This year I was proud to have run all of Israel’s organized 42.2 kilometer Marathons.. or so I thought. Soon after running what I thought was my missing link, the Tiberius Marathon, I was informed about a new Marathon added this year, the Dead Sea Marathon. Bezrat Hashem next year I will run this marathon, and who knows, maybe there will even be more added.
First of all, it is incredible how despite the small size of Israel, we have 6 marathons, and thats not including a variety of ultra marathons. The running culture is strong in Israel and it makes sense as we are a nation where fitness is important to us because we have the most beautiful land in the world. Desert, Mountains, Beach, Forests, lakes, you name and we have got it. Each marathon that I have done has been very different and I want to give a brief review of each of these amazing courses.
Jerusalem: This is a serious happening! More people run this marathon than any other Israeli Marathon and the atmosphere is incredible. Many teams, groups, friends, and families come together every year to be part of this. There is a big celebration in the center of Jerusalem in the Gan Sachar, and along the way, there is constant energy in people cheering you on, music playing, and an exciting course. This holds a special place in my heart, because it was my first full marathon and I have since run it again because I enjoyed it so much. The course is a pretty hilly one, but it also includes some gradual hills and some flat areas as well. Towards the end, there are some short but steep hills in the Katamon neighborhood, and in the middle there is a long incline heading towards the French Hill. In the French Hill, there are some nice desert views and my favorite part of the run is going through the Old City. My first time running the course, I was a bit fatigued and then the “Kedushah” of the Old City gave me an incredible energy boost. The run also goes through neighborhoods like Givat Ram, Emek Refaim, Talpiot, and the City Center. Again, the course has a good amount of hills, but the energy of this run is something special that really propels you along and makes it a very fun event.
I enjoyed the course which included running along the beach, into Jaffa, and down many of the big streets in Tel Aviv. The energy of the race is pretty good as there are many runners and there is a lot of noise and festivies along the course of the run. The course is flat for most of the time and any inclines are gradual. There were several things that I did not like about the marathon however. At several points the full marathon course and the other distances mixed on one street and the street became very jammed and crowded and I had to slow down my pace during these parts. Most runs will separate the distances onto different tracks, which I think is much better and prevents conjestion on the roads, especially in these big races. I also experienced at times that the residents of the city were not so pleased about the event and several went across as I was running, without seeming to care. Unlike Jerusalem, I didn’t feel as much of the support from the spectators. Then the biggest problem is at the end of the race, when all of the distances are running together there is a turn off for the full marathon to a different and smaller finish line. Race volunteers did not tell me to take this turn offf and it was not clearly marked and I was after about 40 kilometers of running. I followed the flow of runners in the direction of the big finish line. Upon getting there I realized that I was the only one with the full marathon bib. I turned around and backed, saw the turn off and then finished at the small finish line of the full marathon. Maybe this has been changed, but it was not a good feeling of making a wrong turn and again this is a problem when runners from the different events are combined on the same road. I should also add that water stops were less frequent on this course and that the run started a bit late and it was quite hot by the end and I know that some years people have passed out from the heat. Despite the pretty course and the energy, this was my least favorite Marathon.
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Tiveria are the three big races. Tiveria was overall a very nice run. The course is the easiest in my opinion of any Israeli marathon. It is a very flat course and it is a there and back course, so that on your way back you really know how much you have left ahead of you. I ran my fastest time in Tiveria and I have heard the same from most runners. It is a pretty course, along the Kinneret for almost the entire way. The atmosphere in the city of Tiveria is festive and fun and it is a peaceful and pleasant run in which most of the run is outside of the city. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem take place mostly inside the city. The weather was great when I ran it, but I have heard the some years the wind is intense and the first year that I was planning to run it, the race was postponed due to rains and flooding.
As a big fan of running in the desert and trail running, I had to run this Eilat Marathon, despite the long commute to get there. This run starts and ends in Eilat but most of it is out in the desert. It is a small race and I ran it the very first year that it opened, so perhaps more run in it now. The run is a desert run that is peaceful and beautiful. Trail running makes the pace slower and there is a tough section in the middle with an incline and some sandy and rocky terrain which makes you feel as if you are running quite slowly. By the end of the run it gets pretty hot, so I think an earlier start could even be better, but overall this was a challenging yet relaxing and nature filled marathon that they call the “desert marathon”. It is nice to run these smaller races where the road is not totally packed and you have to do more self motivating on this course because unlike people lining the streets of Jerusalem to cheer you on, in Eilat you are out in the desert and on your own with just you and the other runners.
The Tanach Marathon:
This is a very special marathon, with the most challenging course in my opinion. I ran my slowest time in this marathon, but enjoyed the experience immensely. First of all, there are some serious uphills. The first half from Rosh Haayin to Ariel is almost exclusively uphill and thankfully the run starts very early in the morning. Ariel has some intense hills, and then there is one downhill section followed by gradual uphill again until the end at the Mishkan in Shilo. This run was unique in that you start and finish in different locations and you really have a goal of getting to the holy mishkan. This run has a history from our Tanach as a run performed by Ish Binyamin, and it really is amazing to run through our holy land. It is so nice to run through the Shomron and feel safe and free to do so and enjoy the beautiful views and land. Again, this run has some serious hills, but it is another run that is smaller and it is a special group of people who participate in this run.
There you have it, a little bit on each one. I’ll keep you posted as I Be”H do the Dead Sea run this year, and who knows what else is in store.