I am a runner.
I am not a distance runner. I didn’t run in the Jerusalem Marathon today. I have never run in a marathon.
Friends will attest to spotting me running on a regular basis. 200 meter dash to preschool pick-up. 700 meter dash to school pickup. 100 meter dash to a bus. Somehow, I always seem to be running late. I’m always trying to squeeze more into my day, so getting from one place of action to another is a rushed afterthought. At work, it may be putting a few more books away, answering one more email, photocopying one more worksheet, or speaking to one more student. At home, I just need to fold two more shirts or wash a few more dishes. Technically, I should have time to do it all. Inevitably, though, the photocopier will jam, the phone will ring, the computer will want to update something, the student will be especially chatty, or the baby’s diaper will leak just as I want to walk out the door. So I am left running out the door. One busy day this winter, I managed to clock over 6km with local errands–dropping kids off at preschool, taking one to the doctor, dropping forgotten homework off at first grade, taking kids to an activity at the local community center, stopping at the pharmacy. This is not uncommon, but I only added up all my walking that one day.
Jerusalem is a difficult place to run a marathon because it is very hilly. For the same reason, it’s fun place to sprint. I used to practically roll down the hill in mornings to the bus or light rail. 7 minutes walking, 5 running. For many years and at various stages of pregnancy, I ran uphill to catch buses in Bayit Vegan. This was a good meter for judging the level of compassion and patience of Egged bus drivers. When they didn’t wait, I faced tests of my own to remain calm and patient, which I didn’t always pass.
I charted my favorite Jerusalem sprint route in the year I worked in the Old City. Two mornings a week, I ran from the light rail station near the municipality building, through the Jaffa Gate, and through the Arab shuk (market) to the school where I taught in the Jewish Quarter. At nine in the morning, this route was not yet jammed with tourists. Most shops were still closed, and some were just opening. I passed under the cold, stone arches, over dirty puddles, past brightly-colored scarves, t-shirts, bowls of beads, and tables of trinkets. The cool, morning air carried the scents of spices, freshly-baked bread, yesterday’s garbage, and tarnished metal. I kept my eyes of the ground ahead of me so I wouldn’t slip and thought to myself, “Am I really here? Am I really living in Jerusalem and working in the Old City?” At the same time, a smaller voice whispered, “Please don’t stab me. Please don’t stab me. Please don’t stab me.”
I still run, but I miss running in Jerusalem.