COCA-COLA ZERO NIGHT RUN TEL AVIV 2015
“Maktub” is a word of Arabic origin that translates into “it is written” or “it is meant to be.” People that have read “The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho, or have an Arabic background will have come across this beautiful word before. I will compose another journal about the importance of the word “maktub” for me in the near future. For now, bear with me, as “maktub” guided me to participate in the Tel Aviv Night Run 2015.
It all started at the beginning of September, when I returned from one of my training runs for the Munich Marathon. I was stretching outside my apartment, when I saw a young man and woman renovating the café opposite my place. It appeared they were the new tenants of this space, so I congratulated them on their achievement and wished them all the best for their upcoming venture.
We got caught up in a conversation that lasted for almost an hour. The two were a freshly engaged Israeli couple that moved to Madrid in January. Both completed their higher educational studies in the field of psychology, but decided to leave their comfort zone and dive into a new adventure. Without an initial plan Lotem and Shai set out to conquer Madrid and ended opening a now successful hummus restaurant.
As a side note, for anyone that is living in Madrid or coming to visit, I highly recommend to stop by La Hummuseria and enjoy one of their fantastic hummus plates. The place is located in the heart of Madrid between Chueca and Malasana, yet it tastes and feels like in the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
Weeks went by and I still had not found the time to visit their place to continue our fantastic conversation from that one Monday evening. It was only until Thursday, the evening before I headed off to Israel that I finally said "shalom". Lotem's sister and her friend were in town and I sat down with them on their table. We embarked on a conversation about their military activities, the best places to eat in Tel Aviv, cultural attractions, religion, and of course running.
Shortly, after I talked about my passion for running, they mentioned the happening of the annual Tel Aviv Night Run that was meant to take place coming Tuesday evening. Both girls elaborated on the event and its popularity. More than 25.000 people were expected to participate in a 10 kilometre race through the streets of Tel Aviv. I was overcome by excitement and knew from the moment it was mentioned that I was going to compete. As soon as I touched down in Tel Aviv, I was following my mission to sign up. Come last Sunday, after overcoming multiple language barriers, numerous phone calls and questioning of people, and a medical check up, I finally possessed a race number that allowed me to compete. A race number that I would have never owned, if I would not have run on that one Monday evening, stretched at that exact point of time, approached two strangers, visited them before travelling to Israel, and crossing path with Lotem's sister and her friend, who suggested the Night Run to me. Those are the type of stories that deserve the word “maktub”, a story that was meant to happen.
I am in Tel Aviv. It is a mild Tuesday evening, at exactly 21:00 the Coca Cola Zero Night Run begins. I have run 10 kilometres many times before, but never in the light of a competition. I varied my tempo at the start, before settling for a pace of around 4:25 min/km, which transforms to almost 14 km/h. Coca Cola organised this 10k under the slogan “Make the city come alive” and boy, had they done so. Tel Aviv was enlightened by the sounds of DJ’s and different coloured floodlights. The run took me along the infamous Rothschild Boulevard and through the buzzing street of Dizengoff, past its bars and restaurants filled with hundreds of people, before the final turns lead me along the beach into HaYarkon Park. Though, up until today I struggle to recollect the last moments of my run. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the ultimate 1000 meters and falsely mistaken a few gates prior to the actual finial gate as the finish line. In turn, I started my sprint to early and when I reached those mentioned gates, my head and body expected the race to be finished, thus genuinely shut down any sort of energy supply, so that the final 500 meters became a quest for survival, rather than a sprint.
It was only, when I collected my medal, found my breath and sat down in the grass that I came to realise what has just happened. I was completely exhausted, yet felt very happy to have pushed my physical boundaries, despite aiming for the wrong finish line. Tears overcame me, as a mixture of thoughts was running through my mind. For one, it was the mental and physical exhaustion, then the emotions and tensions surrounding the event and lastly, the general thankfulness for having found this sport as my new passion and the vision to compete in the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.
I opened a can of Coke Zero and took a final deep breath before leaving the grounds behind to find my route back to the hotel. On the way, I was stopped by two police officers, Andrej and Nikolai, who were originally from Belarus, but migrated to Israel more than a decade ago. Andrej kindly asked me to take a photo with him and happily I did. I would not dear to deny a request by someone carrying a fairly scary AK 47 under his arm. Jokes aside, both men were super friendly and it was interesting to hear their views on the on-going tensions in Israel, as well as exchanging some words in Russian.
In line with meeting those guys from Belarus and pulling out my beginner's level Russian skills, I checked my official running time today. I came to discover that instead of my regular name, I was competing under the name of “Nicky Lenin.” After all, Mr Lenin, aka. myself was super pleased to note that I had just met my goal of running under 45 minutes with a total time of 44:57 minutes. I am particularly happy, because when I finished the Night Run, my watch had originally shown me a final time of 45:12 minutes. Maktub.