Last week, on April 29-30, I participated in the Mountain-to-Valley relay race as part of an 8-person team. (Note: we were categorized as 8-man team because you need to have at least two women in order to be classified as “mixed”; the other woman who had signed up couldn’t run in the end.) Our group covered 215 kilometers, running day and night, from Tel Hai to Timrat, in 22 hours. I didn’t take any photos at night because it was dark and the stations themselves aren’t very interesting.
My first run (8 km, around 1:30 a.m.) was from Notera to Pkak Bridge. The route had a switchback, where you run along a stream, over a bridge, and then back in the opposite direction. I was very impressed that, in addition to signs with green lights, there were a couple volunteers holding arrows to make sure you didn’t miss the turn. Along the route I saw people in cars, parked or driving slowly on a parallel road, keeping an eye on things. It made me feel a lot safer than I felt in Yam2Yam.
At one point I thought I was alone, but when I looked behind me, I saw the hill covered with points of light from other runners. A sight like that makes you feel like you’re part of a much bigger endeavour than the usual race. Actually, it WAS a big endeavour! There were 960 teams, and approximately 8,000 runners (not running simultaneously; there was a night race and a day race, and the starting times were staggered). These relay races have become very popular lately and the registration for this race is full within a day and a half of opening.
Runners exchange a rubber bracelet at each station. The guy below is just starting out from Elabun station and putting on his bracelet. We were required to carry smartphones with the M2V app. It was very useful because it tracked start/stop times of individual runners, showed the position of the current runner, and could be used to find your way back to the course if you got lost. There was also an emergency button.
Our team-mate Sharon coming up the hill. He had some difficult routes over really big hills. (No, they don’t block traffic for this race.)
Dawn at Karei Deshe, a camping ground on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). That was a lot better than sleeping in the back seat of a car at a 24-hour gas station! I slept outside in a sleeping bag. The white tents in the center are covering a seating area where the organizers had hot and cold drinks available around the clock. There were showers and electricity. I didn’t sleep at all, but I rested for a few hours, listening to the wind blowing through the palm trees.
A few people managed to go for a quick swim. I think Teverya is in the background, on the other side of the lake. Looks a lot better in this light than it does close up.
Although the race is supposed to show you the country, most of it looks like this–lots of fields. You spend a lot of time running through wheat fields or (if you tackle one of the difficult routes) over big hills like the ones in the background (elevation often over 200 meters). My second run (around 8:30 a.m.) was 9 km from Al Betuf to Hoshaya, definitely not one of my faster runs! Al Betuf is an Arab village. My route went past a garbage dump with rotting sheep carcasses–you can imagine how they smelled after the extremely hot weather we’d had all week! I encountered two flocks of sheep guarded by unpleasant dogs. I was carrying pepper spray but didn’t use it because the shepherds were around. Instead, I slowed down, did my “tough walk,” and asked the shepherds to call off their dogs. I also had to stop a couple times to rearrange the tube of my water backpack (got a kink in it and wasn’t drawing). So my overall time for that segment was a lot slower than it should have been.
The third run (around 3:30 p.m.) was 10 km from Hazorea to Kishon. Barry Leff, who had led our Yam2Yam team, joined us for two consecutive runs, including mine. I was really grateful for the company. By the third run, I’m tired and get discouraged easily. It was good to have someone to chat with. There were two water crossings. I misjudged the distance at the second crossing and stepped with both feet into water and mud. The final two kilometers were very difficult because my shoes, heavy to begin with, were soaked, my toes were chafing, and the weight of the mud, plus the dust picked up from running on a dirt road, was like trying to run with bricks tied to my feet. I looked like a slow-motion cartoon and my feet were really hurting by the time I got to the station. Thank heavens for extra shoes and socks!
Finish line at Timrat.
Lounge area. You can’t see the snack buffet and the bar serving coffee and beer. They cleared a huge wheat field for the parking lot. I was very impressed with the organization of this race. Each stop had food (never eaten so many enormous majool dates in my life–they were the really big ones that cost around 40 NIS/kilo), sometimes coffee, isotonic drink, ice cream, a bag with snacks. One of the stops was at Runway, a fancy running store; that was a lot of fun, checking out the clothing, shoes, and running gear. Almost all the stations had toilets or portable toilets and–you’ll never believe this–there were cases of toilet paper beside the toilets! (Most of the Yam2Yam stations did not have toilets; I saw enough gas station toilets for a lifetime.)
Got lucky with this shot of a crop-duster flying past while I was trying to photograph the clouds just after sunset.