Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2015 Jerusalem Marathon Race Report

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I had this really weird dream last night that I went to Jerusalem and ran a marathon. Not only that, but I  traveled with 15 other “strangers” who quickly became life long friends. Too bad this type of thing doesn’t happen in real life…or does it?

It was February 3, 2015 (5 weeks pre-marathon) when I got the most random and intriguing email of my life:

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I thought it was a joke. All expenses paid to run in the Holy Land? Yeah, right. I actually emailed back asking if it was a joke and saying it wasn’t very funny. Nope, no joke.

While I’m no super hero, I am glad I’m in the type of shape where I can pull a marathon out of my ass at the last minute if I have to. It certainly wouldn’t be pretty, but I could manage it. I could have run the half or even the 10K but there was no way I was traveling 7,000 miles and not running 26.2 full miles. Give me a challenge and I will take it every.single.time.

I don’t know where to begin with any of this, so I’ll start with the race itself. Many people have asked what my favorite thing was from the trip. Hands down, it was the race. This marathon combined all that life is and should be about: pushing one’s limits,  being present, connecting with others and feeling plain and simple joy.

The expo:

Who knew that an expo in Jerusalem was strangely similar to an expo in for any race, with some Hebrew thrown in. Lots of samples, stuff for sale, photo ops.

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Me and my partner in crime, Teresa. I’m glad I got my lunging done the day
before the marathon because after the race my quads were toast.

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The cool kids: Adam, Teresa, moi, Heather, Lorraine and Dax.
We thought we were pretty bad ass with our press passes.

The night before:

I have never been so unprepared or done so many stupid things before a race. From only getting three hours of sleep to stuffing my face with all sorts of wonderful dishes that could certainly foreshadow crapping one’s pants, to drinking wine – I decided to be a rebel and accept the mantra “do everything NEW on the night before race day” just to see what would happen.

I did manage to lay out my clothes. Some people asked where my shirt was. I decided not to wear a shirt because it just gets in the way. I figured the spectators would understand.

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Can you spy the long finger toe in this picture? Yeah, it traveled to Jerusalem as well.

Race morning

I first did the obligatory hotel room in the mirror selfie.

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There were only four of us running the full marathon out of our group: me, Teresa, Dax and Adam. We met at 6:15 a.m. to walk to the start (7:00 a.m.). The weather was perfection: 45 degrees, no wind, deep blue skies.

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The crew. Adam needs to lose some weight. Teresa needs to cheer up.
Dax needs to look at the camera. I need to find a bathroom.

Teresa and I settled in around the 4:30 group. We were going for a PW (personal worst) time because that’s why you do when you are under trained and hoping to take pictures, meet friends and enjoy every step (40,000 in all?)

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There were not a lot (or any) porta potties at the start, so people took things (literally) into their own hands.

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We started running and Teresa was not excited.

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She must have a really big thumb (see below. I could have cropped it out, but I thought it was funny). I’m not sure what I doing here. Raising the ceiling? :

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I have never run and tried to take pictures at the same time, so I have a lot of these now:

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We ran by our hotel:

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Before the race someone told us there were only 4 hills. Hmmm…I’m counting exactly 21. Jerusalemmarathonelevation

Here is where I tell you that this course is no joke. I mean just look above. Do you see any flats? The answer is “no.” You are always either ascending or descending. I think the total gain was almost 1,900 feet, which is pretty bad ass for not even being on a trail and running over mountains. Jerusalem, you and your hills are impressive.

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On top of Mt. Scopus following a wicked climb. I know you think you can see the outline
of my nipples, but those are just my gels stuffed in my bra. Don’t get too excited.

Mile 15 or so and this was our favorite aid station by far. Yes, those are fresh veggies and hummus. There was also a coffee urn. I stuffed my face with some of those pickles.

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There were about 25,000 people running this race (all races combined). I am guessing about 7,000 of those were marathoners. The U.S. is the most highly represented country after Israel. This is only the fifth year for the race and it grows exponentially each year.

There is a part of the course that actually goes through the Old City of Jerusalem.

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You run on cobblestone. This is the part where I kind of cried. It was just too surreal and overwhelming.

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My video footage:

The support and spectating along the course was amazing. No shortage of water, well wishers or smiles. Below is a typical aid station. The water was all in short water bottles, which were opened for you when you grabbed them. Yes, all were recycled! GUs were served generously on the course.

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Around mile 18, I was starting to peter out big time. Teresa was seeming amazingly peppy (#bitch), so I told her to go ahead. I started walking some of the hills. My legs were screaming. The finish came after another long hill (see above), which is mean but probably the only correct way to end a marathon this challenging.

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I came into the finish about 15 minutes behind Teresa, but we quickly reunited.

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Shortly after the finish we ere interviewed by ESPN Latin America. American girls in Israel interviewed by an Argentinian #oneworld.

