them simply stared, some have prepared in advance and stood with cameras and tripods, and some cheered the giant cloud of runners. Many of the cops who blocked the near-by streets were smiling at us, as if signaling us to go on. The city gradually came into life, shaking of the sleepiness that held it previously.
When we reached the middle of the race, we reached the first water stop. Many people holding bottles of waters waited for the runners to take & go, some were from the event staff, but some were certainly volunteers (they didn’t wear uniform). They all cheered and gave us motivation to continue. One thing that really made me smile, was one person who set-up a table on his own and gave water to the runners several hundreds of meters later. Every 2-3 kilometers there was a DJ/band playing music to keep us going.
Finally, when reaching the final 2 kilometers, we ran near the beach where we saw the deep blue ocean. At that spot, many people already gathered to cheer, photograph and play us music. It was a down-hill part, and everybody accelerated (knowingly or not) towards the finish line which was already in the horizon. On the right, we were passed by people participating in the Handcycle race that also took place as part of the event.
Hundred meters before the finish line, we already heard the gigantic speakers from the initial gathering area. Then came the urge to sprint forwards, to finish it as fast as you can, proving yourself you can do it.
It was the first time I participated in a race, and the feeling was fantastic. For me, like most other people, it was not a competition, but simply a chance to prove yourself that you can do it. So I proved myself I can do it, and I broke my own record and set it to 49 minutes and 20 seconds (previously, I did 9 kilometers in 51 minutes). More important than the record, was the participation, and prooving to myself I can do this and in a good time.
I think that one of the things that made this race an important experience for me, was the huge range of participants – ages 16 and up, were many of the people where in their 20’s-40’s (so I was relatively young – only 63 people including me where in the category of 16-19). There were people who ran in pairs or small groups, others ran in teams (including army teams), and some wore shirts in memory of people.
One thing that really touched me, was people who wore shirts in memorial of Shneior Cheshin (שניאור חשין). He was an athlete who trained for the Ironman Triathlon earlier this year, and was ran over by a drunk/drugged driver. That driver left him there to die, and made many excuses for that later when he was caught. It was a very tragic event which symbolized how careless are some people when it comes to driving responsibly and when it comes to ignoring injured people unless you know them.
Another thing which wasn’t possible to ignore, were “very big” people that decided that they need a change. I saw 2 like these, that made every possible effort to run, even if slowly. Even if it’s a bit late, I must admit it was impressive to see people who decided to change their life-style and participated in this race. I don’t know these people, but I wish them lots of luck.
Many thanks to the person who made me start running last august. They always say you need some motivator to start, and once you are in it it’s easier. She made me start (without knowing she did), and I owe her more thanks than I can describe in this post. Last year I was simply not in-shape, and I barely did 2-3 kilometers. In the last few months I took it seriously and improved to 10 kilometers.
Hopefully I’ll see you next year, On March 30 2012. I’ll do the half-marathon track (or if I’ll have enough luck, I’ll do the entire marathon)
Have a happy weekend :)