Happy running – and good deeds – at the Jerusalem Winner Marathon

According to the organizers, more than 5,300 runners have registered for the event’s various sections.

The Jerusalem Marathon (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Jerusalem Marathon
Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again, the time when you’d be best advised to leave your car at home if you want to get around town in a half-decent amount of time. Then again, you might be one of the plucky thousands taking part in this year’s Jerusalem Winner Marathon, which takes place on March 18.
According to the organizers, more than 5,300 runners have registered for the event’s various sections. In addition to a grueling full 42.195-km. course, the event includes a half-marathon, 10-km. and 5-km. races, a non-competitive 5-km. run, a 1.7-km. course for families and a community race of 800 km. Add to that an 8.5-km. handcycle stretch, and you have something for almost all levels of fitness. It is also a truly global field, with 2,400 participants coming from all over the world, including China, Indonesia, Chile, Ireland, Ukraine, Brazil, France, the US and Britain.
Mayor Nir Barkat enthuses, “This year’s marathon broke all records [in terms of international participation]. We are proud to host all these runners, and I want to wish good luck to all of the participants – whether they run for an important cause, for sport or in celebration of their honeymoon.”
The municipality is also doing its utmost to prevent the capital’s falling into the gridlock grip.
“We are publicizing ahead of time the full guide to traffic arrangements on the morning of the marathon in the various media outlets, on the municipality website and on Facebook,” says municipality spokesperson Evyatar Elad.
Major arteries such as the Begin Road, Kanfei Nesharim Street and Beit Hadfus Street in Givat Shaul will be kept open throughout, as will access to all the city’s hospitals. “We recommend that local residents use their Waze application, which we fill feed with data in real time.”
Meanwhile, back to the sixth annual marathon of our fair city, where the thousands of eager athletes will be busting a gut for all sorts of reasons. Sarah Eldor has several motives for donning her sports gear on March 18, which could be neatly boiled down to two – love and charity. The 60-year-old Eldor was born in Montreal and made aliya with her family as a young girl. She gravitated towards an aesthetic breadwinning avenue, studying fashion, jewelry and accessory design. She returned to Montreal at age 21 to further her studies and career, got married and had a family, and subsequently got divorced.
Eldor will take part in the 10-km. section but will walk the full distance. She will be joined by her partner in sports and life, 70-year-old Shlomo Simhon. The two tied the knot last November and thought that taking part in the marathon would be a nice way to celebrate their new union. It will also generate some benefits for a worthy local cause, the Jerusalem-based SHALVA, Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel.
SHALVA is not the first organization to benefit from Eldor’s efforts.
“I have walked 60 km. in Montreal to raise funds for cancer research,” says the bubbly sexagenarian. “It was a twoday walk.”
However, a change in lifestyle meant that Eldor had to make do with half the distance.
“For five years I walked 60 km. over two days, Shabbat and Sunday,” she notes. “But then I became a little bit more religious and I realized that walking 30 km. on Shabbat wasn’t the right thing to do, so the last five years I have walked 30 km. on the Sunday.”
The beneficiary of Eldor’s Montreal walks was the Jewish General Hospital, but she recently decided to get together financial backing for SHALVA, making the best use possible of a milestone birthday in the process.
“My good friend Fran Cohen [US-based Team SHALVA Marathon director] told me about how she was involved in the marathon, so I decided that when I turned 60, which I did last April, I would participate in the Jerusalem marathon as part of SHALVA and raise money.”
Eldor’s pals got more than birthday cake at the social gathering.
“I came up with this idea of throwing the party for my 60th birthday and inviting all my friends and basically asking them not to participate with their presence [in the marathon] but to make a donation to my charity, SHALVA,” she says.
And so it came to pass.
“Through my party, I raised around $5,000 for SHALVA,” says Eldor proudly.
There was even more joy in store for the Montreal walker.
“A few days before my birthday, Shlomo proposed,” says Eldor with a laugh. “So my friends who thought they were coming just for my 60th birthday were surprised to hear our announcement. The birthday party turned into an engagement party, too.”
Simhon soon realized he was getting into a little more than he’d bargained for.
“I decided that, as Shlomo had become part of my life, he should also be part of my walking for SHALVA,” Eldor continues.
The 60-year-old newlywed wasn’t finished yet.
“When people asked me what we’d like as a wedding gift, I said I’d like a donation to SHALVA. Now SHALVA has become my baby,” she chuckles.
Thus far, Eldor has managed to leverage two personal celebrations for a charitable cause and says she’s looking for more festive opportunities to get her friends to donate.
“God willing, we will have many more happy occasions,” she says. “Shlomo is in training, and he has to keep up with me, and off to the race we go.”
There will be runners and walkers of all ages out in their sporting finery next Friday, including some who are visiting here. The teenage lineup for the 10-km. event includes a couple of Americans who are raising funds for the Koby Mandell Foundation, which was founded by the American- born parents of the eponymous youngster who was murdered near Tekoa in 2001 at the age of 13, along with hiking mate Yosef Ish-Ran. The foundation was set up to provide therapeutic support services for anyone who has lost a close relative to terrorism.
Scott Weissman, 18, is a keen sportsman and plays on the Koby Kings team in the AFI (American Football in Israel) League.
“We were lucky enough to be sponsored by Koby [Mandell Foundation]. In return, we are raising money for the foundation by running in the Jerusalem marathon. They do what they can to help people who have been affected by terror attacks. That’s very significant,” he says.
Weissman will be joined by the 12 other 18-year-old members of the Koby Kings, who will be running various distances as part of the marathon event. Presumably, they all keep fit playing football, although Weissman says next week’s run will probably be a very different kettle of fish for him and his footballer friends.
“I’ve never run 10 km. before,” he notes. “This is probably a good place to start with that.”
Daniel Best is here from Englewood, New Jersey, for a year’s study at a yeshiva in Bayit Vegan. Like Weissman, 19-year-old Best keeps in shape by playing in the AFI for the Oakland Raiders team. He will also use the marathon to raise money for the foundation and says that he and his teammates have gained a lot from the support they received from the foundation for their AFI activities in more senses than one.
“We made a deal with Camp Koby [run by the foundation], which allowed us to play in the football league. Once we realized that we were playing for Camp Koby, it kind of lifted our spirits and made our playing football a little more beautiful,” says Best. “Now that the football season is over, we are focusing more on the marathon. It seems like we’re running for something special, something more, because we’ve had Camp Koby’s support for the whole year. It’s good to give back.”
There are plenty more marathon participants who will be huffing and puffing for a good cause. That may be something to think about if, despite the municipality’s best efforts, you find yourself in a traffic jam next Friday. 
For more information: www.jerusalem-marathon.co.il