A couple of weeks ago now, Alli said that I would post about my first race in Israel, so I think it’s about time that I fulfill this promise. As with most “competitive” road races in Israel, this was a 10k. For some reason in the US, the standard road race distance is 5k, but here it seems to be 10k. At a lot of these 10k races, they also tend to have 1.5k and 2.5k “fun runs.” Since I like to race shorter distances like 800m or 1600m, I’m somewhat tempted to run in these “fun runs,” but I think it would look pretty stupid if I’m going nuts and trying to run 4:40 for 1500m while everyone else is just out there for a casual jog.
Anyway, this was my first 10k race and it was a lot of fun. The weather was great…for New England. It rained pretty hard and was even thundering before the race started. It definitely reminded me of a few Manchester Road Races that I’ve run – except instead of 40 degrees and raining, it was 60 degrees. So despite not sleeping well for two days prior to the race and not preparing properly with my training, I still found myself full of excitement and energy on the starting line. I had a smile on my face as I listened to that familiar buzz of runners anxiously waiting for the “gun” to go off (it was an airhorn in this case) while loud speakers blared out bad “high energy” pop music to get us pumped up. By the way, I’d say that half the music we hear while in stores or walking down the street is American pop music and it was no different at the race.
So how did the race go? Well…once the airhorn went off, it was pretty much the same as most other big races in the states. In case you haven’t experienced one of these, let me fill you in. They close off the streets and have volunteers at every turn directing which way to go, they play music at several places to try to keep you excited and enthusiastic, and there are a few places to get water along the way. Also, there are usually spectators (sporadically) lining the race course, cheering everyone on. The race basically progressed as follows. A lot of people start off too fast and were already huffing and puffing a quarter mile into the race – not really a good sign if the race is roughly 6.2 miles long. I decided that since my goal for the race was to run hard and have a good time (no pun intended), that I wasn’t going to go all out. Instead, I wanted to do like a 97% effort, starting off more slowly and then picking up the pace throughout the race. Because of this, I positioned myself a little ways back in the pack for the start. As planned, I consistently passed people throughout the race as I ran faster and faster. It was interesting to see how the type of runners that I was running with changed from beginning to end. At the beginning, I passed a lot of people whose running forms were kind of atrocious. I mean, their bodies were twisting in all sorts of directions and their legs and arms were flailing out to the sides. I don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s no wonder that they were out of breath and finishing was a challenge for them because so much of their energy was used on movement that was either unproductive or counterproductive. Anyway, then I got to the group of runners who were probably in no better shape, but were more efficient with their efforts. These were followed by people who ran more frequently and were even more efficient with their forms, until finally I got up with a group of people that were about at the same level as me, and I ran with them for the last half mile or so. I also had a sprint finish with another runner and after we crossed the line we clasped hands and congratulated each on a good race. The one difference that I noticed between this race and the big ones in the States that I’ve run is that in the US, they usually put out clocks at every mile marker to help you gauge your pace, but in this race the only clock I saw was the one at the finish.
After the race I chatted with a couple other runners and Alli, and I hung out with one of them for about half an hour until they started giving out the awards. He was really nice and we definitely felt right at home. It was interesting to hear his perspective about how he almost didn’t run because of the rain (which also happens to a lot of runners in the US – I’m just a bit crazy that I’ll run in almost any weather) and that the hills “killed him.” I responded, “What hills?” Then I remembered that we did go up and down a few times, but compared to Jerusalem, I hardly noticed them.
Was it the same as the Manchester Road Race? No. Nothing can compare to the pre-race pasta dinner with old friends from high school, nor the special energy of 15,000 runners (from the elite to the costume wearing) and 30,000 spectators all congregated in my own backyard so to speak. It was, however, one of the highlights of this Fulbright experience, and I would gladly do it again.
Some pictures that Alli took before and during the race.