Shabbat Goy: Running commentary

Years ago, I came up with the brilliant idea of running a marathon before my 40th birthday. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

running a marathon_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
running a marathon_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I like running. I like to feel the cool breeze against my face as I run along the Yarkon River before sunrise, the satisfying thud of the pavement under my feet, the glorious early morning solitude...
OK, that’s a lie. I hate running. I hate dragging my recalcitrant backside out of bed at ungodly hours of the morning. I hate seeing trim fitness freaks waft past me as if borne along by the wind, as I struggle against gravity, my beer belly and the frailty of my spindly little legs.
I hate the silly catch-phrases that are supposed to inspire me: “Pain is just weakness leaving the body,” for instance. “A sound mind in a healthy body.”
Personally, I like my unsound mind just the way it is, thank you very much.
But I have no choice in the matter. Mrs. Goy once observed that she could cope with being married to a bald man or being married to a fat man, but she could not cope with being married to a bald and fat man. And since I can’t do anything about my receding hairline, I run whenever I can coerce my body into running gear.
As it happens, Mrs. Goy denies ever having said anything about me being bald and fat. Her view is that I run because I am vain, and because I’m suffering from a mid-life crisis. She might have a point.
Some years ago, I came up with the unimpeachably brilliant idea of running a marathon before my 40th birthday, along with writing a best-selling book and learning a foreign language. Lord alone knows why I thought up such nonsense. I suppose it must have seemed like a good idea at the time – you know, you’re 28 or 29 and the world is at your feet, waiting to be conquered.
But alas, hubris: I’ll be 40 at the end of this year. I have two half-finished books gathering dust under my bed. My Hebrew is probably as good as it is ever going to be – which is to say atrocious. Suddenly, my brilliant idea seems like a momentous folly.
But you can still run a marathon before you turn 40, Mrs. Goy points out kindly, as I sit with my head in my hands, surveying the ruins of a oncepromising future.
I can’t, I reply. The only marathon in Israel is the Tiberias Marathon, and that’s in January. I’ll be 40 by then.
But there are international marathons in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem next month.
You’re wrong, I tell her. They’re both half-marathons. I should know.
I RAN the Jerusalem half-marathon a few years ago. Big mistake. There I was, breezing along, feeling at one with nature and at peace with the world, when a woman pulls up to my shoulder. She’s wearing a skirt down to her ankles, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a hat. Ahh, bless her, I think to myself. Let’s show this God-fearing woman what real running is all about.
So I pick up the pace a little. She stays at my shoulder. I strain a little more. She refuses to drop the pace. I exert myself to the utmost of my abilities. She trots beside me comfortably for a moment, looks me in the eye – and I swear, she actually winks at me – then pulls away from me as if I’m standing still.
By the time I finished the wretched race, I suspect that she was already back at home, cooking lunch for her husband and children.
I’ve done the Tel Aviv half-marathon as well. That posed all sorts of other difficulties. The route was easier, it must be said – none of those pesky hills that are so inconsiderately scattered around Jerusalem.
But there were distractions of another sort. Tel Avivians. Or to be precise, Tel Avivian women, who as a class are generally not of the God-fearing variety.
It’s rather disconcerting being constantly overtaken by immodestly dressed women. For once, I had some sympathy for the haredim, and actively considered stoning my tormentors just to stop them making a mockery of my manhood.
However, I’m still more at ease with females as sexual objects than with confident women who whip my puny body senseless when it comes to competitive running.
But I digress.
It makes no sense, scheduling international marathons in neighboring cities within a fortnight of one another. No one in their right mind would be able to run them both, for one thing. But I check on the Internet and I see that Mrs. Goy is right*.
What on earth were the organizers thinking? Possibly Jerusalem is for the Observant, and Tel Aviv for the Secular. Not impossible. But then, there are loads of people like me who couldn’t care less one way or the other – sustained injuries to one’s ego aside.
Or maybe it’s the political thing. Jerusalem is the race for those who like nice Mr. Nir Barkat’s vision of one unified Jerusalem, regardless of what the reality on the ground might suggest to the contrary. And Tel Aviv is for the BDS crew, who would be rather be seen dead than doing anything to suggest that some form of coexistence is possible in The Home of the Three Monotheistic Religions.
Actually, for them the Tel Aviv Marathon will have to suffice until there’s a Gaza Marathon they can take part in. (Dress code: green, with an M-16 strapped to one’s back.)
Suddenly I feel very tired. Perhaps it might be best to forget all about this running business and just accept that there’s no harm in being bald and fat.
After all, Mrs. Goy denies ever imposing these restrictions on me. I’m sure she’ll learn to love me just the way I am.
But then, I’ll still need to find excuses for not writing my book or learning Hebrew...
*as usual, I’ve been asked to add.