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Israel to take part in world’s longest non-stop relay to highlight climate change

‘Running out of Time’ participants can register for 10km slots along 7,200 km route, from Glasgow, Scotland to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where UN COP27 climate confab will be held

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Runners take part in a marathon in Israel's coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 25, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Runners take part in a marathon in Israel's coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 25, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Thousands of runners are expected to take part in the Israel leg of what is being billed as the world’s longest non-stop relay run, aimed at highlighting climate change.

Running out of Time” will start in Glasgow, Scotland, host of the United Nations COP26 Climate Conference last November, and end 38 days later, 7,200 kilometers (4,475 miles) away, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which will be hosting COP27 from November 7 to 18 this year.

Divided into 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) stages, the relay will see runners, cyclists, and sailors working together, around the clock, to pass a baton containing a climate message from young people to the decision-makers at COP27.

That message will be sealed inside the baton at the start of the run on September 30.

In Israel, the event is being organized by the marine protection organization, EcoOcean, together with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Cypriot sailors will pass the baton to Israel at Rosh Hanikra, on Israel’s northern Mediterranean tip, on November 1. Rosh Hanikra is the site of Israel’s first marine protected area.

Israel will hand it on to Jordanian runners on November 4.

An aerial view of the Mediterranean coast, at Netanya, photographed on Israel’s 65th Independence Day, April 16, 2013. (Flash90)

The 520 km (323 mile) Israeli leg of the relay, divided into 52 sections, will run along the coast, moving inland at Ashkelon and continuing down to Eilat on the Red Sea, explained Arik Rosenblum, Executive Director of EcoOcean.

From Eilat, there will be a short crossover into Aqaba, Jordan, before the baton is given to the Egyptians.

The route will include various existing trails, such as the north to south national trail (Shvil Israel, in Hebrew), and the Mediterranean Sea Trail.

A young Israeli hiking along a trail in the Negev desert, in southern Israel, on April 14, 2018. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

“We are the last country before the run reaches Sharm el-Sheikh, so the organizers are giving us the chance to go crazy and do a lot of fun and interesting stuff,” Rosenblum said.

Activities are being organized for each of the 52 baton-passing stations.

Some will focus on the impact of climate change, such as rising sea levels, oil pollution, and the need to protect creatures such as dolphins, sharks, and sea lions. (The latter can be found off the coast of northern Israel).

Clean behind your ears: Tanga gets a wash at the National Sea Turtle Rescue Center in Michmoret, northern Israel, March 2, 2021. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

Other activities will spotlight organizations and initiatives designed to cope with climate change and protect biodiversity — such as the Sea Turtle Rescue Center — as well as examples of climate technology, such as solar fields and desalination plants.

A separate baton will be passed between schools across the country, and a special education program is being designed, in conjunction with the Education Ministry, for the whole system, from kindergarten through 12th grade.

An undated photo of children on a course about the sea, at the Sdot Yam beach in northern Israel. (EcoOcean)

Rosenblum, originally from Los Angeles, is also in talks with the US environment organization, Hazon, about a possible US relay race to coincide with the one from Glasgow.

Hazon’s annual Israel bicycle ride will take place alongside the relay, from November 1 to 8.

November 4 will also see Israel’s annual march for climate taking place in Tel Aviv.

Certain sections of the run, for example in the Negev Desert, where November temperatures can still be high, will be reserved for experienced runners, Rosenblum said.

Arik Rosenblum, Executive Director of EcoOcean. (Courtesy, Adi Makover, EcoOcean)

Plastic water bottles will not be handed out or allowed. In certain areas, runners will have to carry water themselves.

The run will pass through 18 countries –the UK (Scotland, Wales, and England), France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt.

It will cross seas, mountain ranges, glaciers, and deserts.

It will also raise funds for the Foundation for Environmental Education’s Global Forest Fund and Carbon Copy.

The FEE, a co-sponsor of the event, runs several programs, among them Blue Flag, operated in Israel by EcoOcean.

Early bird registration is available now, on the international website.

Alternatively, local registration, via EcoOcean or the SPNI, will be available soon.

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