"Tell us, How Does it Feel to Run a Day and a Half in a Row?"
“Tell us, what’s it like to run a day and a half consecutively?”
Ashmoret Mishal (24) challenged her body’s outcries and underwent a 125 mile long ultramarathon. Now she tells Avinoam Porat what happens when the body and the mind are not on the same wave pattern after fifty hours of no sleep.
Avinoam Porat, published: 10:12, 11.6.15
“I sat tired and aching on the gravel. I told my two accompaniers, my uncle Roi Mishal and his girlfriend Tamar Levi: ‘That’s it. I quit’.
I felt like a walking corpse and I did not believe I will be able to complete the last 12 miles. Another colleague I met, Gil Hagdish which also runs ultramarathons, advised me to reconsider my resolution. My options were to surrender to the depression and the low feeling, or go for it all and win big. Eventually I picked option number two. I won! I felt like a winner!”
Last Wednesday, at 9pm, Ashmoret Mishal (24, 5’2”, 110lbs), was one of seventeen runners who embarked from the start line at Kibbutz HaZore’a on a daunting 125 mile journey. She qualified this journey on Friday, around noon, after 38 hours and 55 minutes of running. Practically a day and a half. Running the distance, walking the edge.
Ten out of 17 runners qualified the ‘Round-the-Valley” course of Kibbutz HaZore’a, capital of the ultramarathons (above marathons) in Israel. She was of course among them. “I didn’t give in to the despair, I went with the hope”, she discloses. “My dad, Eran, passed away when I was two years old and unfortunately I never got to converse with him. My mom, Nira (a brain researcher professor, A.P) told me that my dad was very creative and names his children with very unique names”, she explains the back story behind her rare given name, Ashmoret (a night time watch). Her 22 year old sister is named Tvai (terrain pathway), and her brother is named Merkhav (The open space).
Although she’s only been participating in competitions for six years, she has managed to channel her passion for the sport. In addition to her being the running instructor for the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) track team, the “Etgarim” organization (Non-profit sport events for people with disability) and several other organizations, she started her own runner club. In her club she employs coaches, running instructors, mental advisors, psychologists and more. “My goal is to pass the empowerment I attained as a runner on to others”, she says. And it does go well for her, her daily schedule is fully booked.
Her first 125 mile run, almost 5 marathons back to back, and sleepless, resembled a Ferris wheel. Once you’re up, once you’re down. Of course she never sprinted, and at times she had to reduce speed down to walking speed.
She experienced three breakdowns which almost got her to throw the towel on her first time, eliminating the sensation she was a winner. “The first time it happened was after 75 miles”, she remembers, “I felt tired and exhausted. I told myself: ‘Wow, 50 more miles to go, how will I go that distance?’ On second thought I told myself I will do everything to overcome this.
The second crisis was after 93 miles. “I was already over a day on track, exhausted, fatigued. In the last 9 miles prior to that point, I simply walked. Running was too hard. I felt as if knives were carving at my feet with each step”, tells Ashmoret, ‘when I stopped, I met Gilad Kraus and he gave me a foot massage. He also reminded me proverbs like; ‘Never Give Up’, which gave me the strength to go on. Furthermore, I couldn’t take in any food. As you know, every 6 miles it’s routine to consume some snack or energy gel, and I had to run 30 miles on an empty stomach. Another thought that crossed my mind helped me decide that I will not give in to self-pity. I was going to qualify this with a bang”.
The last and final crisis, like Moses which has seen the promised land from afar, it got her towards the end, merely 12 miles before the finish line. “It was an out of body experience. My mind and body were not on the same wave. I didn’t know how I was going to make these 12 miles. Luckily, I found out that the rest of the track was mostly a downhill”, she says.
Ashmoret, what do you get out of walking “on the edge”? Why take these risks?
“Because it’s in my nature. If I’ve set a record, I want to set another one”.
A person needs a certain amount of sleep hours, usually between 6 and 8, weren’t you dreaming on bed and pillow?
“There was a stage in which I definitely preferred to sleep. In addition, I didn’t have enough sleep before getting to the competition. If you put together all the hours of preparation, starting with leaving home to Kibbutz HaZore’a and in the field itself, you get 50 hours without sleep. That is a lot. I certainly was super exhausted.”
What do you think about when you run alone, you with yourself, for 125 miles?
“Frankly, running is the only opportunity not to think about anything and not to be bothered by anything. However, at certain stages there were people who came to support and cheer me up, so I wasn’t running alone.”
In her childhood, Ashmoret was actually into gymnastics, and tried out different kinds of sports in Chicago, where she moved with her mom, which was going to school there. “The changes I went through happened thanks to my mom’s life partner, Eilon Beja. He is very active in the marathon scene in Israel. As I saw him as a very inspiring man, I also started taing part in this activity. I remember myself running a mile and barely managing to finish it, then 6 miles.
Later, Eilon took me to the Jerusalem marathon, and although this was a hard track I qualified. There is nothing like the sensation of victory, completing your very first marathon. I did it, and from there I went on to running 62 miles, and 90 miles. Each run was tough, but those who haven’t experienced it will find it hard to understand the satisfaction. My moto, as I learnt it from my running buddies is: pain is temporary, glory is eternal”.
What is the next goal, 185 miles?
“Right now I have not set a new goal for myself. I want to rest from this exhausting endeavor. Actually, I do have a goal, to run abroad for a few days in an area which I can enjoy the scenery”.
What about a running buddy to run these distances with you?
“I have not got one yet. I intend on making a specific choice. I have enough time”.