Track and Field: Thousands turn out for half marathon

Daraja Tedesa of Ethiopea crossed the finish line first; Over 3000 people joined the race.

half marathon 224 88 (photo credit: Mark Albom)
half marathon 224 88
(photo credit: Mark Albom)
Over 3,000 people filled the streets of Jerusalem on Thursday morning to participate in the city's 16th annual Half Marathon. Under fair weather and blue skies, Daraja Tedasa of Ethiopia crossed the finish line first with a winning time of 1:09:22. Thousands of runners at Givat Ram stadium stretched, warmed up, and prepared for the marathon races, which included both a 10 kilometer run and the half marathon of 21.1 kilometers. With the number of participants increasing drastically since last year's race, the director of the marathon, Uri Menachem was pleased. "We have the most runners this year, making it the biggest Half Marathon ever in Jerusalem," he said. The thousands of racers proved not only to be the most participants ever, but the most diverse as well. Ages ranged from 12 to 83, and athletes came from Israel, USA, Canada, Australia, Ethiopia and beyond. For American Max Greenky, the course proved challenging before the whistle was even blown. A student at Hebrew University, Greenky chose the Jerusalem race as his first marathon ever, and was shocked when he realized it. "When I first got here, I never saw myself doing this, and loh and behold here I am," he said. On the day of the race he seemed prepared, noting that "the training is addictive." While many like him raced individually, assorted teams flooded the track in a sea of orange, green and blue shirts, running for charity and awareness. Teams this year included Beta Lochem (both Jerusalem and Haifa), Hospitals Haddasa and Share Tzedila, the Knesset, and the city's own police force. Teams and individuals alike lined up with the thousands of others at the starting line at 9:30 am, when the announcer blew the whistle and the Half Marathon began. Completing a full lap around the stadium track, the runners then sped off into the city. As they ran around Jerusalem, participants were treated to the best sights the city had to offer, passing the Mount of Olives, the Botanical Gardens, the Jerusalem Forest, Yad Vashem, and the Biblical Zoo. Menachem says that the views are what makes the race worthwhile. "The course is special because of the topography of Jerusalem…if you follow the races in Israel you see we are one of the best," he said. As soon as Tedasa had crossed, others began pouring in, with spectators leaving their seats and flanking the sides of the finish line to cheer them on. By the early afternoon, the track had been transformed into a celebratory festival, with stands passing out oranges, water, and sandwiches for the depleted runners. Although Tedasa had the best time, there were no losers on this track, as teams embraced and all the runners congratulated one another upon completing the marathon. Even Greenky was pleased during his post run stretches. While his goal was to merely finish the race, he performed better than he had expected, finishing at 1:52:21, just 43 minutes behind Tedasa. "I'm very happy with it, and feel great!" he panted, echoing the sentiments of other runners. The 16th annual Half Marathon was a clear success, and organizers anticipate an even better turn out next year. Yet, while Thursday's race proved to be a great day, Menachem notes the broader implications the marathon has. "This is a celebration for the city and people of Jerusalem. We don't have a lot of time where we can do much celebrating, and the city can be really proud of this event," he said.