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Along the way I thought a lot about how this marathon differed from those I’ve done in the states:

  • No running skirts to be found (except mine)
  • The guys wear very short shorts. Not a bad thing.
  • There was hummus
  • Porta potties seemed scarce
  • Many fewer women than men (I think in the US it is the opposite)
  • Not many people listened to music
  • I only saw 2 women running in sports bras with no shirts. They were complete eye candy and stared at constantly.
  • No mile markers, only kms – duh!

But, really – the differences were minimal and trivial. I was once again reminded that running is the great unifier of people regardless of culture, age, religion, speed or ethnicity.

Yeah, so this was my slowest (non Ironman) marathon by far. But I earned every single step of that 4 hours and 37 minutes. I didn’t miss a thing. I suffered righteously without whining and in the best way possible. Every marathon brings unique memories and an astounding sense of accomplishment, but this one…well…it was literally out of this world. I could not have asked for a better day.

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Do you want to run an international marathon some day? Where would be your dream place?

What’s the most challenging marathon you’ve ever done?

I am going to post at least once more about the sightseeing we did (Jerusalem, Dead Sea/Masada/Tel-Aviv). So, stay tuned in the days to come. And, if you are feeling wild, sign up for the 2016 Jerusalem Marathon HERE.

SUAR

Disclosure: My trip was funded by the Israeli Tourism Board. All opinions are of course my own!

71 comments:

  1. Love your skirt!! I'm a Skirtsports ambassador, if you ever need a discount just let me know ;)

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    1. Tiffany, how do you become a Skirtsport ambassador?

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  2. Awe, it really looks like you had a great time. That is not even a bad marathon time! So glad you enjoyed it

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  3. I think you absolutely ran this the right way - just soaking everything up and enjoying it! Also, those hills look killer! I'd love to run an international marathon - but probably not this one. Maybe something a little flatter? Good job and congrats!

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  4. At 52, I decided to run my very first marathon, I choose Bermuda as my international destination. Being a New York-er, everyone scoffed at me that the only marathon to run was NY, but I could not fathom running with 40,000 other sweating, peeing, spitting, stinky people. Bermuda is a small marathon and all the locals throw marathon parties on their front lawns (with fully stocked bars and music) and cheer you as you go by, calling you by your first name that is typed out on your bib. Good times!

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    1. Now that sounds like a blast. I love the idea of combining a race with a vacation. Runcation.

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    2. Bermuda is a beautiful place to run! I haven't done a race there, but ran lots of places on St Georges, and around the island several times. On the beaches. Awesome!

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  5. When I was last in Israel, I didn't get a chance to run. I really regret that! I imagine the race was very emotional and fulfilling in more ways than one. I can't wait to read about how you liked the rest of your trip! I have that skirt in black! I love the purple.

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  6. What an incredible experience!!! Thanks so much for sharing:)

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  8. So freaking cool! My real life blogging buddy meets my virtual blogging buddy - ha! Who woulda thought?

    Congrats on an amazing finish time for that crazy course and only 5 weeks of prep. Super impressive!

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  9. What a great recap. Love the video. So glad everything went well and that you had such a great time. I'm doing Berlin in September but my dream race is Rome. I hear it's brutal because of the cobble stones, but running through Rome would be so worth it.

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  10. I LOVE this post...and the comment about being in the type of shape that you can "pull a marathon out of your ass" is great!! I'd love to run Paris one day....maybe for my 50th bday....gather a group of girlfriends to do it!
    www.momontherunsanity.com

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  11. Wow, what an experience! I'd love to visit Jerusalem some day. I'm not a runner, so I couldn't say where I'd like to run. I currently am enjoying trying to ride my bike in as many states as possible, although it's slow going. I hope to ride 1500 miles this year. I think a bike ride in a foreign country would be a lot of fun!

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  12. That looks like such a cool experience and such a great trip. I'm glad (but not surprised) to see that you were able to have a lot of fun even while running a marathon that you weren't well-trained for.

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  13. Love your race recap and can't wait to read the rest of the story! Thanks for letting us 'join' you on this journey. What fun!

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  14. It sounds amazing! Can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip.

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  15. I'm pretty sure if I received an email like this, I would have deleted it thinking it was spam. How thrilling! I loved following along as you made your way through the Holy Land. Made me smile and want to hop on a plane to some exotic foreign land.

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  16. You. Are. Amazing.

    That is all.

    Except also, congrats!! I'm so very inspired by you.

    Trina
    (who ran her first half marathon just last October, and her second just a few weeks ago, in -47 with a windchill weather - gah!!)

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  17. Awesome run! What a great adventure! I would love to run in China.

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  18. Wow, amazing. Such an experience. I loved your Instagram pics. I'm looking into going there right NOW! lol. Can't wait to here about the sightseeing as well. :) Rache

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  19. Incredible!!! I would love to run a race (half or full) with my daughter in Dublin (or France, Rome, really - anywhere) and hope "some day" becomes a reality.

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  20. Way to go! Loved the report. I'd put this race on my bucket list but man, those hills looked killer ;-). Glad you had a good time, though.

