(photo credit: )
Israeli Haile Satayin blitzed the opposition at the Ein Gedi half marathon on Saturday, finishing in a time of one hour, eight minutes and 40 seconds.
Ethiopian Sisay Asaye came second, crossing the finish line two minutes and 24 seconds later, and Israeli Tadesse Darege (1:11:13) placed third.
As expected, Israeli marathon champion Nili Abramski was the fastest woman. The 36-year-old athlete, who was competing at Ein Gedi for 15th year in a row, finished in 1:22:23. Orna Blau (1:29:14) came in second and Jessica Misonishinik (1:36:34) third.
Despite predictions of "ideal conditions" by organizers at the opening ceremony on Friday night, many of the participants complained of strong winds blowing at them in the second half of the course.
Satayin, 44, had mixed feelings about his result. "It was hard. It was hot and there was strong wind," he told The Jerusalem Post. "I wasn't satisfied with my time. Ive run much faster in the past, sometimes under one hour and four minutes."
More than 700 people took part in the half marathon, the largest field in the 24-year history of the event, which saw the participants run along Road 90 along the Dead Sea from the Ein Gedi Spa to Masada and back again.
An exhausted Abramski said she had felt comfortable in the first half but had found the return stretch far more difficult.
"The first half was excellent, but it was having the wind behind me which made it feel so good," she said. "But the second half was really difficult as I had to run all by myself and it felt like I was running into a wall of wind."
The event also included a 10-kilometer run with 600 participants, a children's run and a hand-controlled bicycle event for disabled athletes.
The 10K was won by Svanach Dastau in 32:25, while the fastest woman was Sevetlana Bachmend (38:55).
Since its inception the half marathon and surrounding races have been used to bring together participants from all round the world to promote peace. This year, in addition to a number of participants from the Palestinian Authority, a group of eight young Jordanian runners competed in the 10K.
Dahab Abdallah Ahmed, 19 was the fastest Jordanian in 34:34.
Commenting on the efforts of the organizers to bring together so many people from different races and religions, Abramski said: "It is a lovely idea. If everybody will do sports more... it will take the focus from the politics and take it to different places.
"When you run it really makes you feel less aggressive, when you finish a race you feel so peaceful you never want to fight about anything and you like to share the land with everybody."
Nujidat Gazi, sports supervisor from the Israeli Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, was instrumental in bringing the Jordanian group to Israel. "The moment you come in contact with people, you know how anxious they are for peace, for living a normal life and doing what they love together," he said. "You feel the happiness on the faces of people from both sides. We at the ministry use these sports as a bridge."