THE GRAND NAHARIYA MARATHON RUN An Inspirational Tale of the Nahariya Mean, Lean, Anglo-Olim Racing Team

Back in July I knew something was wrong.  I had volunteered as part of the Anglo-Olim community to help promote the Nahariya “Marathon”. It was scheduled to take place this October, but that sounded fishy.   I’ve been in a lot of races, and I know that marathons, half marathons and 10-K races require considerable planning and plenty of advanced advertising, and there is always the traditional pasta dinner the night before these events take place. 

 But not so here in Nahariya, which made me think that when I was told about the race in July, I figured that the marathon was going to be held the following year in October 2016.  However when I raised the question I was politely told, “You heard it right; the Nahariya Marathon is scheduled for this October”.

Well it turns out that in one sense I was wrong, but in another sense I was right.  The race was held on October 2, 2015, but it was not a marathon.  At best it was a 10-K, and at worse a 5-K walking race, hardly any advanced planning or advertising required, thank you.

I’m not at my best early in the morning.  I go to bed very late and need eight hours of sleep in order to wake up feeling at least half human.  But on the morning of the race I was up at five, and then there I was at ten minutes to seven with a bunch of my Anglo Olim friends, lining up at the starting line, not for a marathon or half marathon or 10-K, but for a 5-K walking race.

The Mean, Lean Anglo-Olim Racing Team

It was called the 2nd Annual Nahariya Run.  And I was part of a group of a dozen Anglos decked out in our special T-shirts (compliments of the Iriyat Nahariya and the Joint Distribution Committee), showing our pride and determination.  We all chose to do the 5-K walk.  I had never done a competitive walk before, but vowed to walk as fast as I could.  On Thursday the day before, I watched a two minute video on speed walking just to get some idea as to the technique.  I remember back in Brooklyn participating in a cluster of three races, referred to as the “Triple Crown”.  I ran these in more than a few occasions. There was this guy there that I often saw who did not run, but was a speed walker.  I’d be running my heart out and this mooke would pass me by, just gliding along, his arms moving like windmills.  I hated the S.O.B.  But on this Friday, I figured if he could do it, I could do it as well.  And so I did. 
When it comes to races, I have a peculiar superstition, which I do not ordinarily share with others, but with you I will make an exception.  When you sign up for a race you are given a bib with a race number that serves as your ID.  I always try to make my race number into a lucky number, sort of like a good luck charm or a talisman.  There is a Jewish mystical way of doing this that has to do with transforming the numbers into words that may have a special meaning. My bib number was the numeral “532”.  Adding 5 + 3 + 2 = 10.  Drop the zero, and you get the numeral one, which stands for unity and for Hashem...a definite winner.  I'm completely psyched.  And off we go.
For just about all of the race I was pretty much head to head with an Anglo Olah by name of JoAnn from Oregon.  She was fantastic, sometimes maybe a pace or two ahead of me.  Then with about one kilometer yet to go, JoAnn stopped for some water, and I figured I had clear sailing all the way to the finish line, oh, yeah, in your dreams.  I started chanting one of my favorite childhood rhymes, “I’m the Gingerbread Boy I am I am.  And I can run as fast as I can.  And you’ll never catch me”. Well in that tale it is the fox that catches and devours that smartass Gingerbread Boy runner, and with 200 yards to go there is JoAnn who not only catches up, but zooms on by.  She is followed by David a young strapping Anglo Oleh, who I never saw coming, and there he was, and there he went.  I shouldn’t be playing the age card, but these two athletes were 20 to 30 years younger than this old man.

 I urged myself forward, but the pedal was well past the metal.  In racing there is this competition between your lungs and your legs as to which gives out first.  Now, I’m in pretty good aerobic shape, likewise the legs, not having any problem at a 10-K race last month in the Shomron.  But this walking business, my legs were screaming.

I crossed the finish line.  My brain told my legs that it was all over, but they were not listening.  It was sort of like letting out the clutch too fast; I began to stumble around as someone hung a medal around my neck.  Hands reached out to me, steadying me, keeping me upright and then sitting me down.  A paramedic checked me out and pronounced me still serviceable and a young woman gave me a bottle of water to drink.

 I was content, happy even, not only from the dopamine that was beginning to click in, but from the realization that I had given it a good shot, that I had run a good race, albeit a short one. I did my cool down stretches, but was exhausted for most of the day, more so than any half marathon that I had competed in way back when.  The next day I had to take some Motrin to help quiet down some abused seldom used muscles.  But by Sunday evening, I expect to be ready to go dancing, and will do so as it is Simchas Torah, a good time to give thanks to our Creator for bringing us to the Land of Israel and for a very good race.