Marathon Fever Hits Jerusalem: 25,000 Runners Take to the Streets

Runners from 54 countries competing in Friday's race.

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Local and international runners take part annual Jerusalem Marathon by the Old City on March 21, 2014. Credit: AFP

Over 25,000 runners hailing from 54 nations hit the car-free streets of Jerusalem on Friday morning as the capital's fourth annual marathon kicked off.

As of 10:30 A.M., fifteen of the racers found themselves in need of medical attention due to dehydration and bruises. A few were evacuated to hospital, including one 20-year-old man in serious condition after suffering a heat stroke.

Near the Old City's Damascus gate, by which the race's route passes, several youths wielding Palestinian flags attempted to disrupt the event. Four were arrested and the rest were dispersed.

Several of the capital's major thoroughfares have been shut down for traffic since the early morning: In the downtown area, near the government complex, in the Mount Scopus area, around the German Colony and Baka, and along the Armon Hanatziv promenade. Traffic will resume on 1:30 P.M. A full list of closures can be found on the municipality's website. In addition, 27 schools and some 80 kindergartens located close to the route of the race were closed.

Over a thousand policemen and some 800 ushers will be securing the route and directing traffic. The light rail and many bus lines will be running truncated routes. City officials urged the public to avoid traveling in private cars and to shop early for Shabbat.

The municipality expressed satisfaction with the registration for the event, which is  bringing more than 100,000 bed-nights to the city’s hotels, and will add more than NIS 10 million ($2.9 million) to the city’s coffers.

Moses splits the runners. Jerusalem, March 21, 2014. Photo Olivier Fitoussi

The Jerusalem Marathon is considered relatively difficult because of the city’s hilly terrain, but organizers say the city’s attractions compensate for this. The sprinters will be running within the Old City and also passing the Knesset, Sultan’s Pool, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Mount Zion, Mount Scopus and other sites.

In addition to the full marathon route, there will be shorter races, including a half-marathon, a 10-kilometer race, a five-kilometer competition and a “social race” of 800 meters.