Report on the Women's Race Day In Tel Aviv
March 15, 2013
Soo... if my face in the above picture is any indication, I really did not have the faintest clue of what I was getting myself into for this half-marathon. If I can reveal a secret - one that I have repeated ad nauseum to many of my Shevet co-workers - I honestly forgot mid race how long a half-marathon actually was. Now, that Nietzsche character was onto quite a lot of things, but in this particular instance his adage that ignorance is bliss was definitely not true. It was hot. And if feet could howl, mine would have - but not in any encouraging way. I was a little discouraged that I didn’t know if I was going to run for 10 or 32 kilometers. To break out some of my native California slang, it was rough man. And it’s not really like I could have asked one of my fellow 35,000 runners this question, for I would have betrayed myself as a newbie. But I’m pretty sure my sad running posture and way-too-excited facial expressions at the orange slices offered at a water station mid-race gave me away easily.
But it’s cool. I finished. And much as I make it out to seem a little awful, I had quite a bit of fun joining a huge throng of humanity as we strove onwards towards some undetermined (to me anyway) goal in the far off distance. But “having fun” and the “non-stop party” promised to me by the theme’s event were not the things that kept me going. It was looking down at a tiny plastic blue Barbie watch hastily loaned to me by Ruth minutes before the race began. A watch loaned indefinitely to Ruth by a dear little girl named Sara who left Shevet to return home to Kurdistan almost a month ago. That watch reminded me that I wasn’t really running for myself. I was simply running in honor of those children like Sara who we are privileged enough to serve here. Knowing that tiny truth made it wonderfully all worth it.
This whole experience has been such an emotional blessing. I’m still amazed at how many people - without hesitation -supported my half-marathon financially, how my team mates doubled back to run with me, how total strangers helped me finish, how my fellow volunteers supported me and barely slept in order to come to the race, and how my husband loved and encouraged me from beginning to end. A couple months ago, I actually laughed out loud at the thought of me actually doing this. I guess it really is true: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
When race day finally came, and I found myself rising at 4:30 am, I was calm but somewhat numb. I wasn’t even able to eat much for breakfast (which was a mistake) and I walked out to the parking lot where nearly the entire Shevet Achim staff stood waiting in the dark. We walked over, we stretched, we drank water, pictures were taken, we watched Kristina take off in the first group, and then Kelsey and I headed toward the gates for the start line. I’m using these really long sentences and passing through time quickly, because that is how it all felt. I said the Lord's Prayer, and I heard the starting horn. Next thing I knew my feet were moving, my knee was groaning, and I was in a herd of people charging down a palm tree-lined street with 21 kilometers (13 miles) ahead of me.
I admit, despite my training, it was very difficult. The pain in my knee was somewhat helped by the brace I wore, but the pain kept my pace slow. I took advantage of every water station, (and there were many) to drink and dump water down my back. At one particular point of pain and struggle, I looked up to see an older man ahead of me. All of the names in the world, the back of his shirt read, “Running for Melissa.” My mother’s name. That helped a lot. I imagined her standing down the road from me, and I could hear her voice in my head cheering me on. My pace quickened and my stride opened. When I wasn’t thinking about my mom, I found a comforting prayer in the words of a familiar song:
“You are my strength when I am weak. You are the treasure that I seek, You are my all in all. Seeking you as a precious jewel, Lord to give up I’d be a fool. You are my all in all.”
I reached mile 10, and my body was ready to be done. Three more miles? My knee has had it. But just as I was beginning to walk, some Hebrew words came to my ear, and I caught “bo” and “ketsat” which mean “come” and “a little.” It was an older, Israeli woman. I found out her name was Karen, and Karen refused to let me stop. She dramatically told me how fantastic and beautiful I was, and told me to think about “klilut” or “lightness.” At one point we were chanting “klilut, klilut…” I really wanted to stop, but she kept me going and I am so thankful. As Karen and I approached the last 100-200 meters of the race, I saw my team mate, Kristina - long since finished - standing on the side lines cheering. But that wasn’t enough for her, as she cut back into the race and ran alongside me. She was actually crazy and wonderful enough to run even more to be with me! I love that girl.
And I love everyone who stood waiting and cheering as my limp body crossed the finish line and it was all over. I was intensely and indescribably happy.
