Chaim Wizman's Running Profile Page reply
Profession: Attorney, Investor, Teacher
Year Born: 1967
Running Goals: PR's in 10k, half marathon and marathon
Phone: 999-6317 054-351-8009
Profile: Chaim is co-founder of the Bet Shemesh running club and its coach, designing and leading all the groups training programs. He has run a personal best 2:57 marathon in New York as well as five consecutive Tiberias marathons. Chaim believes in high milegage training all year round, averaging 90 kilometers per week during the offseason and 110 kilometers per week during marathon training. Recently, Chaim won trophies for his performances in the Jerusalem Half Marathon and the Beer Sheva 10k. He was the race director for the Bet Shemesh 5k in April 2008, the largest 5k in Israeli history, with over 800 partcipants.
||38:30 (Be'er Sheva 2006)
||1:22:44 (Bet Shean 2006)
||2:57 (New York 2006)
3:02 (Tiberias 2008)
Posted January 11, 2008
There's an odd sense of ambivalence that I always feel on the day after a marathon. On the one hand, there is a certain pride and euphoria at having achieved something special (albeit short of my optimal goal) but on the other hand, there is also a certain sense of sadness that it is over, a bit like the feeling when you finish an incredible book that you hoped would never end. The sense of purpose created by setting a lofty goal for yourself directs your energy in a very focused manner. It's that sense of focused energy that I miss most on the morning after.
I think the best way to articulate how I feel about my marathon is as follows. Although my personal marathon performance was somewhat disappointing (I ran 3:02 but was hoping for 2:55), my overall marathon experience was nothing short of phenomenal. What made it so was the size and energy of the Bet Shemesh group. With a remarkable eighteen marathon runners this year, it is hard to believe that when I first caught the marathon bug in 2003, it was just Rich, Sarah and I. We were joined the next two years by Ari and last year we grew to eight runners. The marathon organizers and the running community were so captivated by the phenomeon of so many marathon runners in a small and close-knit community that they are going to write a feature article on us in Olam Haritza (the Israeli version of Runner's World) and their photographer asked to photograph the whole club together before the marathon. Now onto my marathon.
My training suggested I was capable of a 2:55 on a good day. I had run a 36 km to Rechovot eight weeks ago at a 4:09/km pace which translates into a 2:55 marathon. The problem in doing this at the marathon is that it is very difficult to find other runners to run with at this pace and even the professional runners uniformly observe that there is no comparison between running with others and running alone. There was a 3 hour pacer who was running with a group of 15 ambitious runners but, as I wrote in my last blog, I had decided I was going to put it all on the line in an attempt to beat my PR of 2:57 in New York last year, so I did not run with that group. The night before, I saw Orna Blau, the second best female runner in Israel. Orna and I have often run side by side in races so we agreed to run together. However, I could not find her at the starting line and it turns out that she felt weak from the start and did not run strongly. The result was that I was forced to run by myself. This is a huge mistake, especially in lonely marathons like Tiberias where you can go many miles without seeing a single spectator and the field of runners in my time range is quite small. I literally ran every step of the first 26 km alone. I didn't say a word to anyone and nobody said a word to me until I saw Rich and then the other Bet Shemesh runners on their way to the turnaround point as I was on the way back to Tiberias. This 26 km took too much out of me both physically and psychologically. Physically because keeping such a brisk pace while running alone is a challenge under the best conditions and even more so when the heavy winds hit and I had to battle them alone without anyone to share drafting responsibilities with. The bigger challenge in running alone is psychological. To me, the joy of running is all about the shared experience and it certainly makes the time go by faster and more enjoyably. I did not have this yesterday and its absence had a major impact. Although I kept a very strong pace until 26 km, the effort depleted me too much and i did not have enough left for that daunting final 12 km.
I breezed through the first 5k in 20:30 (4:06/km), and the next 5k in 20:33, passing the 10k mark in 41:03. At 11k, I slowed to get the iced tea that we had placed in a bush on the previous night because they were giving out Gatorade on the course which has no hechsher and it is important to take in liquid with calories in the marathon. At 12km, just before the left turn from Tzemach to Ein Gev, the infamous East winds hit and, as usual, they were strong and merciless. I slowed the pace a bit because battling the winds is always a losing battle. Thus my third 5k was 21:12 (4:12/km pace). The winds kept on billowing relentessly until the turnaround and my 16-20 km stretch was 21:12 again for a 42:24 second 10k. I was still right on pace but the running alone against the wind had exhausted me. From 21-25k, I ran 21:16 and was counting the steps until kilometer 26 km, when my Naval Commando friend Erez, who drove up to Tiberias specially for this purpose, would meet me to pace me for the final 16 km. It was great to see him smiling and waiting for me at the 26 km mark and his presence helped but it came too late for me. Frrom 25-30 km, I ran my third 5k section in exactly 21:12, still on pace but the amount of effort it had taken to run this fast made it clear to me at that point, that it would not be a PR day for me. At 31 km, I slowed to get another bottle of iced tea from the bush and it was tough to find the a rythm again after I downed the liquid. Kilometers 30-35 passed in 22:12 (4:26/km) and by this time, I was really battling. Erez was incredible, shouting out encouragement but my legs would not respond to my demand that they move faster. Kilometers 35-40 km passed in 24:09 (4:50 pace) and every footstrike felt as heavy as going over a speedbump without shock absorbers. My body was now toast so all I had in my arsenal to get me through the last 2200 meters was my heart. I managed to do the last 2.2 km at a 4:35 pace and it took every ounce of energy I had left to lift up my arms in victory for the finish line photo.
