Travel Running: Jerusalem Marathon 2015

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.

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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!

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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.

Jerusalem Marathon Press 2015_DOTR Jerusalem Marathon Press Tent Food_DOTR

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!

Jerusalem Half-M Start Group_DOTR

Sharon, Kim, Lorraine & I gearing up for 13.1 miles!

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.

Jerusalem Marathon View_DOTR

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.

Jerusalem Marathon View_2_DOTR Jerusalem Marathon_DOTR TAD

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.

JEM Finish Expo_DOTR

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.

Jerusalem Marathon Finish_DOTR


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

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Check out my travel buddies + bloggers for the full marathon report!

Beth – Shut Up & Run
Teresa – Eat Drink & Be Skinny
Adam – Run Haven
Dax –  Dirty Running

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!

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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!

Comments

  1. What an amazing opportunity!! Jerusalem is definitely a place that’s on my bucket list, and running is a great way to tour a city!

  2. March 17, 2015

    What an incredible opportunity! It looks like a beautiful place and a pretty course. Good call on the half. I’m not sure I’ve ever fallen in a road race, but there are plenty of times I’ve had to keep my eyes glued to the ground and be very careful of every bump and crack (due to exhaustion). Now enjoy being married and with your man! 😉

    • March 18, 2015

      It does feel preeeetty good to be home with the husband! 🙂

  3. March 17, 2015

    wow — what an awesome race experience! i’d love to do a race in a city like that.

  4. March 17, 2015

    Love your recap. You are SO right, there is nothing “easy” about this race even when you are taking it easy. I will say, there were walkers on the marathon course. Plus, you were too fast for walkers to be around you. Love the Amazing Day shirt as well. So much fun and looking forward to seeing you in Moab!

    • March 18, 2015

      Thanks! It was certainly a humbling course. 🙂 Next time let’s do the Tel Aviv race – we know that’s flat!

  5. March 17, 2015

    Awesome!! So cool you got this opportunity!

  6. what an awesome opportunity. it looks so beautiful!!

    • March 18, 2015

      The views are really stunning. Can’t adequately put into words what we saw on top of those hills!

  7. What an amazing experience!!

  8. How amazing you were invited to run a marathon in Israel! I can’t imagine a more wonderful and inspiring place to do this. Israel is amazing, especially Jerusalem!

    • March 18, 2015

      If you have the chance to go and do it, jump on it! It was a GREAT course, even more so if you’re familiar with the city!

  9. March 19, 2015

    IT’s so hard to read this because I was supposed to be on the trip too! I had to turn it down for a few reasons and was SO bummed! I’m glad you had a fun time though 🙂

  10. March 19, 2015

    The pictures are so beautiful. What an amazing once in a lifetime race to run.

  11. March 21, 2015

    Congrats on your fast finish on the hilly course! Enjoyed the great pics!

  12. March 26, 2015

    Not to going to lie…Jerusalem isn’t exactly on my bucket list, but the views make it seem worth adding! Nice finish on a hilly course!

  13. April 23, 2015

    Thanks for the awesome postcard! kids loved it! Looks like a really great trip.

  14. July 18, 2015

    March 2016 can’t come to soon.

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