Marathon race in 3000-year-old City

On Friday, March 17 this year, the International Jerusalem Winner Marathon will be held, passing fascinating historical sites from the Israeli capital’s 3,000-year history.

Photos: Creative Commons
The hilly terrain of the city makes the Jerusalem Marathon challenging. The marathon in Jerusalem passes along Jaffa street.

The marathon starts at Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in West Jerusalem. The runners then pass through the Hebrew University Givat Ram campus, along the Valley of the Cross and through several neighborhoods on their way up to the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus in East Jerusalem.

The course then goes down to the Old City where the runners pass through the Jaffa Gate via the Armenian Quarter, out through the Zion Gate, and then enter the Jerusalem Forest. The finishing line is in Sacher Park, the largest public park in central Jerusalem.
A number of streets in central Jerusalem will be closed to traffic from 05:30 in the morning, including Keren Hayesod, King George, Yafo street, Jaffa Gate, Zion Gate and Ben Yehuda street.

An exciting country

One of those planning to run a half marathon in Jerusalem this year is Sven-Åke Rosborg from Halmstad in south Sweden.

– I’ve been there before and run both the ten-kilometer distance and the half-marathon; both are very interesting. I’ve been to Israel a lot– it’s an exciting country. Whether it’ll be a half-marathon or ten kilometers this year, I don’t know yet, but I know the route, he says.

In addition to the marathon of 42.2 kilometers, you can run a half-marathon (21.1 km), a 10-kilometer distance, a 5-kilometer stretch, a family competition (1.7 km) or a community race of 800 meters.

The Jerusalem Marathon was staged for three years, 1992–1994, and established in its current form in 2011 when 10,000 participants from 40 countries joined the event. In 2014, over 25,000 runners took part, while the 2020 event was canceled due to the corona pandemic. In the years from 2011 to 2019, both the women’s and men’s races were won by Kenyans or Ethiopians.

Along Tel Aviv’s beaches

The course record for men is 2:16:09 (2014) and held by the Kenyan, Ronald Kurgat. For women, the record is 2:38:24 (2016) when Kenyan Joan Kigen won.

In 2022 the mens’ marathon was won by Ageze Guadie, an Ethiopian-born Israeli, while Valentina Versca, who fled Ukraine after the Russian invasion of her country, won the women’s event.

A few weeks before the Jerusalem Winner Marathon, the Tel Aviv Marathon is held. This event ran from 1981 to 1994, was resumed in 2009 and last year attracted around 40,000 runners. In this race, participants pace along the beach and on the main streets of Tel Aviv. Here, too, there is a half-marathon, as well as ten- and five-kilometer stretches in the event.

The Tel Aviv Marathon is not as demanding as the capital’s marathon, where the hilly terrain makes the race more challenging.