Thank you to everyone who has joined me in the incredible experience. Thank you to everyone who is helping us to get the van we need. And thank you God, for showing me Your greatness, love, and faithfulness through it all. I will definitely do this again (but maybe give myself more time to train).
I remember when I was first presented with the idea of running a half marathon. It was about seven weeks ago when Ryan mentioned it, and rather than it sounding appealing, I felt an initial aversion. Perhaps, it was due to the fact that I hadn't been training consistently and race day was virtually around the corner. Having been a runner for many years, I knew the kind of pain and sweat that needed to be invested in order to be ready on time. That night, I put my objections to the side and gave it some serious thought and prayer. By the next morning, I was "all in" and maybe a little bit obsessed about it... I couldn't wait to start training, and to my delight, I wasn't the only one :) Six of us committed ourselves to hitting the streets of Jerusalem and reach for something none of us had ever dared accomplish.
As our mileage improved incrementally, so did our stamina and hope to finish strong. My love for running returned, and I felt so alive!
Several days before the event, another old familiar feeling returned: race day jitters, a.k.a. "butterflies." I had experienced this in almost every race I had run in since the time I was seven. Thankfully, excitement coupled with the comradery of friends won out, and March 15th dawned full of promise. Perhaps I should mention here, that Kelsey, Madelyn, and I were up well before sunrise due to the half-marathon start time of 5:45am! What is even more remarkable, however, is that our loyal Shevet family sacrificed precious hours of sleep, leaving Jerusalem at 3:45am, to greet us outside our Tel Aviv hostel at 5am. If that's not dedication and true love, than I don't know what is. What a gift it was to find them waiting for us with smiles, hugs, and yes, lots of cameras.
Energy surged as our group joined a massive current of runners and spectators all heading intuitively in one direction. Skies were painted with the faintest blush of dawn. Even so, the air was prematurely thick with the foreshadowing of rising heat. With the Mediterranean's waters to the left of us and towering skyscrapers to our right, Kelsey, Madelyn, and I readied ourselves with last-minute stretches. The intensity we may have felt, however, was buffered by the humorous fact that Tel Aviv's half marathon theme happened to be "Non Stop Party." Pop music and impromptu D-J commentary blasted from nearby mega speakers. I don't know if any of us were exactly ready to party at 6 am, or run 13.1 miles, for that matter, but this is where we found ourselves. Just before heading to the starting line, I borrowed a pen to scribble down the beginning of a verse I read that morning on my left forearm. The scripture reads,
"And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be--"The LORD is one," and His name one" (Zechariah 14:8-9).
I hoped that as I ran, I could meditate on these words and draw strength from them. That day, we were all running for a greater purpose than just running. Our desire was to give something of ourselves in honor of those we love and serve--the children of Gaza and Kurdistan. Eleven-year-old Jwana from Kurdistan informed me earlier in the week that she too would join us in the race. She said it with a twinkle in her eye, but I believe that there is a truth and a longing in her words. I believe that deep down inside, she has a dream to break free from her present state and run! So, we carried Jwana, and many others like her in our hearts.
Runners surged forward with one motion as the race began. I caught a quick glance of the Shevet crew waving and yelling wildly before heading into the heart of the city, and it made me smile. The next 21 kilometers of roadway led us through shady tree-lined boulevards, occasional band stands, and enthusiastic Israeli youth waiting curbside, beckoning runners their way with tantalizing cups of water in hand. For every sip of water I consumed, I poured twice that amount over my head every chance I got to keep cool. One thing I enjoyed the most was watching how many different kinds of people were running alongside me. I marveled as the lead runners flew by in the opposite direction, with strong smooth strides that were seemingly effortless. Several times, I felt my pace slow and my steps grow heavy, and was surprised each time a new burst of strength was given. More than ever, do I see the parallels between physical running and the spiritual race we've been called to run with endurance and courage. It takes a concentration of will and discipline of thought to push through pain and continue to the end when you want nothing more than to just stop and rest. No wonder Paul tells us that to finish well, we must fix our eyes on Messiah, the forerunner of our faith.
It was a beautiful thing to cross that finish line and be embraced once again by faithful friends who cheered from the sidelines. And what is even more beautiful is the thought that they were a tangible representation of a much larger community of friends and family that stretches beyond the seas. To all of you who stood with us, prayed for us, and gave from your hearts to support us, I offer my sincerest thanks. To God be the glory!
