At the beginning of February I received an invitation from the Israel Ministry of Tourism to run the Jerusalem Marathon with a Press group. Attached at the bottom of this e-mail was a full itinerary outlining all of the places you would want to see in the country, crammed into six days. I would leave two days after the wedding, with his full support. Yep, I’m in!
Our “North American” press group was about 15 people, give or take as we had some come and go throughout the week, and we mostly arrived on Tuesday. This allowed plenty of time to adjust to the time change (+9 hours for us west coasters) and also to tour the city of Jerusalem before we ran all around it for the Jerusalem Marathon (or for the 13.1 mile version)! Our itinerary covered most of the highlights before we stepped up to the starting line, which meant some of the kilometers (no mile markers here!) actually looked familiar.
A little bit about the Jerusalem Marathon …
25,000 runners registered – four distances offered ranging from 5 – 42.2k!
2,500 runners represented over 60 countries!
The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Bakat, ran the half-marathon.
This is only the 5th year of the race & it’s growing quickly!
It is one of the best organized and designed races I’ve run to-date!
Since we were part of the Press, we got our own tent to camp out in before the race started! This also meant we had some extra snacks, a place to store our gear and a first look at the Finishing line area.
A few of us opted to run the half-marathon – there’s no way I could have been 26.2-ready in 5 weeks, and I thought it’d be nice to have walking capabilities for the remainder of the trip. Both before and after the race I was happy with this decision; as it turns out, Jerusalem is no friend to flat running! Scanning the course elevation chart for a flat section is like looking for a stretch of low altitude while climbing a Colorado 14-er. Not gonna happen. We received multiple friendly warnings from the PR crew, veteran runners and the city itself as we toured around in the days prior. This course is not for the faint of quads!
Thinking about a half-marathon as 21 kilometers instead of 13 miles was the first thing that distracted my mind. I ran without music but with my camera at-the-ready to take many pics! While the endless hills will challenge you in every way, you’ll soon find yourself too distracted to care much. With every up comes a stunning view, with every down comes the glorious feeling of flight. It all balances out.
My mind found entertainment and awe at every angle: meeting a pair of runners there from San Francisco (oh, hey!), running through now-familiar stretches of the city, passing our hotel, stopping through neighborhoods that bare local shops and restaurants, and looking left and right at views like this (see above). We ran through the Old City on historic cobblestone, up to the Promenade for a breathtaking 360* outlook, through multiple neighborhoods, along a running path and up, down, up and then down again. At one point I saw a sign pointing to “Bethlehem”, which almost tempted me to veer off course.
We had perfect race-day conditions – sunny with a high of 60* – and the course was well-supported with aid stations, music, cheerers and free food! (We hear the marathoners had a hummus station!) I miraculously remembered to pack my handheld water-bottle, and was lucky enough to snatch up some Sport Beans from Sharon. I wasn’t sure how the “Isotonic” electrolyte race-drink would settle, so I got sodium and sugar from jelly beans instead.
I had every intention of taking it “easy” throughout the race so I could enjoy the views, the culture, the city and the fact that WHOA-I’m-running-an-international-race! But, I assure you, there is no taking it easy here. You’ll be in awe through every kilometer, but your cardio system will not be relaxed. It’s okay. Roll with it. Use the downhills and don’t you try to walk on the ups!
Twice I started to take a little break to ease up on the legs, and twice I was immediately encouraged by racers around me to “Keep going!” After which, I took a look around and realized something very noteworthy of the Jerusalem running community: nobody walks. My pace/corral/what-have-you was full of people who were all like these hills got nothin’ on me. Tough crowd, yo.
After one loooooong lovely incline, we were finally close to the end. The finish line was in sight! I hit a pothole and went down (that’s a first!), popped right back up and crossed the 21.1 KM mark. With a water bottle & medal in-hand, I went straight for “Medical” to get things cleaned up. That’s another first. Once I was bandaged, I stepped out of the tent and faced what can only be described as a Finisher’s PARTY.
With most of the Expo vendors back for more, this zone was ablaze with energy, gear on sale, food, tons of music and a great crowd.
At the end of the kilometers, I was exhausted, a little bloody and completely elated to have just run through an incredible city. I would recommend this to any and all looking to add to their traveling + running adventures, no doubt. It was extremely well 0rganized and it’s an amazing way to see this city on foot!
2015 Jerusalem 1/2 Marathon
1:56 – AG: 46 / 347 Overall W: 78/795
Check out my travel buddies + bloggers for the full marathon report!
Full disclosure: My trip to Israel and Jerusalem Marathon registration were paid for by the Israel Ministry of Tourism but all opinions and race experiences reported above are my own!
Coming up: Our post-race trip to the Dead Sea & Tel Aviv, some of the best food in the Mediterranean and the best people to travel with!