17,000 expected at Jerusalem marathon
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17,000 expected at Jerusalem marathon

Mayor Nir Barkat says the capital’s 42k has become a ‘brand-name’ race

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Mayor Nir Barkat holding up his New Balance Jerusalem Marathon 2013 running shirt (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Mayor Nir Barkat holding up his New Balance Jerusalem Marathon 2013 running shirt (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

If you take on the job of mayor of Jerusalem, and you’re a fairly seasoned marathon runner, you should at least get to run a marathon in your own city, or so Mayor Nir Barkat figured when he took office back in 2008.

Four years later, Jerusalem will celebrate its third, and so far, largest marathon on Friday, March 1, sponsored by lottery company Toto Winner and New Balance Israel. Some 17,000 runners are expected, including an influx of 1,600 from 52 countries, Among them are more than 35 elite runners, primarily from Ethiopia and Kenya, said Uri Menachem, the city’s municipal sports director.

“It’s become a brand-name marathon,” said Barkat at Monday’s press conference detailing events surrounding the marathon. “I’ve run marathons around the world, and the Jerusalem one is exceptional, it stands out among the others.”

Of course, Barkat is biased, but with a route that starts at the Knesset, runs by Jaffa and Zion Gates in the Old City and ends at Sacher Park, it’s got some good views, at least for those runners who can take the time to enjoy the scenery.

A recent article in UK “Women’s Running Magazine” named the Jerusalem Marathon as one of the world’s 10 best spring marathons,  but recommended running the shorter 10k rather than the full 42k or half, 21k, in order to avoid the “energy-sapping climbs” of the many Jerusalem hills and the “slog” that comes with 42 or 21 kilometers of running. Barkat said he will be running the half-marathon this year, while his wife will be running the 10k.

The marathon tends to take over the city on the day of the race, with many streets closed from 7:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., said Menachem, adding that he hopes this year’s weather will be sunnier than last year’s torrential rain and hail.

“It’s become a communal marathon,” said Menachem, referring to the hundreds of local volunteers as well as the local running groups training for the marathon, many of which use the run as a fundraiser for various charities.

But it wouldn’t be happening without a mayor who runs marathons, added council member Elisha Peleg.

“It’s a good thing he’s not a pilot, or we’d be hosting a Red Bull Air Race,” joked Peleg, referring to an international series of flying contests usually held over water near cities.

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