(Our marathon was dedicated to a new van for transporting heart patients. Please help us here.)
Report on the Men's Race Day In Jerusalem
March 1, 2013
The day before the race… So we (Jessie, Ryan and John) went this evening to the convention centre in Jerusalem to get our race kits. That’s a bag with a T-shirt (see photo!), some goodies, a time-tracking-chip and last but not least an invitation for a free pasta dinner.
At 6 o’clock we were at the centre where a health and sport expo was near the entrance. Sport shoes, glasses or water bottles for sale? No way. We joined the pasta dinner to have enough proteins within our bodies. So were were READY for the race.
One more detail: up to 5,000 runners will gather tomorrow morning for either the marathon or the half marathon. Excited…
In the cold of a morning in early spring, John, Ryan, and I said a quick prayer and headed out the door to walk twenty minutes or so to the Jerusalem Marathon starting area. On the way we began to pass by the streets blockaded off for the course: a silent foreshadowing of the rush to come. Nearer now, we came down a hill and saw a few runners for the full-marathon who had started half-an hour earlier come around a bend and speed into the distance as traffic police showed us around their barricades. We were entered in the half-marathon which was set to begin at 8:30 AM. I felt like a foreigner in the city.
Entering the marathon events area we explored all the exhibitions. Aerobics sessions were in full swing though mostly attended by only the instructor exercising on stage. Booths selling shoes, clothes, and running equipment lined a small valley about three acres square. A volleyball net was set up on top of an inflatable castle-like cushion so enterprising souls could engage in high-jumping maneuvers, mixing trampoline skills with the sport.
We headed further down to the finish line for the full marathon and watched a video projected on a nearby screen of various runners already in motion. The group of four frontrunners were hemmed in before and behind with motorcycles: police in front and their coach I would presume behind. All were black, and we would find out later, from Ethiopia and Kenya.
Soon we headed up the hill to the starting line and began stretching and taking off unnecessary clothing. Hundreds of people milling around soon became thousands, and we were jostling just to hear each other and stand in place. As friends came to take our bags, we took a few photos and then squeezed our way forward in the pack. The announcer’s voice was building up and he had already announced the ten minute warning. Mostly he spoke in Hebrew. I didn’t understand the words but his excitement was definitely catching. As we passed the five minute mark everyone began their last-minute preparations. Some talked, some jumped up and down, and some just calmly centered themselves and mentally got into the groove.
The man with the mike yelling through the loud speakers, building up for a full minute into a gargantuan crescendo, and then sent us out through the metal and plastic gate that read START. In our division were about 3,000 individuals, and twice that many feet slapped the road. I felt that I was definitely in something bigger than I ever had been before.
Through the next thirteen miles we travelled in this horde. We had started toward the front and even though I couldn’t keep up with my friends and started lagging behind, I never actually came to the end of my division. Half-marathoners kept passing me for the last half-hour or so of the race. When I had some more energy and was able to keep up and or even repass some, it was all within our group of half-marathoners.
The scenery was spectacular and the weather great. Running through the old neighborhoods I admired the grounds-eye view of a lot of the city. As I grew more and more tired, the outside world made less and less of an impact, and eventually I was just thinking about putting the next foot down and the next. When I got to a long hill going up to the scenic viewpoint called the Promenade, I slowed to a fast walk. Soon an Israeli encouraged me, yelling “Go go go!” I picked up my pace again and kept at it. Round each bend and just taking a sip at each water stand to wet my mouth, the distance was slowly ticking by.
Soon I was coming up the last hill and could see the marathon event tents ahead. Everyone was excitedly pushing into their last kilometer and I was happy to see a few friends along the way cheering . Getting through the finish line I soon had to push my way through crowds of people. I looked for my fellow runners and found Ryan. He showed me the way to drinks and refreshments where we met up with John and collected some medallions for those who finished the race.
Next we laid on the grass a while and soaked up the sun talking with our group from Shevet Achim.
We had made it! The misery and pounding pace were well worth it. I no longer felt like an outsider in this city. Now it is part of me and I part of it. My sweat and struggle are part of its history and lie along its roads. A communion of a journey is shared by all those who run in marathons.
Granite clouds, underbellied in pink, scudded Friday morning over the city, rammed by a west wind. Standing on the roof before sunrise in my sweater, I inhaled the mountain air and felt somehow that it was a good day for a long run.
