Three Shevet community members set out from Jerusalem to run in the Tel Aviv Night Run: Marisa, Sonia, and I. Along to cheer us on were Ruth, Sophie, Sarah, Kristina and Rahel. The goal: for each of us to sponsor the outstanding surgical expenses for one child. We let family and friends know of the opportunity to donate per kilometer finished.
As we got closer to the race area in Tel Aviv, we began seeing a few people in the pink race shirts, then a few more and more and more as we got closer and found a place to park. We all got out and began getting race-ready. After a few photos, we filed out to join the groups of runners walking toward the starting line. Soon the groups became a stream which became a river which became a flood. Now thousands of pink-shirted runners were flowing down the road. It wasn’t hard to know where to go!
Near the starting line, we stopped to ask God’s blessing and safety for the time ahead before joining the throngs of participants queuing up. There were five starting groups spaced 15 to 20 minutes apart for the projected 20,000 runners. We were in the last group and used the time to stretch, have a last-minute potty break, and even eat pizza!
Finally our group’s time came and we pressed into the crowds getting ready to start. After five minutes, our announcers came out and after a short pep-talk began the count-down: five, four, three, two, one, and we were off! At first we just seemed to run in place as the people around us jogged in sync. A few minutes later, the pack started to thin as runners found their paces in new space. Marisa, Sonia, and I stayed together for the first few kilometers and then began spreading out.
We were looking forward to running in Tel Aviv because it is much more flat than Jerusalem where we trained. The only hills we had to deal with were an arching bridge and a raised roadway. The track led through a grand park along a waterway inlet from the Mediterranean Sea. We enjoyed the greenery along the way, but soon I felt the fatigue begin to creep in. Fortunately, a water-stop soon came up, and I took the opportunity to wash out my mouth and walk a little.
They marked each kilometer with large overhead lighted signs which I was happy to count off as we passed. Reaching the halfway marker of 5 kilometers, we turned to start back through the park on the other side of the river. Music stations along the way charged us up with extra energy for a brief period, and some runners even found the vigor to put in a few moves to the beat along the way.
Passing the marker for kilometer 8, I began hearing cheering crowds! A little further on, I began to understand that the sound was coming from loud-speakers. The race planners apparently thought the applause would help us through the last few kilometers. Seeing the marker for kilometer 9, I knew I should start pushing to the end, but my energy seemed lacking. All along the way, the amount of people on the track meant that one had to continually be on alert to side-step or avoid a runner changing pace. The child I’m running for has had one of his feet amputated, and at that thought and knowing the gift of God of a healthy body, I began putting in a strong stride again.
Seeing the finish line lit up in bright colors and hearing real crowds, I was heartened to run the last stretch. Thank God for a good safe finish! I picked up a water bottle from some tables set out for us and headed back to the finish line outside the fence to look for my friends. Soon Marisa saw me and came over to give a hi-five over the fence, and Sonia came soon after. As we sat in the grass we talked over each person’s experience of the track. Marisa had followed an official pacesetter and found that motivating to keep up with. Sonia shared how another person had told her she was an inspiration to follow as she kept a steady pace. Our supporting friends soon found us and we started the trip back to Jerusalem.
What a night! And what fun with so many people all running together! We were all glad to have finished in good time and have the full kilometers tally to announce for those who pledged support for the children with Shevet Achim.