The Last Word: The TA marathon and the pursuit of wellness
Lets hope it becomes an annual event, rather than a one-off as part of the 100-year anniversary.
By JEREMY LAST
Every Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., much of the Colombian capital of Bogota is transformed from a bustling metropolis into a massive sporting venue.
Dozens of roads are closed off to traffic, allowing runners, cyclists and rollerbladers the use of the full width of the streets where they can enjoy exercising without having to worry about dodging vehicles.
Large stages are also set up on many street corners where qualified instructors lead members of the public in aerobics and yoga lessons.
The weekly event, known as Ciclovia, is a sight to see - thousands of people take advantage, filling the streets and creating an intensely positive vibe in a country which is unfortunately known more for its drug trade and terrorism than its sporting endeavors.
It even inspired this less-than-fitness-conscious columnist to give aerobics a go during a trip to Colombia in 2007.
Ciclovia, which has been held in Bogota since the early 1990s, is considered responsible for a large upturn in the fitness levels and health of local residents and is something that should be copied around the world.
A healthy body does indeed help form a healthy mind, and it is partly the responsibility of governments, both local and national, to provide opportunities for people to exercise in a comfortable environment.
It is with this in mind that the decision to reinstate the Tel Aviv marathon to be held on Friday should be welcomed as a positive move which can only improve the wellness of Israelis.
More than 10,000 people are expected to take part in the city's first marathon in 15 years, including 1,100 running in the 42 km marathon and the rest in the 10k and 5k races.
The event had previously been held from 1981 to 1994 and it was a mistake to end it.
Marathons are held in most major cities around the world, and often attract crowds of thousands who line the streets to cheer on the runners as will be the case on Sunday in central London.
As such, as well as promoting fitness they also serve as a celebration of the city's landmarks, such as in London where the image of streams of athletes passing London Bridge is etched in many a British youngster's mind.
There is currently only one other marathon in Israel - the Tiberias marathon, held each January on the banks of the Kinneret.
A spokesman for the Tel Aviv event underlined that few top class runners were invited to participate as the race is intended to be more of an amateur event welcoming as many Israelis as possible than a professional race.
Lets hope that it becomes an annual event and continues to grow, rather than a one-off held only as part of the 100-year anniversary of Tel Aviv.
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