It’s about halfway through the 10K track of the Jerusalem Marathon. Running on the light rail line, the city shops on Yaffo Street drastically transform into a majestic new view. There, just as you pass Jerusalem’s City Hall, you catch that first glimpse of those ancient stones- the Old City of Jerusalem is just ahead. The sight of those timeless outer walls motivates you as you run; it is almost a religious experience. You are running to a place of holiness, a place of our history and of our destiny. For a moment, you step out of the pain in your already tired calves, and into the internal experience of the heart: one of wonder, and awe, at the incredible nature of this moment. How amazing it is to see this ancient city come alive with thousands of runners traversing its streets, pulsing its veins.
As you make it down past Mamilla, it comes time to turn the corner and complete the U-turn up into Yaffo Gate and your burning calves shout for your attention once again, pulling you out of the moment and back into the reality of your running. This is one of the steepest inclines of the race. Under your feet is cobblestone, never a comfortable running surface, and dangerously slippery in the rain. If you are not careful, you can fall. Yet again, there is a voice that pushes you to keep going. But this time, it is not an internal voice. At the top of the hill there is a marathon booth, one of many throughout the race, with music blasting and the sound of an announcer- “Alufim atem! Look what champions you are! Well done! You can do it, keep going!” That voice of encouragement doesn’t remove the practical pain and discomfort. But it helps drown it out and reminds you why all the effort is worthwhile.
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