The Jerusalem marathon takes place Friday morning and the city has been prepping for days for the onslaught of more than 20,000 runners participating in the full 42-kilometer (26.2-mile) race; the 21.1-kilometer (13.11-mile) half marathon; and the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) course. With more than 1,750 of the runners scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem from 52 nations, it’s a major event, closing local schools for the day, and offering an opportunity to get out and celebrate, cheering on the runners as they chug, trot and race through the city.
The weather should be partly sunny, with temperatures of 44°C/60°F and little chance of precipitation, unlike last year, when it rained, hailed and sleeted on the runners.
And so, the top five ways to celebrate the Jerusalem marathon — unless you live outside the city. In that case, don’t even think about reaching the city tomorrow morning, but you can plan on getting to the Tel Aviv marathon in two weeks’ time, on Friday, March 15.
1) Nonparticipants can’t join the invitation-only massive pasta dinner being served to the full- and half- marathon runners at the International Convention Center Thursday evening, which is being touted as the only one in the marathon world that is entirely kosher (and will include gluten-free pasta), but you can eat some homemade pasta in support of the runners. Head to a local ristorante or café to scarf down some complex carbs, or make your own, focusing on 50 to 60 percent carbs, which are easily digested, according to Fitness Magazine. It’s good to mix in some protein, like cheese, salmon or chicken, and I’ve been making a version of this recipe (minus the tomatoes) for the last few months while Swiss chard is in season.
2) What to wear? Well, one of the benefits of running the marathon is gaining another T-shirt for the pile, and this year’s shirt was made by the Israeli branch of New Balance, in a turquoise sweat-wicking fabric that clearly differentiates itself from last year’s white version. If you want to see what tools of the trade are in among the marathon crowd, check out the Expo Exhibition at the International Convention Center, Tuesday through Thursday night, until 11 p.m.
3) On Friday morning, stake out a good lookout point, with binoculars, camera and picnic — or just a coffee and croissant — in hand. The various routes take runners along some of the best sites in town, and the key is to know where to be when. For the full marathon, which starts at 7 a.m. at the Ruppin Boulevard intersection between the Knesset and Israel Museum, and finishes at the southern end of Sacher Park, the route heads up toward Hebrew University, over to Old Katamon, then downtown and to the Old City, through the German Colony, Baka, Talpiot and back over to the park. You can cop a squat on one of the overlooks, such as the on top of the overpass leading to the Supreme Court, the top of the Mamilla mall at Jaffa Gate, the Baka train track park, the Haas Promenade in East Talpiot or the pedestrian bridge on Hebron Road. We also have it on good authority that the runners will be passing by these spots at the following times: Mount Scopus, 8:20-8:40; Jaffa Gate/Zion Gate, 8:40-9:25 and 10:10-11:00; Begin Bridge, 8:50-9:10 and 10:20-11:20; German Colony, 9:10-9:30; Haas Promenade, 9:40-10:10, Tchernikovsky Street, 10:00-11:20. Couch potatoes can also watch the marathon on Channel 5, 6:50 a.m.-11 a.m.
4) Wanna run next year? Join a running club. Jerusalem runner Rachel Neiman joined the local branch of the Holy Land Hash House Harriers — part of an international running and drinking organization, or “drinkers with a running problem,” as they like to call themselves — when she moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv a few years ago. Founded in the 1930s by British soldiers who used to run to work off the previous evening’s drinking excesses, the club meets every Saturday afternoon for a run and a beer, and counts among its members numerous expats living in Israel.
“These people move from place to place, but always have the ‘hash,’” said Neiman, referring to the pints of beer they drink right after a run. Most of the HH members are doing the Tel Aviv marathon this year, but two are running in J-m — plus the club’s weekly runs have brought them in steady contact with those training for the Jerusalem marathon. “We’re seeing a lot more runners in Jerusalem,” said Neiman, who’s also grateful for the addition of running paths around the city. Still, she said, the city has to better corral more city residents into a cheering squad for the marathon. Note for next year: Start running or get a glee club going.
5) It’s always good to have someone to look for in the crowds, and if you don’t have a personal connection to anyone in the pack, consider cheering for a noteworthy runner.
There are the international stars, such as blind Italian Paralympic athlete and model Annalisa Minetti, who is also a current candidate for her nation’s parliament, and the host of the French version of “Survivor,” Denis Brogniard.
On the more human interest end, there’s Dan and Neva Handley, a couple from Winston Salem, North Carolina, who met 30 years ago at a Christian seminary in Jerusalem and returned this year to run the half-marathon. They visited Israel 13 years ago with three of their four kids, but came back alone this time. It’s Dan Handley’s fourth marathon and Neva Handley’s first, although he’s been trying to convince his wife to train with him for years. “We started training last March and she couldn’t hardly complete a mile, and every month we added another mile to her distance so she’s just amazed how she feels,” said Handley, who’s been running since his teens.
The half-marathon hits all the city’s “high points,” he said, adding that he’s committed the route to memory, a particularly fitting skill for the Winston Salem mail carrier. “We’re excited to run the race together in Jerusalem. For us it doesn’t get any better than that.”