I hit rock bottom.
I had been running on a rocky trail in the middle of the night. At first I felt fine. I got into a nice rhythm. I was with friends, and our goal was to run about 40 kilometers to the Western Wall and pray at sunrise.
But it was dark and the trail had lots of rocks and despite my headlamp, I tripped and fell. Scratched myself up a bit, but nothing serious. I started to run again, but now my head was no longer thinking about running. I was thinking about Stella and whether I had in fact made the right decision to leave home and do this all-night run.
It was an agonizing choice for me whether to go. For the past two weeks, I have stayed as close to home as possible. Every now and then I did a local bike ride or run, but I have also spent a lot of time on the bike machine and treadmill so that I am around if Stella needs me.
But I really had to get out and I remember doing this run last year and loving it. So after Stella encouraged me to go, I arranged for my daughter to sleep next to her and at least three people had their cell phones on and by their beds. So I strapped my phone to my arm, got a ride to Bet Shemesh at 11:30 and met the rest of the guys who were eager for this annual adventure.
And everything was fine until I fell.
Anyone who runs knows that the sport is as much mental as it is physical. And now I had mentally lost it. I ran a few kilometers and felt horribly guilty for being out in the middle of the night rather than by her side. And maybe because I was so focused on her and my guilt, I failed to see the next rock.
And I went down hard. I shredded my hands and arms and knee (and later found out my hip.) But I really shredded my emotions. I was lying on the ground and could not stop crying and shaking and feeling like a complete ass for being out at two in the morning rather than at Stella’s bedside. If you have heard the term “melt-down,” that pretty much describes it. I didn’t want to crawl, let alone run.
I was terrified that Stella needed me, and I was nowhere in sight. I called Max and asked him to check on his mother. He called me back to tell me that he had woken her up and that she said she was ok. Now that was not exactly what I had wanted, but it did the trick. She was o.k. And if she was really o.k., then why shouldn’t I continue on a bit?
My friends — my brothers — picked me up, walked with me until I could settle my head down. Then we jogged. Then we ran. We ran another twenty kilometers. Running up from Ein Karem to Jerusalem is a beast of a hill. One of the hardest I know. I ran it hard and suffered. But it cleared my head completely. By the time we hit the top, I could smile again.
The rest of the run was just one more fantastic pre-dawn footrace through the streets of Jerusalem, ending in a 400 meter sprint to the Zion Gate, where cars were parked with changes of clothing. Friends from Neve Daniel met us and joined our minyan.
But to tell you the truth, organized set prayer is becoming harder for me. So first I pushed my way up to the wall and hugged it and pleaded with God that we have more time. More time to enjoy life and each other. Then I joined the minyan and got through the regular prayers as best as I could.
Stella has also had her falls and occasionally hits rock bottom. I can see when she is emotionally exhausted and lying in the metaphorical “dust.” All I can do is what my brothers did for me that night. Hold her and try to reassure her that she can — and will — get up.
It’s not much of a long-term plan, I know. But it’s all we got so it will have to do.
Chaim, Rael, and everyone else — thanks.