Thursday, March 16, 2006

Three Countries One Race

Three Borders Half Marathon
Jordan Israel & Egypt
March 10 2006

It is strange to say that you run your slowest half marathon and yet feel totally satisfied and happy with your performance. The reason was that I ran this race with a friend who having tried to run a half a few years ago, was determined that this time he was going to finish.

For the last few months, we have run as a group of four each Saturday morning just enjoying the time and the friendship that comes with those long slow Saturday morning runs you have in winter. Two of us have run marathons and the other two Chaim and Judith had never run anything further than a 10km.

You forget the nerves and the pre race jitters that first timers have when you enter your first real long run. You almost enjoy the fun of winding new half marathon runners up with advice and do’s and don’ts. From what did you eat for breakfast to what flavor gels work best and of course “You did put powder on your feet? Didn’t you”

But most of all you enjoy the friendship that only runners can experience on the starting line. The Three Borders Half Marathon is a new race here and this year was the second running of it. It is a cool thing to do, to say that you have raced in three countries in one race.

The day was picture perfect, a cool morning with bright sunshine and lining up on the Jordan Border, we started from the best position right at the very back, that’s right the last people to cross the start line, I have always been one of those runners who pushes his way thru the starting line masses to try and get a few extra seconds bonus, start out way to fast and inevitably fade badly in the second half, forgetting all race strategy tips and techniques.

It felt great to actually run at our pace and not foolishly chase everyone, and what amazed me was the fact that we ran a first great 5km just under thirty minutes, my heart rate was a nice steady 120 range and I was looking forward to the next sixteen km and not trying to count down the markers from a grimaced face.

The goal was to make sure that Chaim and Judith finished, Judith is slower and just wanted to run under three hours, we knew she would go faster and she slowed behind us, we made sure that she was ok and kept our pace moving forward km after km passed.

You run past warning signs not to leave the marked trail, as there are minefields on your left. Remember where we are and the fact that these neighbor’s have on many occasions not played nice together, looking down the fields the mountains of Jordan soared above us and the morning light was golden as we continued.

Maureen had a demon to beat; last year she ran this half and suffered badly from being over hydrated and had a horrible run that mentally cripples you for a year. As we approached a turn in the fields at 8 km, she indicated us that this was the spot where it all had gone wrong 12 months ago.

This time however it was different and it was like watching a demon being lifted, she took off and ran like the wind, she is such a beautiful runner to watch, with a swish of the ponytail she moved into the next gear and the demon was gone. We did not see here till nearly the 20 km mark, when she was walking back to us with water, having just run a PB she had grabbed a couple of bottles of water and had headed back down the course to support us, passing a bottle and smiling she kept walking back to find Judith behind us.

I had watched Chaim hit the highs and lows of this Half Marathon he had had black moments running up past the Port, you know that feeling when the Km signs seem to go backwards.

He kept running, past the point where he had dropped out years ago and his demon too was lifted. I cajoled him and pushed him, telling him to focus on one point and then the next.

The Egyptian Border Post was in sight when Maureen came back to us with water, we kept going as a team, past the finishers already waiting for the bus back, thru the Israeli Border and the Egypt Border was the finish, we crossed together and the smile on his face was magic.

I turned and ran back to try and find Judith and Maureen back down the course, in the distance around the corner they came together and I joined them, and like a Marine Drill Instructor I yelled with pride as we came to the finish line, Maureen and I pulled back at the end and waited as Judith crossed the line in 2 hours 23 Minutes.

Then the four of us got together and in a sweaty post race runners hug, we all embraced. Sometimes running is more than a stopwatch event, but a chance to celebrate the spirit of achievement together.

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