The first 120 seconds after you cross the finish line are tough. You are pale and dizzy and don't want to be touched. You also say to yourself "why the hell would I ever want to do this again"? Then a remarkable transformation takes place. You pour a little water over your head, drink a bit and then suddenly, the enormity of what you have just accomplished hits you and you are seized with the urge to hug every stranger in sight. That is the moment I savor most. It's the moment I know I'll be back again for more next year
I spent the next hour at the finish line waiting for our other runners to come in, celebrating, trading bearhugs, war stories, posing for pictures. We had a celebratory lunch at the hotel and I was profoundly moved to see everyone glowing with a sense of pride and accomplishment. In the end, it was being in the room with all those local heroes that made my marathon experience truly memorable. See you all for the Jerusalem Half.
Posted: December 23, 2007
Taper time. Time for a little reflection. I've certainly been pushing the envelope this year. I have logged over 4500 kilometers since January and very little of it has been run at a relaxed pace. During the last fifteen weeks of marathon training, I have averaged 106 kilometers per week with 8 runs over 30 km and 25 runs over 20 km. So where does all this hard work put me eighteen days before the marathon? I think my fitness level is strong enough to break my PR of 2:57. Of course, with a marathon there are never any guarantees. The world's most elite runners do nothing but train for a maximum of two marathons per year, run 150 miles per week, get physiotherapy daily, sleep 10-12 hours per day and have coaches guiding their every move. And still, they often drop out of races or fail to live up to expectations. The reason for this is that the marathon distance is bigger than any individual runner. No athlete, regardless of how talented or how well trained, is assured of optimal performance on marathon day. Sure, anyone with the potential to run a 2:10 marathon can always run a 2:20, but in order to run to his potential (2:10), everything has to come together, a flawless training program, peaking at precisely the right time, an intelligent taper, perfect health, good weather on marathon day and being at his best on that particular day. That's a lot to ask for. It's also what makes a successful marathon so incredibly gratifying and something to savor for a lifetime.
The easiest way to be successful in the marathon is to set the bar for success lower. If you feel you are theoretically capable of a 3:30 with a heroic effort, you could set a goal of 3:45 and cruise and you are very likely to hit that modest goal. It's a reasonable approach but it certainly isn't the one I take. I am often asked why I have to train so hard just to shave off seconds or at best a minute or two over a distance of 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers). The answer is that I am close to the upper threshold of my athletic ability and the improvements come very slowly at this stage. I will be 41 years old next month, am not Kenyan and am not even a gifted runner. I was never particularly fast as a kid and never ran more than 2 miles before I was 35. Everything I have achieved as a runner has been the result of determination and hard work. In other words, I don't have much farther to go in my development as a runner unless I drop religion, family, vocation etc. and start running full time, effectively turning running into an Avoda Zara, which would not only be absurdly poor prioritizing but would also sap the joy from running. It also wouldn't do much good because my inherent genetic limitations would certainly preclude me from being anything close to a world class runner.
The irony is that everyone assumes that my running is motivated by a fierce sense of competition or the desire for great race results. I don't deny that those things are great but the truth is that, for me, they are completely ancillary to what I truly love about running. I love the comraderie, the early mornings, the sense of training for a goal with an incredible group of people as if we were almost professional athletes, the exuberant good health, the exploring of new trails, the freedom to eat obscene amounts of food and still stay trim. The marathon itself is simply the icing on the cake, the excuse to get together and train hard for an artificial goal which is, for me, a total anticlimax. Several years ago, I stupidly ran a marathon with a stress fracture and at 35 km, the pain became so excruciating that I had to drop out. Many people asked me afterwards if I didn't regret all the time wasted in training so hard for an event which I ultimately did not succeed in. I answered truthfully that I didn't regret one second of it. The few hours of the actual marathon were ridiculously insignificant to the eighteen weeks of fantastic training which preceded it. I would never do this if I didn't love the process. And that, in the final analysis, is my message to all of you who are running the marathon in eighteen days and to all of you who dream about doing one in the near or distant future. The joy of the marathon is the process, not the race. It's the incredible bond that you form with a former stranger who is also crazy enough to run all the way to Rechovot and endure the horrifying stench of eleven smelly runners sitting huddled together on the cab ride back to Bet Shemesh. It's knowing that you are in the shape of your life regardless of how you may bomb on marathon day. And finally, it's about having the courage to go out and transcend the traditional barriers of age and physical limitations. Every step of every run with every member of this incredible club has been an enduring privilege which I will cherish forever.
