Barefoot Rick's Jerusalem Marathon Report - March 21, 2014
Isaiah 52:7 - How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
As a passionate follower of Jesus and also as a marathon enthusiast, the Jerusalem Marathon is the perfect venue to "exercise" my faith and my ability to finish a tough marathon course. The idea came to me to run this race back in April of 2013. Since then, the pieces fell in place for me to run this four year-old race through millennia of historical sites.
Work often precludes what we would like to do. In this case, I was unable to travel with the others from my church who went for two weeks. They were able to do some humanitarian work with Hope for Ishmael in Jericho and also take in many of the sites around this small country. I did manage to be away from work for a week and left on Tuesday March 18, returning a week later. This was both good and not so good as I will explain later.
Much prayer went into the planning of this trip for nearly a year. I will say that the travel and logistics were good for both myself and the team from our church. However, I did not take into account that I would not be fully rested for the marathon in only two days from arriving in Jerusalem. I have traveled to Europe and the Mideast several times and have not experienced jet lag as severe as this time. I did not rest well the entire week of the trip. Therefore, it was a setup for a slow marathon as shown in my race results.
I arrived Wednesday March 19 in the afternoon. Sleeping restlessly that night, Ronen Krumholz (who is part of the marathon committee) picked me up at the Jerusalem Gate Hotel at 8 a.m. to take me to the Mayor's Press Conference at the Mamilla Hotel. When we arrived on the rooftop where the press was gathered, the mayor's table was strategically situated to use the Old City walls at the Jaffa Gate as a backdrop. It was a breathtaking view. I had no idea what to expect from this press meeting, but I soon found myself seated at the mayor's right hand with two Kenyans on my right. Others at the table included Amir Halevi, Director General for the Ministry of Tourism, Bruce Fordyce, multiple times winner of the Comrades Race in South Africa, and Carlos Lopes, winner of the 1984 Olympic marathon in Los Angeles California. I was sitting there thinking, "Lord, you have certainly opened doors for this barefoot runner that are unexpected and surprising. You certainly love to take the foolish things of this world (me as a barefoot runner) and use them for your glory!" After the press conference, I was also interviewed by several other news outlets. (The Jerusalem Post article is linked below.)
The rest of the day, after the press conference, I spent a bit of time visiting some historic and spiritual sites in the city. I knew I had to be over at the Runner's Expo at 5 p.m. to speak on barefoot running, so I didn't want to get anymore tired out then I was presently. My talk seemed to go well as there were some good questions and follow-up after sharing. I managed to meet up with my fellow runners from my church for a bit after my talk and then turned in early for some needed sleep. Rest would come intermittingly throughout the night as I kept waking up.
Finally, I got up at 4:30 a.m. to start preparing for the 7 a.m. marathon start. I had agree to meet David Cole from our church in the lobby at 5:45 a.m. (who was the only other marathon runner [the others were running the half, 10K, and 5K]). David and I got down to the start line around 6:30 a.m. I managed to push through the crowds and get to where the media were hanging around. Here I was to meet an Israeli video producer by the name of Ran. He was to follow me throughout the course to shoot video for an upcoming promotional piece for the marathon. Having talked to Ran for a few minutes, other media outlets were asking "why are your running barefoot?" This was a great time to talk about running barefoot on "holy ground." After this, Dave and I lined up for the race.
So what can I say about the race itself? Well, as stated before I was tired, but very excited to be running. Having trained for the last few months in cold sub freezing weather, the heat would also be a factor this day. With this in mind, I decided to make a slow day of it. Dave and I ran together for the first few miles and then I encouraged him to go ahead as he more "gas in his tank." From about mile 6 or 7, I was then on my own.
Did I mention that it is hilly? This marathon may have been the most elevation gain and loss of any I have previously completed. Actually, the first few miles were not that bad. However, when we started up Mount Scopus toward the Hebrew University, I started to feel the hills. It always fascinates me that it is so green and lush in Jerusalem. However, on the backside of Scopus, you can see for miles into the Judean Desert. An inhospitable place to say the least. I am sure the man in the Good Samaritan parable who was waylaid by robbers in this area could attest to this fact.
Once we descended Scopus and headed back to the Old City, we went through the Jaffa Gate and through the Armenian Quarter. This was a bit over half way in the race. The really hilly stuff was to continue as we headed through neighborhoods and eventually up the backside of the Mount of Olives. At about mile 19, I stubbed my toe and it bled for a bit. I thought to myself, "Much better men then I have bled and died in Jerusalem. I feel honored to bleed a bit as a memorial to their sacrifices."
The views were incredible from the Mount of Olives, but at this time I was really worn down. I ran until mile 22 and then the wheels fell off on the road that goes out to Bethlehem. Once we turned around and headed back toward the finish line near the Knesset (Parliament), I was doing a run/walk regimen which I really don't like doing. I am somewhat of a purist that likes to run the entire distance. Nonetheless, I finished in 5 hours and 44 minutes. This was by far my slowest marathon, yet in so many ways, my favorite. Even better than my Boston Marathon experiences or New York or Chicago? I would have to say "yes." There is just something about completing 26.2 miles barefoot on holy ground!
Temperature at start - 52 deg F
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