Holy runnersHoly runners

Foreign runners flocking to Jerusalem Marathon

Despite ongoing terror threat, international athletes signing up en masse for one of world’s toughest runs

Runners during the 2015 Jerusalem Marathon (Nati Shochat/Flash90)
Runners during the 2015 Jerusalem Marathon (Nati Shochat/Flash90)

Despite Israel’s current security situation, foreign runners registered for Jerusalem’s March marathon have more than doubled to 754 this year, up from 301 last year.

There are 5,384 runners registered for the Sixth Jerusalem Marathon, scheduled to take place on March 18. At this time last year, 3,911 were registered. With less than two months to go before race day, that’s a 150-percent increase in the number of foreign runners preregistered so far, according to marathon coordinators.

Runners will flock from all over the world, including Uzbekistan, Argentina, Hong Kong, Austria, Singapore, Turkey, the United States and Switzerland.

“The number of applicants who have registered so far for the marathon indicates that Israelis and tourists are not allowing terrorism to paralyze the city or their daily routine,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Last year’s winner was Ethiopian Tadesse Yaee Dahbi, who completed the 42-kilometer route in two hours, 18 minutes and 20 seconds. Dahbi was one of 25,000 people who participated in the race.

Currently, 60 Chinese participants plan to compete in this year’s marathon.

Runners in the shorter race options — 10 km, 5 km, 1.7 km “family” and 800-meter run — make up nearly half of those already registered, with an estimated 1,835 competing in the half marathon and 910 in the full.

Coordinators expect an additional number of hand cyclists to complete a route of 8.5 kilometers.

Barkat said he believes that the Jerusalem Marathon is incomparable to any other 26.2-mile dash.

“I can say with full confidence that the run in Jerusalem is the most exciting, and it combines breathtaking views, inspiring fresh air and a challenging route,” he said. “There are lots of marathon runners who are looking for this challenge, which is like no other marathon around the world.”

The full marathon begins at the junction between the Knesset and the Israel Museum, and snakes through Mahane Yehuda market toward Ammunition Hill. Runners will circle the Mount Scopus campus before racing through the Armenian Quarter, and then alongside the City of David and the First Station.

The winner will break the finish line at Sacher Park, along with 10-km runners who will start three hours later.

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