Monday, January 13, 2014

Run Where Jesus Walked -- A Bucket List Race

Every once in awhile a Bucket List opportunity comes your way.  And if you're lucky enough to take it, you'll have an experience and a story to tell for the rest of your life.  My friend Mike Wares recently got the chance to run a marathon along the Sea of Galilee in Israel.  Here are the race reports from him and Ron:

From Mike: Ron Koontz and I just finished the marathon in Tiberias, Israel.  The course was an out an back course that runs around the south end of the Sea of Galilee.   The course crosses the Jordan river about 10Km into the race and then continues north up to a Kibbutz called Ein Gev at the turn-around at 21km.  The weather was perfect for the race, cool, overcast, slight headwinds on the way out and then tailwinds on the way back.  The course is pretty much flat with some very slight hills but nothing crazy.  

One of the cool things in the race is that since it is out and back, you get to see the leaders battling it out on the way back.  I think we saw them at about 16 or 17km.  The prize purse for breaking the course record was $100,000 and since Israel is pretty close to North Africa, they had a good showing of runners from Ethiopia and Kenya.  The winner went 2:10, which was only a few seconds from the course record.  Ron and I got a picture with one of the Kenyan runners before the race.  He said he was going to win and when we saw him he was in third.  I think an Ethiopian guy actually won the race. 
Our plan was to run steady, enjoy the opportunity to run where Jesus walked, and finish under 4 hrs.  We settled into an early pace of about 8:30-8:40 and pretty much held it through the race.  My foot starting hurting from about five miles in and at the turn-around every step was pretty painful.  Ron was better prepared than me and at about the 30km I trailed off.  Ron finished at around 3:51 and I finished at 3:57.  We ran with an Israeli named Eron for a good part of the race running his first marathon.  It was fun to talk with him and push him to a strong finish. 
Overall it was a great time.  Definitely a bucket list event and something that I will never forget.  

From Ron:  We had a hectic day prior to the race – flying/driving to Tiberias in spotty/heavy traffic, trying to meet the 7pm packet pickup time. The pre-race pasta meal was in the past and we compromised for kabob chicken at our hotel.
I am most grateful for our running club and the warm support from our entire local running group. During the run, I felt like the entire group was there in spirit pulling us along. I won’t forget the 2 hours of sleep I had the night before – even with a 10 mg Ambien.  During the race, Mike provided me with encouragement all the way – from medical advice, nutrition care, tips, guidance and I am most appreciative.  I remember my pre-race anxiety on knee/side pains and overhydration/jitters and frequent bathroom visits.  It was fun running together, having Mike calling out paces, times and encouragement and also inviting others into conversation  At 30K or so, Mike set me free – to either crash and burn or finish strong. Of course our local running group that welcomed me into it with open arms doesn’t crash and burn, we finish strong!
I will also not soon forget the strong breezes blowing headwinds our way both during the outbound and return portions of our run.  Watching the Kenyans and Ethiopians jockey for lead positions was truly priceless.  The Israeli culture and individuals who supported us along the way were awesome, from Itay and Hadas from Elbit who sacrificed family time to come see us, to the 31 year old 3rd grade teacher who ran the last 4 km with me up to the 200 yards remaining stands out.  This gentleman was thrilled to run with just an average American and provide race finish comforting dialog. 
What an amazing and life changing event – I am most grateful to have had this opportunity.

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Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True