Jerusalem Marathon

Jerusalem held its first ever marathon on March 25th and I took this opportunity to make this my first full marathon. I saw an advertisement for it in November and thought it would be a cool thing to do.

Pre-marathon Training: I trained for 6 months, slowly ramping up from 9km runs to 15km until I could run half marathons no problem and finally hit 30km. (A marathon is 42km for those of us used to it being 26 miles). Friends who’ve run with me know that I get injured pretty frequently, as in, all the time. But for some reason this time I had no problems with anything. No shin splints, no stress fractures, and very minimal soreness. I’m still not entirely sure what it was, maybe it was new shoes, or new insoles, or divine intervention, but my training went great. I like to think it was the later, as stranger things have happened in Israel.

Pre-marathon: I stayed in Jerusalem a couple of days before the marathon and started to see signs marking distances all over the city pop up:












At first it was pretty cool to see the city getting ready for the marathon. But when I realized I literally took a bus across the city and got from one sign to the other, it became a little intimidating..

I went to the marathon expo to pick up my registration packet. Besides the standard booths by Brooks, Saucony, etc (but no Nike or Asics), there was a massive showcase from Adidas (sponsor):

Also these guys were prancing around the whole day:

Pasta Feed: At the end of the expo there was a giant pasta dinner for the runners. Sorry Lynbrook, this is a real pasta feed.











The course can be seen here (click on the green button)

Race Day: A friend told me to try to keep a 6 minute km pace. There is one problem with this: I think in miles. But this roughly translates to an 8 minute mile, so actually, I could keep the pace great, and actually went under for the first 30km. Jerusalem’s course is amazing (until Mt Scopus): we started at the Knesset (the parliament building), and looped around Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus, coming back up Jaffa Road, into the Old City through Jaffa Gate and out through the Zion Gate. Then we continued into some parts of East Jerusalem, with views overlooking the Old City that were gorgeous. At this point we kept continuing into East Jerusalem until I noticed signs pointing out the direction of Rachel’s Tomb and Herodion (and Bethlehem). For those of you not lucky enough to be in Israel, these locations are in the West Bank. We didn’t change direction, the signs kept appearing, and I was getting more and more nervous that the course would take us into the West Bank and I might really have to pick up my pace (just kidding). At what seemed to be the last minute we turned back and returned to the Knesset, up Jaffa Road, and then into Mt Scopus.

A view of the start: (thanks to Rana for the photo)

The first 3/4’s of the marathon was great. The views of the Old City from East Jerusalem were amazing, and the hills didn’t feel bad at all.

Me at 20km (Note: Two people have asked me this already so I’m going to squash this now:

Winner is the name of a sponsor, I did not win this marathon)

Some runners said that because this was Jerusalem’s first marathon, some little things could have been better. The runners in front (I think they were from Kenya or Ethiopia), were directed the wrong way and ended up running an extra 200m or so. They were so far ahead that I don’t think they really cared. Luckily I was no where near the front. Also, unlike most marathons, there were not too many people out cheering. In fact most people out there were orthodoxy going home for Shabbat, some oblivious the fact that there was even a marathon going on:

Photo credit again to Rana

But overall I felt the marathon was great. Except for…

Mt Scopus: I despise Mt Scopus. After about 30km of awesome, feel good running, I hit the last big hill. Now Jerusalem is very hilly; more experienced runners I talked to during the marathon who had (or were) running both told me that the Jerusalem Marathon is very similar to the San Francisco Marathon in terms of style and hilliness. At the 30km point there had already been a substantial number of hills, but I had dealt with them much better than I had expected. I was actually feeling really good at 30km. Until I reached Mt Scopus.

Me on Mt Scopus (photo thanks to Betsy)

I’m not sure what Mt Scopus means in Hebrew (it’s Har HaTsofim or Mt Lookout), but it probably means the Devil’s Mountain or something similar. Mt Scopus rises like a horn out of Jerusalem and at its crown is Hebrew University’s second campus (and also the hotel my mom and my sister were staying in). To be fair Mt Scopus isn’t too steep, just long and high, epically drawn out, and painful (especially after 30km of already hilly running). The course took us up the hill and around Hebrew University’s Mt Scopus campus before coming back down. At this point my pace dropped and I somehow weaseled my way to the finish line.


My times were:

Overall (42km):          4 hours and 31 minutes 19 seconds

My splits were:

10km                              00:58:27

21km (half)                      01:55:06

30km                              02:57:27

40km                              04:15:14

Post Marathon: Everything hurts. But it was worth it and I’d do it again (but not too soon).

Finished and tired:  (photo thanks to Rana)


~ by jonathanmtsai on March 27, 2011.

One Response to “Jerusalem Marathon”

  1. wow!!! congrats!!! the Boston marathon is in 2 weeks. We have a city holiday for it, since the runners go on the highway for part of it. Its a huge deal.

    So awesome + Impressive!
    Winner!!! (lol)

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