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Tel Aviv Night Run 2014

Charles Libicki who took part in the Tel Aviv Night Run

Tel Aviv 10K Night Run on October 28, 2014 was the largest running event in Israel's history.

At one time, I thought of it as bracketing my running season, with the Night Run at the beginning and the Tiberius Marathon at the end. But I didn't make the 2013 marathon. And it seemed that in future years, the probability of my doing a marathon is in the why-are-we-even-talking-about-this range.

The late Jewish calendar in 2014 posed a particular problem, making for a compressed training schedule. I can't run in the summer in Ashkelon, it's just too hot. Then come Selichot services, which start at 6am, for the entire month of Elul. So I can't start training until after Yom Kippur. With less than four weeks to go, I had to ramp up a lot faster than is recommended, which I found quite taxing. And when I started developing mild chest pains I became concerned. And when the doctor saw my EKG results he became alarmed. And he sent me off to the hospital in an ambulance.

At the hospital, over the course of three days, they did a host of tests, including an angiogram threaded up through the veins of my arm, a chilling experience. At the end, the doctors pronounced my heart health just fine, saying I could participate in any physical activity I wanted, including a 10 km run. Which I did.

The previous year's run had been a lonely experience. I could not get anyone to go with me, not even to hold my jacket. After the race, by time I made it to the bus station, the last direct bus to Ashkelon had gone; instead I visited every village and hamlet along the way, chilled and beat.

This time my wife, Penny, made sure to get the day off so we could go together and make a vacation of it. We rented the last available room at the Sun City Hotel, a small clean place, between embassy row and the sex toys shop. It was fine. I would even recommend it.

The previous event was sponsored by Nike, and had a lot more flash, with percussion bands at nearly every kilometer, fireworks and pole dancers to warm up the crowd. This time around, the event was organized by a local group, Kapaimactive, and had a more community feel. They estimated 25,000 runners (vs. 20,000 in 2013) and as Penny and I walked to the launch point, we were joined by ever more bright green shirts, our gang converging on Rabin Square. 

Pounding the streets in the Tel Aviv Night Run

At the square the mob was so dense and the techno-beat so loud, that when we were separated no more than ten feet, reconnecting was nearly hopeless. We did manage to stay together until my group was called, the middle of five groups, fastest first. At that point Penny went off to meet me at the finish line at Park HaYarkon, while I channeled up with my group.

It was shoulder-to-shoulder moving into the staging area, loosening up a bit as we crossed the starting line, but even then too packed to really run. Especially with all the people who just then remembered to tie their shoes, and the ubiquitous selfies. I was surprised however by how quickly the field thinned out and I could settle into a comfortable run. Still, all the way along the route there was jostling, faster runners trying to break through wherever they found a gap, and runners who turned into walkers once they were spent, and others, judging from their body type, who should really not have been there at all.

As for me, I tried to maintain a consistent comfortable pace, sometimes dashing through when the opportunity came, or negotiating around the slick surface from the people tossing the water bottles that were handed out along the route. For some reason, I had an easier time than the previous year. I remember at the 7 km marker wishing it were over already. This time I felt pretty good at 7, OK at 8, and at 9 like 'that can't be right, I just crossed 8'. As I approached the finish line and started picking up my speed, the phone rang. It was Penny wondering where I was. Evidently she was not as happy with my pace as I was.

The most trying part was reconnecting after the event. After all the twists and turns in the route, I had no idea where I was. The fence that Penny sat by was not the fence I saw. The bridge she said I crossed I had no recollection of. And worst, with all the bandwidth consumed by runners beaming up their exploits, the cell phone was useless. I had to walk several blocks outside the park (turns out in the opposite direction of where Penny was) just to have the call go through.

But as in all happy endings, the lovers are finally reunited. And in one last age-defying throwback, we went out for pizza at midnight. 

 

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Saturday, 29 January 2022

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