We started the run at four in the morning in the dark.
Thirteen of us met behind my house in Neve Daniel for a 36 kilometer run to Bet Shemesh. I was thrilled that Stella got up and came outside at the early hour to see us off. Especially this week, to see her in good spirits able to start us was medicine for my soul.
This week was not easy. Stella awoke one morning to find her arms and legs numb. At first the feelings came and went, but when it spread to her face we knew we had to call the doctor. We hoped that it was something simple and we could get away with a quick visit to the hospital. This was supposed to be an off-week in which we didn’t have any treatments scheduled.
But tests revealed that her body had gotten fed up with one of the chemo medicines. It had become toxic and started making her feel miserable. Make that both of us.
One of the consequences of this toxicity is that the levels of various minerals in her blood had dropped and needed to be replaced. She was exhausted which in a way was lucky because she was able to sleep during that long day in the hospital. In the afternoon, I was able to get in the hospital bed with her and sneak a much needed nap in too. But needless to say, I was quite worried when we went home.
But, the visit to the hospital did wonders and by the next morning, Stella was back to her old self. She was even strong enough to see our daughter Rivka’s dance performance. So with her feeling strong, there was no question that the long run I had planned was on, which brings us to this morning at four.
We ran out of Neve Daniel and along the short path to Sde Boaz, accompanied by one of the younger club members and his squad of soldiers. While I run in this area all the time, some of the guys from Bet Shemesh had been a little apprehensive of running out here in the wild west (bank.) Having the soldiers around made everyone feel safe.
We ran down to the main road and down to Park Begin. I had left some water and ice tea there at the ten kilometer point. But even nicer than the water and tea were the friends who had wanted to run but not the whole distance. Now we numbered more than twenty and took off for the next break another 10K away.
For those who have never experienced it, I don’t think I can do justice to the feeling you get running at dawn along a beautiful trail set in a valley. While the hills rose up on both sides, we hit a solid pace and just felt the kilometers fly by. And as the sun came up, I was able to shake off the last feelings of apprehension that had lingered from our experience earlier in the week.
Just like the run at that point, Stella and I are far from over anything. Yet also like the run, I discovered that the situation doesn’t have to hurt all the time. There can still be moments when you feel that somehow things are going to work out. And whether these feelings are realistic or not, you go with them because it’s all you got. And somehow, you can still smile.
We stopped again at Nachal Sorek and took a break to grab some water I had placed the night before. Then came the third segment of the run, a twelve kilometer path that ends with a river crossing. So much for running a slow pace, we cruised through it. The last kilometer was filled with jagged rocks, but what can you do? You run over them and try to ignore the beating your feet are taking.
Finally five of us hit the water and enjoyed walking barefoot across, letting the cold water sooth our feet while we waited for everyone to catch up. One more water stop and a short four more kilometers to Chaim’s new location for his shop, Al Derech Burma. We enjoyed cake, davened together, and just relished the feeling you get when you complete one of these runs and can sit back and reflect together.
Stella and my journey has always been a roller coaster, and this week was one of the biggest loops. From sitting scared in the hospital at the beginning of the week to feeling great running through the dawn at the end, we have run the gamut of emotions.
I’d love to know that next week will be “normal.” But the truth is, we never know what is going to come at us.
So we will continue taking things one day — one step at a time.
Thanks to all the guys (and Sue) who came to run today. There is nothing that compares to running with good friends. I really loved it.