Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jerusalem Marathon

I ran the Jerusalem marathon last Friday. It was my second marathon and an accomplishment I am very proud of. As I was running it – near the beginning actually, I got this overwhelming sense of joy. I had a huge smile on my face and felt a sense of elation that I had not felt in a long time. As I looked around, I felt like I was having the time of my life. There I was about 3 or four miles into one heck of a tough 26 mile course and I was loving it like I have never loved running before. Why?

I have asked myself that question since. I keep thinking back to that moment that these feelings came on, and a smile immediately returns to my face (yes as I am writing this I am grinning). I can’t fully explain it – or maybe I think there is more to it than I have thus far pieced together, but there is at least one factor I have thought of that I think contributed to it. Here it is:

Think of a time when you set a goal for yourself – find a job, meet new people, lose x pounds, keep in better contact with family or friends…. Many common goals we set for ourselves have external limitations on them. I may find a job I really want, but someone is better qualified for me. I may try to keep in touch better but friends are “too busy”. Try as one may to meet new people, there just doesn’t seem to be anyone around…
Then there are the other type of goals – lose 10 pounds, be mindful of how I speak to my parents, consider things before you say them, be considerate, run a marathon! These goals are all driven by me. I am accountable for my own success or failure. Achieving or failing these goals can have a strong impact on a person’s self image and psyche. Here in this realm, there is no one to blame but yourself. Sure there are excuses, but at the end of the day we hold the keys to many of our goals.

The marathon on that list is different from all the others. Many of the personal goals I set for myself are more abstract and never ending. I strive to be mindful of the things I say before I speak, to be considerate, not to gossip about others, and even to reach a target weight. Most of these do not have a finite end. I cannot say at any point that I will forever not gossip. That is an ongoing challenge. Weight loss, and other similar goals, are achieved gradually over time. Once I get off the scale and see the number I have aimed for then boom, I am done, and yet I keep going to stay there. 

Then there are the goals that have a finite end, take a long time to accomplish and are fully in your control. The marathon falls in this category. As I ran the marathon, I felt the culmination of my past months of training coming together – I had set a goal for myself that only I could stop myself from achieving. Although I had 22 miles left to run, I knew it was in the bag, and spent the rest of the run enjoying the fruits of my labor – I had worked hard to get there and when I knew I was good to go, I was able to enjoy the experience to the max. I recall having a similar experience with my CPA exams. The CPA is not an easy test. I was lucky that the material really clicked for me and with a lot of studying, I completed the exams. I do distinctively remember in a few of the tests (there are 4) that once I got to the last section, read the question and knew that I owned that material, the test became fun. I would begin to sing to myself (probably in my head) and enjoy the last simulation as I knew I owned it.

If what I am saying here makes sense to you, and you can think of other similar goals/challenges that can offer such an experience, I’d be interested to hear them – I may even take them on. I can say for certain that the feeling I had during the marathon (and still do) made all the training, blisters, aches and sore knees more than worthwhile. I am now thinking about running the Tel Aviv marathon a week from this Friday (two weeks after Jerusalem).

A little on the course – it was tough but awesome. I had run almost all of it several times in training and felt very at home throughout the run. The weather was cold, windy and raining. The wind was really the worst part of it. Many people got hailed on, luckily I missed that somehow – must have been in the right part of the city at the right time. The weather fluctuated so much that I managed to get a slight sunburn on my face (was sunny at parts as well). My brother-in-law Itay had originally registered to run with me, but hurt his foot a few months ago. Instead he joined me at mile 19 and ran the last 7 with me. It was awesome having his company. My time of 4:44:09 was 9 minutes slower than I ran New York in 2009. Considering the hills and a bathroom stop, I was not disappointed with my time, but I am curious how I would fare in the flat 26 of Tel Aviv. We may see soon enough.

As I used to do, here is the video of the course.

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