Monday, 26 March 2012

The Best of Times - The Worst of Times

Jerusalem Marathon 2012

March 16, 2012

This was my slowest marathon - and I had a blast running it. I stayed overnight opposite the start/finish area, but almost contrived to miss the start. There were about 900 starters (2500 in the 1/2 marathon and 4000 in the 10k), and I made it to the back of the start just as they were firing the gun. The weather was wintry – showery and strong wind gusts with a temperature at the start of about 7C (45F). So I decided to take advantage of my overnight proximity to the start line and not towait around in the cold and rain outside. I left the apartment quite late and headed down to the tunnel which goes under the road nearby and into Gan Sacher. Unfortunately when I got there – I found there were barriers and soldiers who notwithstanding my pleas that I was a marathon runner and my start was in a few minutes – refused to let me pass! I ran (quickly!) up towards another entry point on the corner of Bezalel but I wasn't allowed in there either! By now panic was setting in as I headed up to the Supreme Court where they finally let me in and I was running (very fast!) as the clocked ticked over to 7am and the start time. I stripped off my 2nd layer as I ran – and gave up the idea of handing in my bag to the appropriate place - instead I found someone walking back from the start area and shoved it into his hands, told him my race number and "hoped for the best". As I approached the back of the start line from about 200 meters away I heard the race announcer say – We'll count down from 5…" Luckily the start had been delayed by a couple of minutes – and exactly as he reached "zero" I joined the back of the ranks! I settled into a decent rhythm on this hilly course – about 600 meters of ups and downs - in my estimation that's worth at least a 10 minute difference compared to a "flat" course.

The start was at 7am but there was good support on the streets even at this early hour.
It's a stunning course with the climbs offering vistas of all parts of this ancient city. At about the 10k mark I was joined from behind by Ian, one of my clubmates, and we proceeded to run side by side and to enjoy each other's company.

I was steadily taking in gels, salt and water, and felt comfortable - averaging about 4:45/km (7:40/mile) pace. We headed up on the climb to Mount Scopus and ran a circuit of the university campus there heading into very strong winds at one stage. We were laughing and playing off the crowds. One of Ian's friends handed him a block of chocolate... Ian tried a piece and then threw the rest to a group of puzzled soldiers… We headed back downtown and through the Old City and negotiated some slippery cobblestones.

So far the rain had been sporadic, light and even refreshing - but at around 29k we were hit by a hailstorm! More laughter and shouting on our part - it was great to be sharing this run with a friend - and the support on the sidelines was terrific even through the hail.

We headed up to a well known promenade and Ian started inching ahead - I still felt good and stayed in contact - we had a brief out and back from 34k to 37k and I saw that we had closed on some of the runners who were ahead of us. At the turnaround at about 35.5k I was 9 seconds behind Ian - but just about there I felt a sharp pain in my left soleus and had to slow a bit. The pain got worse - I tried sucking a salt tablet and changing my stride. I stopped to stretch it out and returned to running - it still hurt but I was able to continue - but from here in Ian powered home and ran a great negative split passing quite a few runners in the last 6km including 2 age groupers in the last few hundred meters which gained him 3rd place (50-54) out of 105 and 42nd out of 815 finishers. He finished in 3:22:01 (we passed halfway in 1:41:18) and I fnished in 3:27:32 - 8th in the age group, and 59th overall.

Even though I picked up a slight injury towards the end and didn't finish as well as I had hoped, I thoroughly enjoyed this race. The organization was first class, the course was both beautiful and challenging – a true mirror of all that the city represents. The Jerusalemites came out in force to cheer us on – even in the nasty weather – running down Rechov Yehuda reminded me of the cyclists negotiating the crowds in the Tour de France! L'Shana Ha'ba'a Biyerushalaim! Next year in Jerusalem!