Quite the race to the finish line(s)

J’lem Marathon ends in confusion as leaders run off course; overall success despite glitches.

Jerusalem Marathon starting line 311 (photo credit: Jerusalem Municipality )
Jerusalem Marathon starting line 311
(photo credit: Jerusalem Municipality )
marathon on Friday, experiencing some growing pains along with the glory and honor of hosting a major international athletics event.
The race ended in some confusion as the three leading runners apparently took a wrong turn and arrived at the wrong finish line.
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The first runner to arrive at the actual finish line was Kenyan Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot with a time of 2:27:48, but later on Raymond Kipkoech, 34, of Kenya was announced as the official winner with a time of 2:26:44 after apparently going off the course and arriving at the finish line of the half-marathon in a different location.
Second place was taken by Mutai Kopkorir, 24, of Kenya with a time of 2:26:55 and in third was Kiman Njorage, 33, also of Kenya with a time of 2:27:19. Cheruiyot was credited with a fourth-place finish.
Spectators positioned at the 42 kilometer finish line were immediately confused by a live video feed of Raymond Kipkoech – who was leading the pack of full marathon runners – crossing the halfmarathon line while Cheruiyot broke the tape in front of their eyes.
Finding the finish line was not the only obstacle. Some runners complained of a lack of signs marking distances along the trail. Completing the final 200 meters was physically challenging – and dangerous. Due to the previous two days of rain, the grass at Gan Sacher soaked through and turned to mud.
Race officials covered the home stretch to the finish line with green tarp, but runners sunk deep into the ground with each step.
Despite the few difficulties in the race route, the Jerusalem proved to be a boon to the capital.
“This is a tremendous day for the entire city of Jerusalem,” Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said. “The whole city is a winner today.”
4,000 runners from abroad booked rooms in local hotels, which were filled to capacity.
One of Barkat’s goals in hosting the marathon – which he may run next year – was to put Jerusalem on the international marathon map, which includes cities such as New York, Berlin, and Paris.
He seems to have succeeded.
Jerusalem will host its second international marathon, which will be held next year on March 16.
When the first runners arrived outside the Knesset before 6 a.m., it seemed unlikely that they would be willing to shed their sweatshirts and long pants. Just over two hours and twentysix minutes later, when Kenyan Kipkoech crossed the finish line in Gan Sacher, the weather had improved to perfect running weather.
1,500 people began the 26.2 mile (42 kilometer) race at 7 a.m., followed by over 8,000 half-marathoners and 10kcompetitors an hour later.
Two jazz bands played while runners were completing their final preparations at the start.
The atmosphere early Friday morning was light, with runners realizing the significance of the occasion.
“I guess the only emotion I can feel right now is excitement,” said Donny Greenberg, 18, of Engelwood, NJ, moments before beginning his 42-kilometer trek, which he completed four hours and fifty-one minutes later.
A group of five French runners jumped up and down and danced, singing Hebrew, Zionistic songs as runners lined up.
Noticeable among the yellow- shirted runners were many charities with teams of runners: Chai Lifeline, whose runners gathers hours beforehand; Shalva, sporting bright purple t-shirts; Team Tzvi, the group of yeshiva students; and Yad Vashem, partnering with Blue Card.
Running the half-marathon was a large group of soldiers in officer’s training school as well as a large contingent of paratroopers in bright red uniforms.
The joyous mood picked up less than a kilometer away from where it left off: by the finish line. Dozens of tents sold health products and food, and two stages featured musical performances and presented awards to agegroup winners.
Every runner who completed the marathon in under six hours received a medal commemorating the inaugural event. Winner, the primary sponsor of the marathon, provided the free service of taking four to eight pictures of individual runners and posting them directly to their Facebook pages.
The winning female runner was Oda Worknesh, 26 from Ethiopia with a time of 2:50:05. Second was Rosaline David, 35 from Kenya with a time of 2:50:06 and in third, Wioletta Kryza, 42 from Poland at 2:51:21.
The winning time in the half-marathon was 1:12:41, posted by Adugna Assefa Deriba, while the 10k was won by Bikala Yehuala Beyene in a time of 33:55, with Israeli Omar Bekkali just seven seconds back in second place.