A Real JEM – Jerusalem Marathon 2014


Jerusalem: 31° 30′ N and 34° 45′ E
Dateline: Friday, 21 March 2014
Time: 6:30 a.m.
Event: JEM – Jerusalem Marathon 2014

Overheard JEM Hebrew language announcer on loudspeaker:
“Good morning! Good morning! Good morning! Half-marathon runners should begin approaching the starting line.” …blah…blah…blah…

Thinking less than friendly thoughts about that bright sunshiny voice busily calling out instructions from the Knesset/Israel Museum side of the hill just under a kilometer away from our condo I get up. Nothing to be done about it, no Friday morning sleep-in for this committed non-marathoner!

Looking out from the balcony I see multi-colored balloons and the half-marathoners waiting at the starting line. At precisely 6:45 one long loud horn blast and they’re off!

Next up “Good morning! Good morning! Good Morning! 42.2 K Full Marathon runners should begin approaching the starting line.” …etc…etc…etc…

This year due to route changes neither the 10 km nor the half-marathon used our street. But the full marathon did. Long about 8:00 the children up the street began shouting “They’re on their way. They’re coming up the street. Get ready to cheer.”

Our street, which until then had been manned only by marathon ushers, police officers and soldiers, suddenly came alive. Hearing the children and sirens, I stepped out onto the balcony just in time to see the protective motorized honor guard ahead of the first group of full marathon runners. This first group was all African runners, running in an even, natural, beautiful and completely silent formation. From my birds-eye view up on the balcony I could see that they were running with themselves, neither towards nor away from anything. They were running as one man. Each one seeking to reach a goal inside himself. Their beautiful, chocolate-brown skins gleaming in the early morning sunshine caused me to energetically call out: “Welcome to Jerusalem! You look beautiful! G-d bless you.” A runner dressed in green, economically half raised his head and smiled, clearly he was looking up towards G-d’s heaven, reaching out to receive His blessing. I called out: “Yes, Oh L-rd we are here!” as they disappeared around the bend in the street.

About 40 minutes later a large mass of raucous runners came sputtering forward in a cacophony of happy sound from which I gleaned Hebrew, English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. When I called out to them “You look beautiful! G-d Bless you!” some called back “Amen!” and others “Thank you!”

There were running flag-bearers from Brazil, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, and one Christian fellow carrying a Jesus flag. These were outnumbered by a whole group of Israelis joyfully bearing our flag in a whole host of sizes. Secular men and women wearing regular outfits ran next to religiously observant women wearing skirts over their long running tights. Sprinkled amongst these were orthodox Jews with tzitzit (fringes) flapping behind them on their four-cornered undergarments. One of them had tied his long white beard in place with four black elastic ponytail holders. All of them disappeared around the corner in blur of beautiful colors. They were all so happily energetic that it seemed to me that I was looking at a parade instead of a serious marathon.

About 2 hours later, the Africans came back past the house. They were no longer running in close formation. There was a separate and distinct leader, #8, (the winner, Ronald Kimeli Kurgat of Kenya), followed by runners quickly trickling by. They were still running silently with elegant, economical form; a beautiful sight. This time the regular running folk took longer to arrive. They came by about an hour later. They looked a bit weary for the wear, but they were still happily jogging along…talking, laughing and in general enjoying themselves.

Indeed we live on a real JEM of a street. By 12:45 the street was opened, just in time for Friday afternoon rush hour.


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