On February 27, I ran for 2 hours and 15 minutes. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could run that long and consistently without feeling completely nauseated, bored or physically unable. Completing a 13-mile run was something so invigorating – I wouldn’t go as far to say outer-body – but the experience of running in the 2015 Tel Aviv Marathon was about as close to pure exhilaration I have felt in a very long time. It was pure joy. Pure accomplishment.
I was able to feel how strong my body is. I felt aware and extremely grateful for every muscle I owned. I trained myself to be strong enough. I trained my mind to get over my large mental hurdle of running that far. I’m not claiming to be an expert runner. I’m not claiming to be very fast or have good form. But I was able to ready my lungs, legs and mind for a half marathon. It was awesome.
Why else do I feel so accomplished? No one helped me do it. I was the captain, director, manager – whatever metaphor you’d like to use – of this goal. I didn’t have a boyfriend or trainer at my heels pushing me along. I may have gotten some tips from some seasoned runners, but for the most part, I can take complete credit for making it happen. I’ve realized those kind of accomplishments come few and far between in life.
Aside from my preparedness and self-motivation, the run was just plain fun. Tel Aviv shut down for the morning. Roads were closed off and we had the “run” of the city. No traffic to worry about. No uneven pavement. We even ran by the beautiful beach! Every few kilometers volunteers pushed refreshing and much needed water at us. Kids lined the streets for a chance at a high five. Tel Avivians made a day of it, sitting in cafes along the race route, cheering us on with admiration. I even saw men in their kippot and tzitzit – another reminder that I was in the land o’ Israel. The sky was sunny and blue and the trees provided the perfect amount of shade. Music laced the streets and picked us up as we rolled on. Most importantly, the force of thousands of runners gave off an energy like nothing I’d ever felt before. The drumming of heels vibrated through my aches and pains and made me feel numb to giving up.
All through the race, I thought about my time here in Israel. I talked myself up, which I realize I never seem to do. It was the first time I was nice to myself. I gave myself credit for all the things I’d done here in the last 6 months. All the people I helped and all of the experiences I think I made better for myself and others. I know I won’t and shouldn’t feel like that all the time, but after a physically, emotionally and mentally taxing year, it felt wholly deserved. I felt worthy of my accomplishments. I felt proud and serene. I felt fucking awesome.
I crossed the finish line in a breathless release of nerves and worry. I let go of my aching feet and muscles and smiled up at that Middle Eastern sky with an overwhelming feeling of happiness. Yes, I was high on pulsing adrenaline and endorphins, but I also think it was my realization of accomplishment that contributed to the overflowing joy.
I urge everyone to find something that makes them feel like that. I won’t get all existential on you, but this kind of joy is just good for the soul. I feel relieved. I feel regenerated. Accomplishing something like this, especially one so physically challenging (in my opinion), makes you feel like you have and can do a lot. Not anything, but a lot. Especially if you really want it.
So cheers to the moments that literally and figuratively take your breath away. May they come well-deserved and plentiful to those who want it bad enough.
And just for the memories, here’s a song that got me through!