We had a war here this summer. No, not a price-war or a gas-war, but one of those ugly wars with bombs and rockets, soldiers and fear, of funerals and collective sadness. The kind of war that has air-raid sirens, where you collect shrapnel as a souvenir from your unfortunate neighbor’s wall, the kind of war when you listen to the news with a sick feeling in your stomach, when you know that a rocket landed by the house of a friend, or that a name you recognize will be among the casualties.
This war, different from the last war two years ago, affected me in new ways as a father and as a runner. This war stripped me of my fantasy that I am able to protect my children. Maybe this came from having to sprint for shelter with an air-raid sirens blaring, and a screaming baby in my arms, knowing I couldn’t actually make it in time.
Or maybe it came from knowing that if, God forbid, I were in the wrong place at the right time, that my best attempts to protect myself would be token at best. I actually became afraid of not being able to be there for my kids. I don’t fear death for its sake, I came to terms with death a long time ago; I fear death for the price others might have to pay.
Though, despite this, throughout the war I kept running, planning my routes carefully, ensuring that I could find some kind of shelter should the sirens go off, and they did. But these perilous excursions are what kept me sane in many ways, this is what helped me keep hate out of my heart, and to even consider the suffering on the “other side.” While I ran, I prayed, sang, cried and vented my anger and confusion. I know there were runners “over there,” who were feeling some of the same things as I was, and I wondered whether small bridges could be built some day through a common love of running.
One of the things I grieved the most during the war was not being able to run with my two-year old daughter. During peaceful times 90% of my runs are with her. I push the Mountain Buggy Terrain and she cheers me on. However, during those crazy days, distance running with her was simply out of the question.
When the ceasefire was declared and the rockets actually ceased, we went for a really long adventure together. She was a little jumpy, and the acceleration of a motorcycle at one point made her hysterical, thinking it was siren. She calmed after a bit and about half way through, we stopped and played at a park, something she hadn’t been able to do for seven weeks. She was out of her mind with delight and I was too.
As I realized in a fresh way, life is immeasurably precious and that going for a run with your daughter and playing with her at the park is a gift. I don’t think it is one I will take for granted anytime soon. We have logged over 130Km together over the last four weeks, but of all the runs we have been on, I will always remember that first one back.