> Spirituality > Personal Growth

Rabbis Can Run

July 30, 2019 | by Aryeh Markman

The only thing between who you are now and who you want to be is the pain you are willing to endure.

I am gearing up for my second Jerusalem Marathon which is over a half a year away. But given my last attempt, I need a head start.

Running long distance was new to me. But I was recruited along with 14 rabbis to join Rabbis Can Run. The goal was to raise health awareness and some money for Jewish nonprofits. In the process, we raised our self-image greatly.

We only had three months to prepare and in the midst of the schedule of runs I developed Iliotibial band syndrome, an overuse injury of the connective tissues that are located on the lateral or outer part of thigh and knee. It causes pain and tenderness in those areas, especially just above the knee joint. Basically I thought I was crushing my knee to pieces while my hip felt like it was disintegrating.

So I had to cut my marathon goal to 13 miles instead of 26, and I had to do it on Advil which seemed more like a placebo. God had a different lesson for me to learn: I was training to learn how to run in pain. My knees would buckle but I willed myself on. Pain guided my speed and made me appreciate that I was only an 8.0 on the pain scale versus 9.5, a level where I would have to throw in the towel. I was just grateful it would not be debilitating. I had to get on that plane to Jerusalem.

And such is life. The world is yours if you are willing to embrace pain. The only thing between who you are now and who you want to be is the pain you are willing to endure. And don’t even think about the pain. Keep your mind on what you are accomplishing.

I was privileged to run through the cordoned-off streets of Jerusalem on a Friday morning. There were people cheering us on, Israeli teenagers handing out water bottles every two miles with the most beautiful smiles, rock bands, and the Jewish spirit every step of the way. We were pushed beyond our preconceived limits with all the rabbis clocking their best times and distances.

I must have said “Shabbat Shalom” to over 200 people. You don’t do that in the Boston Marathon.

My goal was to never stop running. No walking, even up all those menacing Jerusalem Hills. Nothing was going to stand in my way. I was smiling like the village idiot with one simple goal: place one foot in front of the other. That was all that mattered.

My mantra was an age-old adage: There is nothing but God, “Ain od milvado”. Repeating that phrase brings help from the One Above. Try it. It worked. The Force was with me. So my marathon run ended up consisting of praying for over 2 hours while burning 1500 calories and taking 23,000 steps.

At the last mile I went for broke and ran as fast as I could. I wanted to finish with nothing left. I couldn’t walk normally for a week afterwards.

I learned to quit thinking about what could go wrong in life, quit thinking about my inadequacies, and quit thinking about worst-case scenarios. Shut the brain up and just let God deal with my worries. My job was to pray and to try with everything I got. Is there a better way?

There was no thinking about the past or the future; just the task at hand. I didn’t compare myself to anyone else, especially not to the winner, Ronald Kimeli, almost half my age, from Kenya, who flew by me like I was standing still. I was competing against myself. Aren’t we all?

I am transformed with a different outlook. Life is truly a marathon. See the blessings, see beyond our narcissistic envelope, and see the creation you are making over all these years.

And especially see the beauty through the pain and effort. Next year in Jerusalem as I attempt to complete the 26-mile course!

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