So, starting at some unearthly hour of the morning, some 35,000 participants took off, and tens of thousands of Tel Avivans lined the streets to cheer them on. The end result? One dead, 12 serious injured, and dozens treated for heatstroke and dehydration. Immediately, the buck started flying, with blame being tossed between the municipality and the Health Ministry. In addition, there were calls for clear guidelines regarding conditions for holding the event and questions were asked relating to the role of the sponsor (Gillette) in pressing the Tel Aviv Municipality to go ahead with it.
Long-distance running, even the shorter courses, requires long-term training. My son begins a special program months in advance of a planned event, gradually building up to to the distance and then practicing it over several weeks. During marathons in other cities, he said, dozens, even hundreds, of people collapse, and occasionally someone dies. What happened in Tel Aviv was unfortunate but doesn't call for a court of inquiry, as some are demanding.
But what actually makes people want to undergo the torture of stretching one's body to the limit, sometimes under extreme conditions? Well, for my son and many others, running is their sport. According to him, it's the ideal outdoor sport: it allows you to enjoy the scenery, especially in the quiet of a park or the countryside, while the steady, monotonous rhythm of running has a calming effect on the mind and the body. You are one with the world but apart from it. You could say it's a sport for loners, but that's not entirely true: many people run, but they enjoy social activities, including team sports, as well.
Perhaps my daughter, who ran the half marathon last year, captured the spirit of running when she wrote the following haiku-type poem:
When I run I feel
As my feet leave the ground
My spirit runs free.