Perfect weather for 20,000 marathoners in Jerusalem

Ethiopians smash through course records in men and women's races in Jerusalem Marathon.

Jerusalem Marathon 370 (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
Jerusalem Marathon 370
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
In most cities around the world, the cheering crowds on the day of a marathon drown out the grumbling residents, angry over disruptions to their traffic patterns.

The Jerusalem Marathon, just three years old, is still growing, but with 20,000 runners, up from 11,000 two years ago, slowly the cheering is becoming louder.After last year’s rain and hail, perfect weather graced the hilly marathon course on Friday, with cool, cloudy weather that distance runners crave. The favorable conditions allowed the men’s and women’s winners to blast through race records by more than a minute each.Abraham Kabeto Ketla of Ethiopia won with a time of 2:16:29.25. In second and third place were Luka Kipkemoi Chelimo of Kenya, who finished in 2:19:01.95, and Vincent Kiplagat Kiptoo of Kenya, who crossed the finish line with a time of 2:20:12.60.In the women’s division, Mihiret Anamo Anotonios of Ethiopia took first place with a time of 2:47:26.40. She was followed by Radiya Muhammad Roba of Ethiopia in second place with a time of 3:05:58.15.In third place was Ellisa Ballas from the US with a time of 3:11:37.70. The 33-year-old runner from Ohio told The Jerusalem Post that she found Jerusalem “hilly, but pretty.”The men’s and women’s winners won $10,000 each, $5,000 for first place and $5,000 for breaking the course record.Twenty thousand runners, including 1,800 from 52 foreign countries, participated in the full marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 4.2k fun race for charity. A number of MKs joined in the festivities, including Dov Lipman, Nachman Shai and Danny Danon.Magen David Adom paramedics treated 61 runners for injuries, 11 of whom were from abroad. Only three runners required further care at a hospital.This was the first year the marathon took place without the shadow of terror hanging overhead. Last year, the day before the race, a Palestinian teenager stabbed a soldier in uniform on the Jerusalem Light Rail, wounding her seriously. Two years ago, a bus bombing outside the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyenei Ha’uma) killed Mary Jane Gardner, a Bible scholar from Scotland, and wounded 39 people just two days before the marathon.Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who ran the half marathon with a broken rib, tried to highlight the non-political aspects of the city to the 80 international journalists who arrived to cover the race, amid a last-minute call from the Palestinian Authority for runners and sponsors to boycott the marathon for political reasons.This year, owing to a series of injuries, my body did not agree to let me run the full marathon. The frustration over each reinjury over the winter was an important lesson in itself: a reminder that as much as you want something, as much as you’re ready to work for it, sometimes sheer determination and will power simply aren’t enough.But this year, running the 10k with a new running friend while dressed in a Purim princess dress and handing out candy, I got to see less of Jerusalem and more Jerusalemites. Rather than the lonely miles of a stretched-out marathon course, we ran each step of the way surrounded by thousands of people – 8,000, to be exact, who participated in the 10k along with us.I couldn’t help but get emotional as I rounded the corner of Jaffa Road and the Old City was laid out before me, with thousands of brightly shirted runners bobbing up and down underneath those majestic walls. As we ran from the ancient cobblestone streets out Zion Gate, I remembered how much I love the sweeping valleys near the Old City, the scene of countless of my articles, each inch so fraught with meaning.Jerusalemites will always complain – it’s part of the rights afforded to residents of this complicated city. Yes, you cannot get to the supermarket, or to private lessons, or the central bus station on Marathon Friday. But if you’re stuck at home not running, why not come out to the streets to meet your neighbors as you cheer on the runners? Here is a chance to celebrate a race that is uniquely Jerusalem – a disruption to your daily life, but an opportunity to meet people who live next door.I ran in costume and gave out candy because I want the spectators to enjoy the day as much as I do. Over the past three years as a Jerusalem beat reporter, this city has beaten me down, chewed me up thoroughly, and spat me out heartbroken and hopeless. But she has also shown me moments of immeasurable beauty. And as I run through the streets with thousands of my neighbors, the murders and the terror attacks and the awful things I write about fall away, and I’m reminded of the amazing people who populate this city.As in past years, I was inspired by the runners I interviewed beforehand: Egyptian-American Raef Gruiges, running his 104th marathon under the banner “God is Love,” despite debilitating shin splints. And Beit Shemesh resident Erika Lange, who finished chemo five weeks ago, and her online-support friend Joules Evans, also a cancer survivor, who flew in from Cincinnati to run with her. Runners approaching age 80, runners pushing wheelchairs, thousands of runners in Shalva and Yachad shirts raising money for noble causes.So grumble away about the disruptions. Or come outside in the sunshine and see 20,000 people raising millions of dollars for charity as they huff over Jerusalem’s hills. And if you timed it right, you may have even gotten a piece of candy from a princess.Steve Linde contributed to this report.