A Marathon For Meshuganehs


Carlos Goldberg, an immigrant from Argentina, fell in love with long-distance hiking as a member of the Israeli Army’s elite Golani Brigade four decades ago, and never put his hiking shoes away.

Now a resident of a moshav in northern Israel near the Lebanese border, he regularly hikes on Israel’s trails; two years ago he did the 777-mile Border Run around Israel. He’s competed in marathons, including the Sahara Marathon in Morocco.

This summer he took on another challenge – the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, better known as the Appalachian Trail. The wilderness route stretches from Georgia to Maine, through 14 states, a total of 2,178 miles, eight times the length of Israel.

Goldberg (aka “Galilee man”), who carried an Israeli flag he waved at the beginning and end of his trek, and a backpack with the Golani emblem sewed on the side, set out to break a 20-year-old record: running the distance in under 60.5 days.

Yes, running the Appalachian Trail.

People who complete the entire distance in a single season are known as “thru-hikers.” Those who do it in a series of separate trips are “section-hikers.”

People who run the whole way are known as meshugena.

“Americans thought mostly that it was admirable,” Goldberg, 56, tells The Jewish Week in an email interview. “Back home,” he says, they think he’s “a fruitcake.”

Goldberg, who is director of the education department for the Upper Galilee Moshavim, trained for a year running two and a half hours six days a week, carrying a 30-40 pound backpack.

He sent care packages with food and other supplies to mail drops along the route, and kept friends posted on Facebook. Israel’s Channel 10 followed his progress.

Goldberg completed the Trail earlier this month in 65 days. He didn’t break the record. He lost 32 pounds along the way, and gained uncounted memories.

Everyone he met – he’d go several days without seeing another person – was excited that he was representing Israel, he says. “People were great. Only best wishes and blessings and admiration that I came all the way from Israel just to do this.”

He “talked with bears mostly, in Hebrew, and they reacted just fine.” He “met at close distance maybe 30 bears.” The “Hebrew calmed them.” They “moved away from the trail to let me pass.”

Now he’s back at work in Israel.

What’s his next long-distance goal?

No comment, at his family’s instructions. Goldberg says he “forbidden at home” to talk about a “future adventure.”