I ran my first half marathon (21 km) in the Jerusalem Marathon 2014 last Friday. The photo above was taken on Jaffa Street, around 7:15 a.m. I looked a lot fresher at km 3 than I did at the end!
The photo below was taken on Hevron Road, near the Begin Center. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish because I didn’t sleep the night before (really!) and had a bad night’s sleep the night before that. I’ve always had a hard time sleeping if something exciting is happening the next day. But once the adrenalin kicked in I was fine.
My race time was 02:27:35, which is respectable for a first-timer on this route. The Jerusalem Marathon is widely regarded as one of the most difficult marathons in the world, because of the relentless hills. (Blogger Karla Bruning describes it as a road race with a trail profile.) My rank was 46/69 in age/gender category, 580/888 in gender category, and 3325/3948 overall.
I can’t begin to describe the experience. Normally, pedestrians have to dodge cars, buses, and trams in the city center. During the marathon, you own the streets. :-) There’s no one around at that hour except guards and waiters sitting in front of closed cafes and a few volunteers handing out water bottles. Jerusalem has a totally different character. The streets are quiet and empty, the air is fresh, and the sun casts long shadows behind you. Someone asked whether everything goes behind in a blur. I said that actually it seems to go by more slowly because you’re not in a bus and because you can see much more when the sidewalks aren’t covered with pedestrians and sales racks. We poured out of the Rabin Road tunnel and I ran with the human tidal wave up Bezalel Street with Joni Mitchell bouncing through “Chelsea Morning” on my iPod.
These photos were taken with the iPod, so they’re a little wonky and haven’t been edited. I considered taking a camera and then decided against it, in view of my fatigue and the length of the run. This is what the organization point in Gan Sacher looks like at 6:15 a.m. The sun isn’t up yet. Only the half and full marathon runners are around. The marathon was very well organized and the bathrooms were actually bearable and stocked with toilet paper (I hear it was quite different by the time the 10K racers showed up).
People really do run in costumes! I’m not sure how far one can run dressed as a heart, but I did see a big guy in a granny dress and red puffy hat, a lot of Supermen, and a couple guys with paper bags on their heads.
We headed to the starting line just as the sun was coming up.
The half marathon began 15 minutes before the full marathon (7 a.m.). A group of African marathon runners blinded us with their dazzling gold Mylar capes. It was pretty cool to watch. I don’t know whether they ran with them or threw them off at the start of the race.
At 7 a.m., there were far more runners than spectators and we passed a few drum ensembles playing on street corners. Later in the day, more people came out to watch. It was fun seeing runners being cheered by family members and neighbours while they ran through their neighbourhoods. At the corner of Yehuda and Emek Refaim, they were playing music through speakers and lots of people were cheering. It’s not Boston or New York, where you have thousands of spectators, but it makes you feel like a rock star!
Here’s a panorama I took with my iPod after I crossed the finish line. About 50 of us were on one side of the barrier, stretching, resting on the grass, and drinking water. On the other side were over 10,000 runners waiting to begin the 10 km run. I was quite content to stretch under a tree for a while (no phone!) and relax, before grabbing a medal and heading out to find my family.
This video focuses mainly on the half marathon. The guy in the granny dress appears around 0:50. I appear very briefly at 1:10, behind the guy with the paper bag on his head. You have to look really hard because I’m in the shadows on the side opposite the camera. If you watch to the end, you get an idea of the carnival atmosphere.
Addendum: A couple people asked how long I trained. It took me about four months, with two short runs and one long run a week. I have been running (not very seriously) for about 12 years. Because I was able to run 7 km easily when I started, I chose the half marathon because the 10K did not seem sufficiently challenging.