The start gun was triggered by a lawyer in the grandstand. The jostle with three thousand runners began. By mile two the pack thinned, like a ball of yarn unravelled.
Looking around me, I could point to one in five runners and say, “Ah, now there’s an athlete.” The rest were like myself, ordinary folks just chunking forward, and rather happy about it.
Some gaits were bowlegged, with knees where ankles should have been, and ankles where knees should have been. Some old men had no hair on their heads, but certainly shampooed their upper arms and necks.
One girthy darling with water bottles in her belt wore the maxim on her fuchsia running shirt: Training Trumps All. The middle-aged man with the mullet who poured water on his head wore a jet black tank with a simple message in white: IRELAND.
The course doubled back on itself, and the leaders came in view. A dark man was out front, his chocolate legs catching taut shafts of light, slicing ahead mechanically, gorgeously. I thought to myself: There’s a speed boat. I’m a row boat.
Jerusalem was all around us. Little girls with fingers as slender as winter cyclamens held out their hands for hi-fives. Epicenters of music with strong bass lines discharged enthusiasm in quarter-mile radii. Pale green trees with seamless cream bark made holes in the soft blue sky.
Thirteen miles of asphalt felt pure and deep, free and strong. Long stretches of quiet soothed me. Weeks of training were accomplished alone, or in small groups, but the marathon was an euphoria spawning from the revelation I am not alone.
The animal energy of a marathon is not that of a numb herd, consciousness deadened in monotone clanking. It is a supra-awareness of being part of something beautiful that at most moments I am blind to. The streets themselves seemed to move and the city swam backwards.
The walls of the Old City were pinned in a flat strip beneath the brown spiraling stones of David’s Citadel. The marathon surged uphill towards Jaffa Gate. A mere cell in the deluge, I sensed my subjective vantage being swallowed by an objective sign of what is to come.
Here are the old and the young and the indefinables, the ugly and the sexy, the lions and the mouses and the sparrows, the balloons and the pencils, the Nike, the Velcro, the double-knots, suffering together, competing with each other, carrying one another, towards gates of home.
Pre-Race Runner Profiles
Meet the Shevet runners below, and let's work together in the race for a new van to transport heart patients! You may click here to make a fixed contribution to support their efforts in advance, or click on any of the names below to send them a per-mile pledge that will encourage them to press onward during the race toward the goal!
Madelyn Miles - The slowest runner on her high school cross-country team, Madelyn Miles has been a runner for many years, but it has never been a natural talent of hers. “I joined track and cross-country in school because I really wanted to be a part of a team,” Miles states, “but it’s always been difficult for me. Over the years, I’ve developed a real love for it, but it takes a lot of focus and practice to develop stamina.” Also the slowest runner on the marathon team, Miles was astounded when the whole team ran to Bethlehem and back. She says being a part of a team again feels good, but mostly because it’s a team she’s been serving on for a long time now. The Shevet team is composed of all types, including those not running in the marathon, and also those who don’t live in Israel. “I have faith that if I can keep putting one foot in front of another for 13 miles--however slowly--that others will be inspired to join the team for these kids, and to help us get the new van we need.”
Kristina Kayser - Shevet Achim's nurse, Kristina has long loved running, since a little girl. In college, she ran on the cross country team. Being in the out-of-doors is a highlight for her, breathing the fresh air, taking in the colors of nature, and rising to the physical challenge of long-distance running. The senior member of the Shevet running squad, she is a moral boost to the other trainees for the marathon.
Kelsey Cannon - Kelsey's favorite sport is swimming, but when the idea for a group marathon rose, she was ready. From California, she is a chemist by training, and an adventurer at heart. "I think the idea of running to help heal a child's heart is what is motivating me to do this."
Feb 17, By Ryan
We're running a (half) marathon! In point of fact, two marathons are coming up in Israel, one in Jerusalem on March 1, one in Tel Aviv on March 15. Three runners from Shevet are entered in the former (Jesse, John, and Ryan), and three in the latter (Kelsey, Kristina, and Madelyn). We're dedicating our sweat toward a new van to help transport kids like Atwar:
Here are the latest training updates:
February 17, 2013 by Jesse
Today I heard the word from Ryan, “We’re going to try running to Bethlehem!” It’s a straight shot once we get into the south side of Jerusalem and it is closer to our goal of a half-marathon of 13 miles. Running there would be about 10 miles and an hour and a half of pounding the pavement.
