Tel Aviv Marathon – February 28, 2020
Updated: May 19, 2021
To say that this is not the race recap I was planning to write is a massive understatement. This marathon training cycle has been an exercise in perseverance and keeping an eye on the bigger picture. More about that in my marathon training post.
But in the end, I completed a marathon training cycle completely healthy, and this is something to celebrate! By running a marathon!
I’m going to write this post a bit differently, but will cover some of the usual stats:
Price: 248 shekels, or $72. For a marathon, this is a good deal. And this was the late registration fee! To be fair, the full cost was 310 shekels, or $90, but as a Tel Aviv resident, I got a discount!
Weather: Started around 52F, ended around 72F. It was a sunny day with clear, blue skies, with a light breeze. A perfect Israeli winter day, unless you’re running a marathon! But in all seriousness, although the heat and sun did make things a bit more difficult, I don’t think it caused me to suffer. I applied sunscreen before I left the apartment, and only got a little sunburnt, so I consider this a win!
What I wore: Singlet, shorts, buff, hat, sunglasses. It was perfect.
Transportation: Cab. I live in Tel Aviv and the race starts about 9km from my apartment. Last year I lived in the northern part of the city, so I just walked to the start line. I did miss that part!
Start Time: 7am. This is my main pet peeve. There are more half marathoners than marathoners, so the half marathon gets priority and starts at 6:15am. As much as I love sleep, I would really have loved those extra 45 minutes of cool weather!
Playlist: For half marathons and below, I only listen to music. I originally planned to have a mix of music and podcasts, but this didn’t happen. I had fully charged my Aftershokz, but hadn’t used them in over a week…apparently they lost charge, and the battery almost died mid-race. I turned them off and found that I didn’t suffer without music. A pleasant surprise! But seriously, major fail, Aftershokz! I was counting on you!
The Race Itself
I ran the 2020 Tel Aviv Marathon in 5:32:25. To date, this is my slowest marathon by about 40 minutes. What the hell happened?! In short, it just wasn’t my day. But more on that later!
I woke up at 4:00am after…not nearly enough sleep. But I felt ready! I made coffee, had breakfast, and took my pre-race Imodium. I left my apartment around 5:30am. I tried to order a cab through the Gett Taxi app, to no avail. I then left my apartment and went to the closest major street, in hopes of hailing a cab. Just when I was about to give up hope and wake Lior up to ask him to drive me to the start, I was able to hail a cab. I had no cash, she wouldn’t take my card, but she did accept Bit (Israeli Venmo), so we were all set. The driver dropped me off at a highway exit, the closest she could get to the start area. I was not the only person walking on the shoulder of the highway, and between the police presence and lack of moving cars, it was a safe experience. I got to the start with an hour to spare, which was great! It was only a tiny bit chilly, and the early morning chill dissipated quickly once the sun rose.
I milled around the starting area, and used the bathroom twice. There weren’t a whole lot of porta potties, but the lines were relatively short and moved quickly. Of course, as the announcer urged everyone to enter the start corral, I felt the urge to go. Not a great way to start the race! The marathon began with minimal fanfare, and once we exited the long, fenced-in start shoot, a group of men peeled off to the side to go pee in some bushes. After a minute or so of jealousy, I decided to join them. I don’t know any of these people, and the odds of getting a ticket for public indecency were slim to none. I immediately felt better, and ironically, this was one of my faster miles of the race.
I could not have done this in Tokyo.
There were porta potties on the course, and occasionally there were signs that indicated how far away the bathrooms were. The signs were in Hebrew, but they did have a bathroom icon and arrows. I still do not think there were enough bathrooms on the course, and this is a hill that I will 100% die on.
In general the course was pleasant enough, although there were some areas that felt a bit dodgy. For example, around KM 18 or so, I was running through a semi-abandoned storage area in the Jaffa docks. I felt like I was in a video game, about to encounter an ambush. Or one of those scenes from the Marvel TV shows, where people are hiding on top of/behind shipping containers. It was nice to always have a general idea where I was, but the view wasn’t always scenic.
One majorly important part of running a marathon is the crowd support. It can really help! The beginning of the race was early in the morning and in a less central area of the city. Throughout the day, there were more and more people around…and most of them couldn’t care less that there was a race. In fact, people on bikes and electric scooters were often zipping around the course. It was demoralizing. A highlight of the course were all of the wonderful volunteers, and the little kids cheering. Small children, you made me feel so special and amazing! Thank you!
And then there’s Lior, who met me five times on the course! That’s once more than we originally planned! Let me tell you, this was VERY necessary. I felt good for the first 13+ kilometers. Sometime around KM 14, my left knee started to hurt. A lot. Technically, it’s my left IT band…which has acted up during every marathon I’ve run…but usually around 25-28km, not this early. I’m really not sure what caused this. I wasn’t running too fast, and during the three 26km runs I did in preparation for the marathon, I had zero pain. Maybe it was the hills? Honestly, I have no clue. I began walking when the pain became to sharp/stabby, and then ran once I felt better/until the pain returned. I texted Lior and asked him to bring me some Advil/Ibuprofen, because I didn’t think I could finish the race without it.
Around KM 36, when I was feeling mostly better–I was almost done!
When I saw Lior around km 23 (his purple sign gave him away, but also there was almost nobody cheering, so he was impossible to miss), I started BAWLING. Accepting that I wasn’t going to run a PR or a “fast” (for me) time was easy. But being in pain for over half the race? That was daunting. Luckily, Lior brought medicine (and hugs). I took the pills, and seeing him gave me a boost of adrenaline, so much so that the pain temporarily disappeared. Ultimately, the Advil worked. But then nausea set in. Again, I have no idea why. I had hiccups that felt like they could go south, and I dry heaved twice while on the course. In the end, I decided to skip my last round of shot bloks (I typically take them every 5 miles, but stopped after mile 15), because they just were not sitting well. I wasn’t afraid of throwing up–I was afraid that a medic would see me throw up and pull me from the race. So whenever I felt a bit nauseous, I walked. If my knee bothered me, I walked. If there was a hill, I walked. You get the idea.
When I finally saw the finish line, I was so relieved to be done. Don’t get me wrong–I was also extremely proud of myself! But this experience was so physically painful, that I was ready to put it behind me. My body was just not on my side. Mentally, I felt okay, and I didn’t even get bored with the lack of music. Today, my victory was that I finished.
Smiling because IT’S OVER!
One benefit of Israeli races is that they usually offer free pictures. Here are some of mine:
The Tokyo Marathon medal was prettier, but I’ll take this one! It’s the same design for all of the distances (5K to marathon), but the marathon medal is a bit bigger.
Maybe if I trained to run the Tel Aviv Marathon course, my race would have gone differently. Maybe if I’d done long runs that were longer than 16 miles, my race would have gone differently. Honestly, I don’t know. I really think that the day was a perfect storm where everything just happened to go wrong at the same time, and I’ve made my peace with that. For now, I’m going to take time off and recover, and eventually get back to running.
Will I run another marathon? I’m not sure. I do enjoy the training process, but it just takes SO. MUCH. TIME. I will definitely return to half marathons and below. Eventually.