By Ross Forman
I have now raced for a combined 393 marathon miles over the past 4 ½ years – and the last 26.2 miles were, without question, the most challenging, the most grueling, the most painful.
I ran the Jerusalem Marathon on Friday morning, March 16, marking my 15th marathon. I knew before I even boarded my El Al flight from New York City, bound for Israel, that this would be a challenging marathon, probably my toughest test ever.
And it was, without question. Jerusalem is a city filled with so many amazing, picturesque historic sights, but the terrain is brutally painful for marathon runners. The course went up and down, up and down, up and down for the vast majority of the 26.2-miles. And for an added bonus, some of the course is run on cobblestone, which always is a challenge.
But that’s not it! At least not this year, which was the second time that the Jerusalem Marathon has been held. Mother Nature, it appears, is not a marathon fan. For race day, the temperature was in the 40s with rain and a stiff wind.
And there’s more! At one point during the marathon, it was even hailing.
Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Jerusalem Marathon is one that every marathon runner should attempt at least once – if only for the sights. There were amazing views at multiple points along the course, but my favorite part was running through the Old City. We entered at Jaffa Gate and exited at Zion Gate. Talk about running through time, or, as organizers promote, running through 3,000 years of history.
The pain in my legs seemed to subside briefly as I ran through the Old City, an awe-inspiring section of Jerusalem that includes the Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross) in the Christian Quarter and the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter, among other highlights.
By Mile 20, I was cussing anyone and anything. Make that, everyone and everything. I was in pain, not happy one bit. My quads were killing me and nothing I did, or tried, could eliminate the pain.
But I still pushed forward. I’m sure there’s some great life-lesson to be learned from that.
When I crossed the finish-line, I never – in any of the previous 14 marathons – felt as happy and as relieved.
So that begs the question, which I was in fact asked about five or six hours later, Would I run the Jerusalem Marathon again?
Yes, without question.
I truly know what to expect and would know how to train better, more efficiently for the tall order that is the Jerusalem Marathon.
The bigger question is, which would I prefer to run in 2013: the Jerusalem Marathon of the Tel Aviv Marathon? Of course, I ran Tel Aviv in 2011 and that event remains my Personal Record (PR) time.
Tough choices ... hmm, maybe I’ll run both.
Well, maybe not. Or maybe, yes. The next Jerusalem Marathon is March 1, 2013. I’m not sure of the date for the 2013 Tel Aviv Marathon, but I certainly would run either, or both, again – and perhaps even in the same year. And hopefully others from America also will accept the challenge that is Jerusalem.
Personally, I’m looking at Memorial Day weekend to possibly run my next marathon, perhaps in Ottawa or Calgary, unless I stay within the U.S. Why is deciding my next course so challenging at times?
But nothing will ever be as challenging – or rewarding – as the Jerusalem Marathon.
Have a good run,
P.S. I will be updating this Marathon Journal soon with more Jerusalem memories.