Thousands of runners took part in the Jerusalem Marathon on Friday, which kicked off without a hitch despite threats from ultra-Orthodox protesters to interfere with the run.
Under heavy police presence, Friday’s events began with the 13-mile half marathon, which took off with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat firing the starting shot at 6:45 a.m.
While most of the thousands of runners were making their way through the various distances, Shadrack Kipkogey of Kenya won the full marathon, completing the 26-mile run in two hours, 17 minutes and 36 seconds.
This year’s event included 30,000 runners, with more than 3,500 of them coming from 65 countries, running a variety of distances. There were nine premier runners from several African countries.
Around 2,000 runners were expected to run the full marathon, with another 6,000 competing in the half-marathon, more than 10,000 in the 10k and the remaining participants taking part in the family and community races.
On Thursday, an extremist ultra-Orthodox group known as the Jerusalem Faction lead by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach threatened to disrupt the marathon in protest over the arrest of one its members for not appearing at any army draft office, calling on ultra-Orthodox men throughout Israel to come to Jerusalem to demonstrate in a recorded message.
Police intercepted three buses full of ultra-Orthodox men at the Shoresh junction on the main highway leading to Jerusalem early Friday. They were suspected of planning to disrupt the race, police said.
Several other men were detained inside Jerusalem.
Many in the ultra-Orthodox community shun the mandatory military service that applies to most Israelis, and the community has historically enjoyed blanket exemptions in favor of religious seminary studies. However, a group of ultra-Orthodox followers of Auerbach refuse to even appear at the recruiting office to request such exemptions.
One such student, Yisrael Meir Toledano , was arrested on Sunday night at his home in Ofakim. On Tuesday a military court extended his remand until Thursday.
Ahead of the race Mayor Barkat warned protesters “not to show up and interfere with the marathon.”
“We clarified to the leaders of the [Jerusalem] Faction that we view this very seriously and the marathon is not hostage to anything — not to terrorists and not to those who want to use it for their own purposes,” he told Army Radio.
The starting point of the marathon was between the Knesset and Israel Museum, on Ruppin Boulevard.
The route began in the western part of the city, looping around the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University, alongside the Valley of the Cross, and through several neighborhoods on the way up to Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus (8:20 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) in eastern Jerusalem. The route then descends to the Old City, taking runners through Jaffa Gate and the Armenian Quarter and out through Zion Gate (7 a.m. and 11 a.m.), on the way to the Jerusalem Forest, before ending in Sacher Park.