On your marks, get set...

Sportsmen gear up for the 17th annual running of Jerusalem's half-marathon (21k) and 10k runs.

kenyan runner 88 (photo credit: )
kenyan runner 88
(photo credit: )
Sportsmen and laymen alike will put their stamina to the test on Thursday morning for the 17th annual running of Jerusalem's half-marathon (21k) and 10k runs. The races, both starting and finishing at Givat Ram stadium, attract some of the finest runners in Israel and will be attended by 3,500 people - 300 of whom have travelled from abroad to participate. Two unexpected and courageous runners who will appear at the starting line are 83-year-old Moshe Gur - this year's oldest participant- and 13-year-old Uri Gabbay - the youngest. Both are taking part in the 10k run. Attempting to outrun these gutsy contenders are nine-time Israeli marathon winner Asaf Bimro, who came 59th in the 2004 Olympic marathon in Athens, Destau Swanh, who won the half-marathon last year, as well as celebrated sports stars such as Orna Blau, Dooah Chativ, Nili Abramsky, Yossef Gezachw and Arva Atarli. Elite athletes from the Israeli army will also compete, as part of their own internal military championship race. Those who place in each event can expected to be well-rewarded. First prize for the half-marathon is a cool 5,000 NIS, second prize is 3,000 NIS and third is 2,000 NIS. First prize for the 10k run is 2,000 NIS, second is 1,500 NIS and third nets 1,000 NIS. Uri Menachem, chairman of the sports municipal authority said: "It's an honour for Jerusalem to host such a major sporting event. This year we hope to break the record with 3,500 runners taking part and next year we hope to host a full marathon that will have more of an international feel." Participants have come from near and far, and around a hundred of them met for a specially organised pasta evening last night in Jerusalem. Among the diners were a group of seven men from Austria, who are part of the UN disengagement observer force in the Golan. Fred Salzman, one of the men, said: "Jerusalem is a very beautiful place and tomorrow's course looks great. We're all really looking forward to it." Wolfgang Heitzer, 52, and Dietmar Spors, 50, both from Oberhausen, Germany, flew to Israel specifically for the half-marathon. "Running in Jerusalem is something special," said Heitzer, "I took a week off work especially to run here." Baruch Ottervanger, from Jerusalem, is an older runner who has run in 13 marathons all over the world. His six-year-old son,Yaron, who is already showing an aptitude for the sport, is excited to watch his dad in the race. Robert and Carol Sharratt, who flew in from Staffordshire, England, just two days ago, are an athletic couple. "We both regularly run at home," said Robert "and Carol has run in two full marathons in London." The half-marathon and 10k run begin at 9:15 and 10 a.m., respectively. Last year's half-marathon winner was Daraja Tedasa of Ethiopia, who completed the 21.0975k course (to be exact) in 1:09:22h. The winning time in last year's 10k race was a blazing 31:28m.