It seemed like a good idea at the time. A local charity was looking for people to run a half-marathon to raise money. A half-marathon was enough of a challenge, that it would keep me motivated to stay fit over the busy Yom Tov season, and although I had never done anything like this to raise money for a charity, I was prepared to give it a go and hopefully) support a good cause at the same time!
I soon realised that while it seemed like a good idea in theory, in practice it seemed that every day was the day before Yom Tov, the day after Yom Tov or Yom Tov itself! So getting those training runs in was, shall we say, a challenge! I didn’t get nearly as many runs in as I was hoping, and I approached the race day not feeling as prepared as I would have liked.
Well, regardless of how ready I felt, the half-marathon dawned bright and early. I had to be there for 8 a.m., as the race started at 8:30. (Who schedules something like that for so early in the morning?) And to boot, it was a warm day—it’s almost never warm in Manchester in September!
As I started the run, I definitely felt the heat of the sun shining down on me. I was parched, and it seemed like the first water station was nowhere in sight. I was not feeling great, but I also knew that it was way too early in the game to start feeling like this. I also knew from my training runs that it takes a couple of kilometres to start getting into it, just like any new thing we take on—beginnings are hard! Sometimes it’s hard because the new thing is uncomfortable, but sometimes it’s because of our fear. We are worried either about how we are going achieve it, or how we will manage to sustain it.
I knew that the discomfort I was experiencing was mostly my brain saying, Oh my! How am I going to manage to run 21.1 km? And with the sun beating down on me! When I reached the first water station and had a drink, things started to get easier, and I got more into the run. I was also pleasantly surprised to realise that I was running faster than I thought I would.
As I passed each mile-marker, a part of me felt, Oh no! Still so much more to run! I made an effort to replace that thought by reminding myself that I had already run so many miles, and I wouldn’t have to run those miles again (not in this half-marathon anyway!). I find that when we are taking on a new mitzvah, or working on upgrading our middos or
mitzvos, we often get sucked into looking at how much progress we have yet to make, we become deflated. But when we look back and see how much progress we have already made, it uplifts us and gives us a surge of energy to keep on going!
I must have been the only one, out of over 4,000 runners, running in a skirt and sheitel; yet, there were many people running for different charities who were dressed to advertise them. There was one particular runner I ran past who stuck out. He ran with a giant pair of scissors on his back and a purple crown on his head, for a charity that donates hair to make wigs for sick children. I couldn’t help but notice how proud he was to be dressed in that way, even though I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to be running like that!
Wow! That certainly changed my perspective! If he could be so proud of dressing so differently, it filled me with a sense of pride for the way I was dressed! It was a reminder that, yes, baruch Hashem, I have a body—a healthy body that can run—but I also have a soul—a divine soul! It was a reminder not to become so blinded by the physical and forget what we are really here for, because let’s face it (or maybe it’s just me), in the world we live in it’s so easy to be
consumed by the physical material world, that we forget about growing our soul.
So, thank you to this runner, who reminded me to run with pride with my skirt, long sleeves and, yes, sheitel, and how it reminded me to keep my neshamah front and foremost in my life.
As I was approached the 16 km mark in the run, I was really feeling weary, and it was a struggle. I needed to slow down and walk for a bit. I also passed a few people who had collapsed and were being treated by medics, which didn’t help! Then I heard someone calling my name! Someone I knew was standing on the side to cheer on her family member who was also doing the run. It was amazing what a lift that gave me, seeing someone on the side cheering me on. It made me feel I could do it and gave me the energy I needed to put a bit more effort into it.
I was really impressed with the people who chose to come out on an early Sunday morning just to show support for the runners. It made me realise how we can do that for others too, by giving a smile, a recognition, a kind word. When we notice other people, the effort they are putting in and what they are doing, and we offer a kind word to them, it can
really give them energy! It’s a lesson I hope I will carry with me now that the race is over!
Finally, finally, I got to the last mile! I could see the countdown, 800 metres to go. It felt so close, and yet so far! My legs were so tired as they ran the last few hundred metres until finally, I could see the finish line, and I gave myself the push to run through it!! It felt so great to finish and to exceed my fundraising target. I also learned so much from
this experience: how to celebrate our progress, to support others and to take pride in dressing tznius and what it represents!
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