Colliding with Jabotinsky: Scenes from a Race Well Run

Written by Gidon Ben-Zvi, a freelance Israeli writer

My Jerusalem Marathon almost ended before it started, when I was nearly stampeded by a pack of fleet-footed Israeli soldiers, rowdy, riotous   and rapidly beating a path in my direction.

Unbeknownst to me, the 10K race that I was to run in was actually one of two races of a similar distance that were scheduled to take place on this cold, gray, gloomy Friday morning.

The IDF 10K featured future assassins, current platoon leaders and a motley assortment of toned regulars, tubby reservists and a multicolored display of various brigade flags proudly being waved to and fro.

The hit-and-run between me and the hard charging oxen narrowly avoided, I settled into a comfortable place on the sidelines, where I took in some the rainbow sites and circus sounds. The atmosphere of freaky holiday featured a brass band performing inside an abandoned bus station, humanity of all shades and shapes limbering up and Israeli rocker Si Heyman getting jiggy with it on the dais.

And then there was the race. With Elton John’s strangely inappropriate “I’m Still Standing” blaring through the loud speakers, the gun went off and off I bolted – wild as an untamed stallion, determined as a bloodhound, serious as a heart attack.

With Jerusalemat my fast-moving feet and a mighty wind at my back, I blazed a trail past some of David’s City’s historical, cultural, political and religious touchstones: Israel Museum, Knesset, Cinemateque, Jaffa Gate, Sultan’s Pool and the Residence of the President of Israel.

I was in total command of every hill that this 3,000 year-old city threw in my path: I traversed the short but steep Bezalel Street with the vigor of a young mountain lion; flew up the ramp leading into Jaffa Gate with the ease and grace of a cool summer’s breeze and hit the long Keren Hayasod straightaway with the force of a Category 5 hurricane. I was running this race on my home turf and was simply not to be denied.

Then I collided with Jabotinsky. The length and incline of my near Waterloo, which began near Liberty Bell Park and ended in the depths of despair, forced me to hunch over, focus on the asphalt beneath my feet and somehow keep my arms and legs pumping.

Theodor Herzl once wrote that “If you will it, it is no dream”. Well, I willed it, with Jabotinsky Street throwing up an iron wall of resistance; with my heart beating like a jack rabbit, I willed it; with a sudden hail storm adding the final, missing element for this perfect storm of adversity, I willed it.

And then it was over. The final two kilometers or so were as blissful as all outdoors. I must have missed the “kilometer 9” sign or suffered a minor stroke because next thing I know there it was, the gates to the Promised Land: the finish line on Ben-Zvi Avenue, near the north entrance of Sacher Park.

It will be recorded for all time that I, a humble man of average physical proportions but a zest for shaking his bon-bon when the full moon is out and the mood strikes, placed 496 out of 1081 in his “category”.

Not impressed?

Well, neither am I: 2013 will be the year I huff, puff and gasp my way through the half marathon. I’ll be the one in a black doo rag, glasses and faded New Balance sneakers. I’m not worried: I’ve heard nothing but good things about Hadassah’s ICU.

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