6:30 a.m. Alarms ring out from every room on the first floor of the small dormitory our garin calls home. A few minutes later most of the guys slip outside into the morning heat that is already flirting with 90 degrees F. Over the next hour the 2.5 km path around the kibbutz is filled with our running feet. In the evening another round of exercise takes place on the grass in front of our building. Led by Tsvi, the onetime West Point cadet, a few of the guys engage in punishing rounds of push-ups, sit-ups and a whole slew of related exercises that Tsvi was introduced to at West Point. Most nights do not end until each of us has completed over 300 push-ups over the course of the forty minute workout.
Tsvi was also my running partner on our morning runs during our first week on kibbutz. Initially he struggled to keep pace with me, as my month hiatus from running over the summer has hardly diminished the pace I got used to in training for my marathon in the spring. What Tsvi lacks in speed, however, he more than makes up with in persistence. I was the one, in fact, who caused our morning runs to grind to a halt. After a particularly long run the morning of Sunday August 16, my left knee came up sore. For the next two days I had trouble walking let alone running. So Tsvi ran without me, as I relied on the kibbutz swimming pool over the next two weeks. Fifty laps in the pool ensured that my knees would be spared the punishing morning runs and hence be in top shape for the all important army physical (part of our Tzav Rishon) that would take place in Tiberias on Tuesday September 1.
My last run before I aggravated my knee was also my most memorable. Near midnight on Saturday August 15, I set out for a rare nighttime circuit of the kibbutz. I had borrowed a friend's iPod so my ears were humming to raging hip-hop (Young Buck, anybody?) as the lights of nearby Jordan guided me around the kibbutz--once, twice and finally a third time before I called it a night.
And that is when I spotted the hedgehog. Just as I turned back toward my room I noticed this furry ball of arched needles flitting around on the grass. I raced back to my room, zipped back to the little critter and crept as close to him as you are to your screen before taking a dozen shots for the grandkids.
In the year since I first started this blog, I have never seen a hedgehog until that night in kibbutz. But the image of Sonic the Hedgehog, moving so quickly that his velocity makes him impervious to nearby dangers, was what inspired me to gift this blog with one of its two names, SonicInBeijing (the other name, of course, is Kefitzat Haderech). On my best runs I feel like Sonic, protected by my own speed and concentration from any dangers, be they gangs in Baltimore and Washington DC, unsteady bicyclists in Suzhou and Beijing or simply the unknown road that I have pursued from the hills of Western China and Ethiopia to the shifty deserts of Egypt and Syria and now, finally, whatever awaits me in the lands of Israel.
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1 year ago