Posted: January 8, 2007
A more intelligent person in my position would never have run the marathon in Tiberias. I ran 2:57 in NY less than two months before and had trained very intensely to achieve that goal. The body needs and deserves rest after a marathon. The problem was that I was training a bunch of other guys who were so driven and enthusiastic that I got swept away in the excitement. I resumed hard training a few days after NY and never really tapered for Tiberias because I was not shooting for a very fast marathon. At first, I considered running the 10k in Tiberias and then pacing my ultimate training partner Rich Levitas through the last 12k of the marathon in his quest to break 3 hours. In the end, however, I decided to run the marathon and pace Rich for the first 25k at a 4:10/km pace and then let Rich go while I planned to take it easy the rest of the way (with a goal finishing time in about 3:10). The Bet Shemesh group was nervous but incredibly pumped up on the night before and on the morning of the marathon. We got to the starting line and as usual, Rich and I pushed our way near the front alongside the Kenyans. I told Rich not to think at all but to simply follow my pace as I was using the GPS. We started out a bit faster than the planned 4:10 pace and were consistently doing 4:05-4:06. We were in the company of some outstanding and experienced marathoners in a group of about seven runners. The weather at the start was good, a bit windy but cool and comfortable. Rich and I were both very relaxed, talking a bit more than usual. I would call out the pace after each kilometer and we breezed through the 10k mark in 41:02. Even before the turn by Tzemach towards Ein Gev, the powerful side winds started to be a factor. I told Rich to try and draft behind me but he could not because the winds were coming from the side (Southeast). Once we hit the turn, the winds became like a hurricane. My kippah flew off even though I had four clips and I struggled to keep the pace. There were times when I literally felt myself being blown off the road. From kilometers 13-17, where the wind was most intense, I slowed to 4:15 kiolometers. Rich felt I was moving too fast so he decided to let me move ahead while keeping me in eyeshot. I had warned the group at breakfast before the race not to battle the wind gusts as it would sap too much energy. Better to relax the pace a bit and hopefully make up the time later. By Kilometer 18, I was back on track running 4:06-4:07 and I breezed through the half way mark in 1:27:35 just a bit ahead of the planned 1:28. Rich followed closely behind in 1:28:40, a bit behind his planned pace but an intelligent strategy given the wind factor. At the turnaround, he signaled me that he was feeling good and I kept the pace at 4:07-4:11. Once again, the wind was brutal on the way back to Tzemach. It was great to see the Bet Shemesh runners nearing the halfway mark though, most of them with big smiles on their faces and right on pace. At 25 km, where I had planned to slow down, I still felt good so I decided to keep the pace for a little longer. I kept it strong until 32 km but then felt suddenly tired. In retrospect, I realize that I didn't drink nearly enough. The weather was cool and I didn't feel thirsty but it is well known that the body's thirst mechanism lags well behind the dehydration mechanism. Also, the sports drink distributed at the marathon (High5) had no Teudat Kashrut so I was not able to take in any calories during the marathon and I was probably glycogen depleted. At about 32km, I saw Rich and he looked strong. I told him to go for it and settled into a slower pace (4:34), feeling my feet groan with every step. Even though I had slowed the pace, I noticed that Rich was not putting much distance between us. From Kilometer 34, I started to really suffer so I decided to try and keep a reasonable pace just to get it over with. At three water stops, I walked a bit to get the water down properly and the walking felt so good that I had to force myself to start running again. At kilometer 39, I saw that Rich had slowed considerably and I caught him and asked him what was going on. He told me that he had hit the wall and that he badly needed a drink. I ran ahead to see if I could find a drink for him but there was nothing until the finish. At kilometer 41, I saw Anthony Waller of the Jerusalem Runner's Club (he had run the10k) who yelled out that I would do a 3:03. At that point, I was so exhausted I would not have cared if I had done a 4:03 but as the hotels came into sight and I started to hear the encouragement of the crowd, I pushed it hard to the finish and did finish in 3:03, seven minutes ahead of my goal time and just six minutes slower than NY. The minute I finished, I told my wife Sarah who was waiting for me that it would be a while before I ran my next marathon. But within an hour or so after watching the rest of our runners come in and celebrating with them, I was already itching for my next one. The post race steak dinner was great and the shared experience and the collective success of the group make the entire experience incredible. See you all there next year.