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  21. Congrats! 4:37 is pretty awesome for only 5 weeks of prep work. What an amazing experience. Who knew that blogging could bring such awesome benefits. I'm still hung up on the free sleep number bed...

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  22. I would love to run in New Zealand or Ireland one day. Maybe when I graduate from Nursing School.

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  23. You .are.amazing! And thanks for sharing all the pictures and your experience.

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  24. What an amazing experience.

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  25. Congratulations. I love reading your blog. I chose to run the Paris marathon in celebration of my 50th birthday in 2013.

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  26. Well done! I was so looking forward to hearing how you got on. You must be over the moon.

    I'm running the Prague marathon in the Czech Republic in 6 weeks. Training going rubbish.

    Worse marathon ever - New York, which was a shame seeing I dragged my family over from Ireland.

    If you are looking for another international marathon I recommend The Medoc Marathon in Bordeaux, France. You get served fab wine and oysters along the route. It's the BEST marathon ever, I think you would love it.
    Anyway, Happy St Patrick's Day from Ireland and well done once again
    Jac

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    1. Prague sounds fantastic. I've never been there but have had countless people tell me what an amazing city it is. Ok, wine and oysters? Love both of these things but during a marathon...well, it would be an experience. Would love to run in France!

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  27. How fun! I'm happy for you that you had such a good time.

    The Ottawa Marathon was randomly happening while we were there on our honeymoon, so I'd love to go back and run it on our 10th anniversary. I kind of want to do the Athens Marathon as an homage to where it all began. And after reading these comments, the Bermuda Marathon is now on my list! I've done Detroit three times and we go into Canada for a few miles, does that count? =)

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  28. I bet next year's race will have more women in skirts - clearly they help power you up all the hills! It really is amazing to notice how many similarities there are between this race and any we've done in the states. One thing I think the US should pick up on: signs pointing to the bathrooms on course! (Did you see those?) And also, the coffee station. #brilliant

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  29. This is such an awesome recap, and I am SO jealous of your experience. I would be in tears from the absolute surrealnes (sp?) of it all. Thanks for sharing :-)

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  30. I love Jerusalem. I have only been there twice but just being around such a "old city" and appreciating the history. I would probably cry too! I'm glad you had a wonderful time! I am doing my first marathon in May and my first marathon goal was 4:30. Maybe I need to switch it to 5 hours, because you are so fast!

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    1. Which marathon are you doing? Best of luck with training and racing!

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  31. Congratulations! You are seriously bad-assed! (Ass?).
    I have no desire to do a full. Ran a half this weekend that was under-trained due to our incredibly bad weather but I PR'd by a whole minute! Woot! You would have been showred an half in the bag by the time I got in but I'm happy!
    I'd love to run the Dublin RnR. One day!

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  32. Oh Beth!! What a lifetime experience!! I'll be back to read this in more detail but I did read most of it and I am just so happy for you! The travel, friendships, history...I am INSPIRED to say the least. Oh and you look fabulous too! So strong. And happy. Thanks for sharing your experiences here. I hope to have an opportunity like this someday.

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    1. Thanks Amanda! I hope you have the opportunity to do something like this one day too :)

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  33. Love this recap, Beth, and your pix and humor are the best! I lived in Israel for a year and a half during college, and miss it! In Greece, my dad used to run the Athens marathon with the Hash House Harriers running club. It still exists.

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    1. Hey Debiie! Great to hear from you. I bet living in Israel was amazing! I would still love to run the Athens Marathon...maybe someday.

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  34. Very cool experience - good race and great pictures. I look forward to more info about the city. This got me thinking about destination races so much I actually wrote and entire post about it. Lots of great races I would like to run some day, if time, money and health allow. Geezer recently posted....http://oldguyrunning.net/wp/?p=73

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  35. Yay Beth!! Hilarious recap. Very happy for you.

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  36. I've been so anxiously awaiting your post about the race. Congrats to you! Sounds like you killed it and was a truly amazing experience.

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  37. Yes, i agreed with the ideas that can provide in the post.
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  38. Congrats to you, SUAR! You really did pull that one out of your, um, you know... Proof positive of the importance of a strong fitness base level. Thanks for taking us along on your unforgettable adventure.
    If you are like me, you have already moved on to "what's next?"

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  40. I am in love with this post! And the photos looks so fun! Congrats to you. This was an awesome adventure, thank you for "taking" us with you =)

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  41. Congrats!! What an amazing adventure.

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  42. What an incredible experience. It looks so beautiful there but wow what a course profile! I would have thought that email was a joke too. So cool.

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  43. I would love to go to Switzerland or Sweden to run there…maybe even Germany. Great race recap- glad you enjoyed it. My toughest marathon was Pikes Peak and a local mountain marathon called Mica Mountain. But great memories of both!

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  44. Most of the skirts involved in the marathon are worn by orthodox women. Not many of them, but more each year I run.

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  45. What a great race!! My only marathon has been 2013 NYC (amazeballs). My next dream marathon is London.

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