At first I was a bit taken aback: “10 miles? We haven’t done that much yet!” But then thinking how close the race day is, less than two weeks to March 1st, I realized that we need to start stepping up our game plan.
As Madelyn, Kelsey, Kristina, John, Ryan, and I suited up to run, a few thoughts were going through my mind. Running a little bit yesterday my calves were a bit sore still, I had just eaten a big lunch, and how awesome it would be to get out and run through some beautiful areas with friends. Complaining a bit too much probably, I slowly gathered with my friends as we prepared to leave. A few stretches helped my muscles and I started getting the mindset for running a while.
Out on the road we soon came upon Ruth with our Kurdish friends and patients as they had gone on an outing. They laughed as we jogged by and I couldn’t resist pausing a bit to say hi and giggle with little Atwar as he saw a bunch of his Shevet “family” suddenly appear all around him.
We headed on down the road towards Jaffa Gate and then turned south through the Hinnom valley by the Sultan’s Pool and then up the other side. As we started the straightaway I wondered how my resolve to run today would stand up to the test of tight city streets and rushing traffic. Running in a team kept me going a few times when I probably would have slowed to walk and just enjoyed the scenery in the places where the buildings open out a little.
Ryan’s steady pace made me keep up my own though and we gradually got into the countryside between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The weather has been somewhat warmer than usual and the grass, trees, and flowers are responding like it’s spring. Everything is vibrantly green and growing. There was a shepherd out leading his flock nearby the road and we admired his sheep as we headed by.
Nearing the concrete wall surrounding Bethlehem I realized again how close it is to Jerusalem and how far around we have to drive to enter it. Some Arab guys yelled “Sport, sport!” in encouragement as we passed them on the sidewalk and I raised my hand and added “Yalla!” – come on! Two wall guards studied us as we approached. As we got close one raised his hand to ward us off from entering the road that ran along the wall while the other asked about what we were doing. Hearing that we were training for the Jerusalem Marathon they both broke into grins and asked where we were from. We kept walking as we talked and each tagged the wall before turning around for the second half.
Heading home wasn’t easy and though the beautiful vistas were a treasure, I kept feeling the pain in my feet. With a bit of hope, a bit of prayer, and more than a bit of camaraderie, we pressed on mile after mile. Running in Jerusalem is a blessing in itself. Seeing the ancient city walls and knowing that we get to be a part of the City of Peace’s story is a blessing.
February 4, 2013, by John
At 4 o'clock we ran to the west at first. Again we went to the harp bridge and till we returned to Zion square near Prophets Street, we were running for 30 minutes.
Some stopped there, while Kelsey, Ryan, Jessie and me (John) would 'climb' mount Zion today. Between Jaffa-gate and Dung-gate we did I think the hardest part up hill half-a-mile... but with music and or meditation we go forward! Our reward besides was an overview to the Judean desert now with red mountains because of the sunset.
When we finally took some rest on top the sky was beautiful. It reminds me of the fact that the heavens declare His glory. I never get used to such beauty. We still had some energy left: we did together a hundred-meter-sprint. So far our training experiences.
I only want to share about one thing happened to me. Running on light rail tracks a guy stepped out of the crowd that was waiting for the train; without hesitation he shook with me his withered hand and encouraged me in two ways. To keep going, as well in a sense not to be reserved in case of personal characteristics. We are all human.. Or as a dutch song says 'we hebben allemaal wat we zijn allemaal raar' - we all have "something" we are all strange. No conclusion whatsoever.
January 29, 2013, by John
The idea to run a half marathon came up after Kristina wanted to run the half marathon of Jerusalem on the first of March. Yesterday we went out for training. It is the third time we do it, with 4 or 5 volunteers. We try to join her as "the Shevet Achim team" -- all wanting to run 13 miles (that is, 21 kilometer). But if we want 'that' golden medal we need time of preparation (1 Corinthians 9:26). These six weeks before the race we will focus on 'building up the body' so we might all finish it.
Let's say we did yesterday again 3 miles in 45 minutes, including waiting near lot's of traffic lights. We are running diverse routes; sometimes we run through the old city and upwards Mount Sion (that's awesome!), or we are heading to the west all the way down to the harp bridge and back to the Prophets Street.
The conditions are good (weather, environment & willingness) and together we will enjoy this 'new project.'