Sunday, May 6, 2012

Starting a Tel Aviv Movement or Dance Party

Two weeks after I ran the Jerusalem Marathon, I ran the Tel Aviv Half Marathon. Since I knew I was running the Jerusalem Marathon, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run in Tel Aviv. By the time I decided I was up for running in TA, it was too late to register. I looked for a race number, but was unable to find one. As a result, I decided to run bandit (without a number). I had never run a half marathon without a number before. I went to sleep very late the night before the race (4 am) and when I woke up, I began to question whether I wanted to run the race. I figured if it wasn’t going to be timed, what was the point – very much an “if a tree falls in the forest” conundrum. By the time I motivated myself to get up off my friend’s sofa, I was late for the start. I ended up running 2km to get to the start. I touched the start mat and off I went. I started off way too fast and soon discovered that I was not fully rested and recovered from the marathon.

In all, the race was not enjoyable. I was disappointed about my time (1:59) and did not enjoy the run. There was also a big time shortage of water and water stations, which was my complaint last year as well.
The redeeming factor of the race came after the race when I met up with my friend Frayda. Frayda and I met in 2003 when we were both studying in Israel for the year. She ran the 10k bandit. After the race, we were walking away from the post-run festival when Frayda suddenly stops, looks and me and asked me to help her perform an experiment.

The post-race event included a DJ blaring techno music from a stage overlooking a patch of grass (quite par for the course in Israel – also see my post on last year’s Tel Aviv half. There were around 100 runners hanging out on the lawn, some stretching, and one man in very short shorts dancing up a storm by himself right in front of the DJ’s stage.

Frayda told me she once saw a TED Talk that discussed starting a movement – the talk specifically mentioned a guy dancing in a park alone. No one joins the guy for a while, but suddenly one joins. They dance for a little while together and then another joins. Once that happens, the trio rapidly turns into a dance party. Frayda asked if I’d be willing to try starting a dance party. The idea presented in the Talk is that sometimes, the first follower is more of a leader than the leader. The first guy dancing is looked at like a crazy person, but when someone joins him, they make the entire act less loony and people soon start to think they can do it too.

So we head off to the front of the lawn near the “crazy guy” and start dancing. For a few minutes there, we are got nothing. I am not the world’s greatest dancer, and while I have made headway in my dancing confidence over the years, I was still quite the timid mover and shaker compared to Frayda and the nutter next to the stage. None the less, I stuck at it. Sure enough, about two minutes after the launch of our experiment, a group of three others started dancing nearby. They weren’t completely sold on the dancing idea though – as they shied away from Frayda when she approached them and started dancing with them.
Then it happened. Across the field, two girls start dancing, then a few guys come on over near us and then tipping point – the party starts, and just as the Ted Talk said, we started a movement. Frayda and I walked off as dance party founders leaving some 50+ runners enjoying a post-marathon boogie.

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