Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Week in Israel

One of my pure joys of running is when I run in new and different places. As much as I love DC, the same old trails and roads can be tedious and repetitious. Running in a new city or country is a great way to refresh the mind and explore someplace new. This past week, I was in Israel on a trip with twenty other young professionals from the Hill or in the security profession sponsored by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Naturally, anywhere I go I make sure to pack a pair of running sneakers and gear to steal away during some free time. We arrived on Wednesday, December 27, at 7AM and had a jam-packed day. My first thought was that I can't wait to get a free hour to run. Matt on my trip indicated he would run with me, but it didn't work out that way. I did not have a chance to run, but I had run home from National Airport Monday night before the trip for a solid twelve miles which allayed my guilt. Besides, I'm not yet in training for Boston - that is the line that allows me to ease the foot off the pedal and just enjoy running. This is how I know I need to run - what would I do without running? I did get a solid run in on Thursday morning, December 28. I woke up at 5AM and started pounding the pavement by 5:15 AM. My run started by heading south on the Tel Aviv Boardwalk. We were staying at the Renaissance, which was not far from the Carlton where I stayed in June 2010 with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington on the Birthright Alumni Mission Trip to Israel. After 2.5 miles, the boardwalk ended, so I turned around and went north. I passed the hotel and went another 2.5 north until I hit an airport landing strip where I turned around and headed back. Many people were out enjoying the weather: a few bikers, walkers, and runners and one guy cross country skiing. I passed one duo that commented, "Nice pace," to which I replied I was getting ready to run Boston in April for the first time. That gave me a boost in my step along with the view of the Sea at sunrise. It felt AMAZING as the run was dark when I started then the sun slowly rose. The last three miles were fast (7:07/6:56/6:40) which allowed me to call it a high end run. All told, ten miles in 1:12:45 for a 7:17 pace and some great runner's high to start the day! On Friday, December 30, I went out for an easy seven miles in 54:29 for a 7:47 pace before checking out of the hotel to head to Jerusalem. I simply went north along the boardwalk about a mile passed the airport. It was a solid pace that felt easy. After a full day of activities on Saturday, December 31, we had a three hour chunk of time free. I took the opportunity to run for eight miles, from the hotel to the Knesset and the park near it. From 6:45 PM until 8:00 PM I ran for eight miles in 1:01:31. I am not a night runner, but it was preferable to get in some run rather than no run. I had hoped to go out in the morning, but Alex, Seth, and Jared and I hit up Glen Bar in Jerusalem Friday night and stayed out late knowing we didn't have to get a move on until 10:30 AM and could sleep in. Glen Bar was really cool - it was the kind of good beer bar I would be a regular at if I lived in Jerusalem. It would fit right in on U Street in DC.
I did roughly three loops of the Knesset and on my way down to the park, ended up passing Kraft Stadium, a football and soccer field built in Jerusalem. I went to dinner with my childhood friend, Jon Schwartz, Saturday night, and he said with all the hype it received, he thought it would be like Gillette Stadium. Nope - it was closer to Deborah Sampson Park with lights! But, it was nice and there were Americans playing flag football when I rolled by. Toward the end of my run, I caught up with a young man just finishing college named Ahavid (sp?) who is studying politics in Jerusalem. He had been at a Jewish camp near San Francisco after his army service and then rented a car to drive around California. Many Israelis take some time to explore the world and life after their service. We hit up New Year's Eve pretty hard. First, I had dinner with Jon at some cafe in a mall near the Old City. Then I met up the crew at Tzatzua bar where Iftah got us in no cover. I remember going there with JFGW trip in 2010. After, the guys went back to Glen Bar. I talked with this girl for a while, but when [name redacted] fell asleep at the bar, the night was clearly over. We had an early morning and many meetings on the First of the Year, so we had to get rolling. No time for a run on New Year's Day. Woke up sort of early on the Second of January. It was cold and rainy, but I wanted to do some run, which turned into three miles of hill repeats in 23:45. I just ran up and down the long driveway to the hotel in Nir Etzion five times. I believe a short run is better than no run. Finally, I concluded my time in Israel with a five mile run in 36:46 for a 7:21 average mile with more loops of the Knesset. We had a free afternoon after our morning meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his top aide, Ron Detmer, Israel Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, and I am forgetting the fourth heavy hitter in the room. I asked a question that was answered by Mr. Detmer about the social unrest in Israel about the price of cottage cheese and housing and received a thoughtful answer. After the meeting, we hit up some Iraqi restaurant for lunch - Alex knew the place. It was nice, the food tasty, and company great, but it cost 170 shekels and an hour of time that we could have used site seeing when all I wanted was a falafel. I took Jared to Ethnics and he bought something from my friend David (I had bought Drew a chai there earlier in the week). Jared and I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre ("The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known as the Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) to Eastern Orthodox Christians, is a church in the Old City of Jerusalem that is the holiest Christian site in the world. It stands on a site that is believed to encompass both Golgotha, or Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, and the tomb (sepulchre) where he was buried. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century."). We then tried to see the Temple Mount, but were stopped as it was closed to us. After walking off the lunch, we were back at the hotel by 5:10, and I grabbed my running stuff for this last quick run as I had to be ready to go to dinner hosted by Lynn Schusterman by 6:30. I ran basically an out-and-back around the Knesset and toward some Greek Orthodox Monastery. Running is my "me" time and it is invigorating to explore different cities in a pair of Asics. Israel was great, and I look forward to returning soon.

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