A drawer full of running shirts, a heart full of memories
By Judi Felber
I love the land of Israel, and I love to run. Put these two passions together and I have a drawer full of running shirts and a heart full of fond memories from all over Israel.
Israel actually has quite a robust running and sports culture, one that is not limited to location or population concentration.
There are marathons in Tiberias, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. The Bible Marathon starts in Rosh Ha'ayin and ends in Shilo. Eilat hosts the Eilat International Desert Marathon. More keep popping up every year. These marathons often also have accompanying 1/2 marathons, 10 km races, and 3–5 km fun family runs.
More than 40,000 people took to the streets in Tel Aviv this past year. Team OneFamily, which supports families that have been impacted by terrorism, brought more than 300 runners from Israel, US, Australia, England, and Canada to the Jerusalem Marathon to raise money for OneFamily through sponsorships. They have also sponsored teams in the New York City Marathon.
There are 10 km road races in many small towns as well. Raanana, my home town, has been hosting a 10 km race for the past 27 years. Race day in Raanana also includes a 3 km fun run and a 10 km hand bike race. This race happens to be popular among many army units as well. In fact, the Combat Engineering Corps and the Communication Corps send many units each year to participate.
Many units print special shirts for their soldiers and set up tables of foods and drinks for their groups. My favorite shirt is emblazoned on the back with "I am a bomb diffuser. If you see me running, try to keep up".
For night owls or those who prefer to run without the daytime sun and heat, there are also 10 km night runs in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva, Haifa, Mitzpeh Ramon Haifa and more. The slogan for the Tel Aviv night run is, "Catch Me If You Can".
The Druze communities in the Carmel area host a run to honor their boys who serve, or have served, in the IDF.
A few years ago, a group of runners organized a 1-day, 60-km run on the popular Yam L'Yam trail from the Mediterranean Sea to the Kinneret. Participants could run the entire course or just specific legs, depending on fitness level and desire.
There are also 200 km, 24-hour, 24-station relay races that attract hundreds of teams and tens of thousands of participants. teams of Groups of 4, 6, or 8 runners participate as a team and run 3 to 6 legs of the race.
The popular Mountain to Valley race, scheduled for the first full moon after Passover, starts in the north at the feet of the Roaring Lion statue in Tel-Hai and continues along the northern Jordan River Valley, passing the Hula Valley Nature Reserve and the northern section of the Sea of Galilee. The route then climbs and crosses the Lower Galilee mountain range, crosses the Jezreel Valley into the Mountains of Menashe - the northern leg of Mount Carmel - and finally ends at Timrat, just west of Nazareth.
My favorite relay race, however, is the Tanach TaShach race, which is a 200 km circular route in the Latrun area held each fall. At each of the 24-stations, the organizers post a sign with the ancient, Biblical history of the area as well as the modern historical events that occurred in that area. Participants learn about the area where David and Goliath met. They run on sections of the Burma Road.
If a 42.2 km marathon is not long enough, don't despair. Israel also hosts ultra marathons. The Ultra Marathon Sovev Emek has routes up to 200 km.
Whether you are a marathoner or just a casual runner, come see the land of Israel in a totally different way, register for a road race in Israel and join thousands of other Israeli runners. Click HERE for a schedule of many of the runs in Israel.
And, if you are feeling a bit sore after your race, don’t despair, you are in good company :-). Here is a spoof on walking around Tel Aviv the day after running a marathon.
Judi Felber is a creative writer, editor, educator and development expert who made Aliyah with her family in 2006 at the start of the Second Lebanon War. Combining her strong communication and critical thinking skills with a deep love of Israel, Judi is the Communications Coordinator at Israel Forever.