As soon as the gun sounded, I was picturing mass chaos of runners all trying to go at the same time. The announcer kept telling everyone to walk slowly to the starting line. Instead it was very calm. No pushing. Everyone waited patiently for their turn. I stepped on the starting mat and started my watch. I quickly covered the watch with my sleeve.
I started off at a comfortable pace and I felt more like Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens than a runner. I kept weaving in and out of traffic trying to find an open lane. From reading others people’s race experiences, I expected this to occur. I figured it would take the first 1-2 km to thin out. Once we rounded the first turn, and passed the 1m marker, we reached a tunnel. The 10k runners started to sound like kids, with everyone screaming and yelling and making as much noise as they could.
Once we got out of the tunnel, we reached the first big hill. I knew the hills would be a place when I would be passing lots of people. The city I live in, is all hills, so I am used to running up and down. I kept my plan for the race in my head. I took small steps to get up the hill. It worked. I made it up the first hill without feeling like I was drained.
Next we passed the first water station. They handed out small water bottles. You had to be careful, as the street started to get a little wet and slippery. Next we turned down on King George Street, followed by a right onto Jaffa Street. These are streets I have walked down numerous times. It was neat to be running through town. We continued on Jaffa until the Old City of Jerusalem appeared In front.
We almost had to make a U-turn to start the ascent to run through the Jaffa Gate. This was very special, because it is the very same gate that the Israel Defense Forces drove through during the 1967 Six Day War when they brought the Old City of Jerusalem back into Jewish control for the first time in 2000 years. We continued on the run through parts of the old city. During this time, we passed the 5km mark. I looked down at my watch for the first time and saw I was at 24:25. I said to myself, I have a chance to break 50 minutes.
We continued out of the Old City through the Zion gate and continued on. I could see the Sultans swimming pool and then I looked ahead and saw the famous Montefiore Windmill. It was a beautiful sight. As we were nearing the next water station, the road started a slight incline. All of sudden I started hearing Eye of the Tiger. I was passing a guy who had music playing out of his phone. Thanks! It gave me a little boost. I passed one of my friends who was waiting to see his wife go by. He gave me a nice high five and called me a speed demon.
We started up another hill. This was one was called Bible Hill. People next to me were in agony from it and screaming as they went up. I slowed my steps and made it up without a struggle. As we were coming down the next hill, I heard a veteran of the race tell a friend who was running his first race, that there was one more hill. I was ready.
We passed the 9k mark and I saw on my watch, 44:34. I figured 50 minutes is within reach. I started to run to make it. Once I saw the finish line, I looked down again and saw 48:00. I kept running and finished strong. My watch said 49:21 and the official time was 49:23. I was near the top 5%. I was ecstatic.
When it was over, I walked to pick up a banana, clementine and a bottle of water. I walked and then picked up my medal. I quickly changed and started to walk to my bus. I wore my medal home with pride. The highlight was when I made it home in time to pick my son up from school. He got to see me with the medal around my neck. Of course in a typical five year old fashion, all he wanted to do was wear it.
I highly recommend the Jerusalem race to anyone looking to run a destination race.