After Getting Divorced, This Brit Hasn't Stopped Running

While Israeli runners headed to Barcelona, Olu Jatto came to run the hilly Jerusalem marathon - his 57th race

Olu Jatto.
Tomer Appelbaum

Olu Jatto, 44, from Manchester; arriving from Budapest

Hello, can I ask what you’ll be doing in Israel?

I love traveling and ancient cultures, and I’ve always wanted to visit Israel. But the truth is that I’ve come to run the super-hilly Jerusalem marathon.

Is it your first?

No, it’s my 57th race all over the world in the past eight years. I even went to Australia to run a marathon.

Wow, how did that happen?

I’m a real estate lawyer, and during the recession about 10 years ago, there was a falloff in work. I also got divorced then. A neighbor saw me running and invited me to join a running club. He also had just divorced, so it was, “You too? Me too!”

What attracted you to running?

I just wanted to escape everything, free my mind.

And did you succeed?

Not really. Afterward all the problematic issues were still there and I still had to solve them – but I felt a lot better.

Why is that?

It’s great to meet and get to know new people and new places. I’d always wanted to travel and see the world, and marathons are an interesting way to do it. I’ve gone all over: France, Holland, Spain, Greece and Malta. I ran the Istanbul marathon, I crossed the Bosporus. I ran the Athens race – the original one, from the village of Marathon to the stadium in Athens. The Jerusalem marathon is my third this year.

How were the other two?

The first one was in January, in Anglesey, an island in the Irish Sea.It took me seven hours, because it’s a marathon of endurance and suffering. You run across hills, and there are many where you actually have to walk; you have to carry a backpack with water and a first-aid kit. The second was in northern England, near an old monastery called Bolton Abbey, on an estate owned by the Duke of Devonshire. It was my third time there. I usually don’t do the same marathon twice, but it’s so beautiful there. You run across all kinds of landscapes; there’s water and mud. The mud is problematic, because you fall and get dirty, but it’s part of the fun.

Of all your marathons, which did you like best?

Because I really like hills and heights, I’d choose the Jungfrau marathon, in Switzerland.

What’s special about it?

The first 20 kilometers are in a valley and you see the three highest mountains in Switzerland, and it’s marvelous. Then you climb up, and lots of Swiss people come with flags and blow horns.

Are you a fast runner?

My best time is 4 hours and 16 minutes, but all I want to do is finish the race, and if there’s no time limit, I just enjoy myself and take pictures. Marathons are addictive.

Sounds like it.

I have insane friends who have joined the 100 club – you need to run 100 marathons to become a member.

Another 43 to go!

I want to get there by the age of 50. You need time for it, but otherwise I just sit for hours at work in front of the computer, and read and write. I need another outlet that allows me to examine the thoughts that come up in my head.

What kind of thoughts?

You experience a number of stages when you run. For the first six-seven miles there’s the pain – the muscles hurt, the back hurts, breathing is hard and the brain is telling you, “Stop running!” But it’s all in my head, because when you get through the pain, you reach a stage of exaltation. With me it happens somewhere between mile 16 and mile 21 – the endorphins rise, the adrenaline flows and all the natural chemicals are released. It’s a stage of transcendence; your body just stretches itself. In the next stage you feel wiped out again, and then, toward the end of the race, a new stage arrives and something happens.

What?

There’s a sense of achievement: I’ve done something I didn’t think I could do. You don’t think about the next marathon, you think only about what you’ve done and ask yourself, “How did I do that?”

Adi Wilf and Tally Gur.
Tomer Appelbaum

Adi Wilf, 57, from Kiryat Tivon, and Tally Gur, 43, from Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim; flying to Barcelona

Hello, can I ask what you’ll be doing in Barcelona?

Adi: We’re on the way to run a marathon there.

Why Barcelona? I heard there’s a marathon coming up in Jerusalem.

Adi: It’s the loveliest marathon and it’s also flat there, unlike Jerusalem. And there’s a happening and lots of people cheering and a carnival atmosphere.

Tally: And there’s not supposed to be rain.

Are you running together?

Adi: Yes. We’re members of a running group in Tivon called Make Way.

How long have you been in the group?

Adi: I started running two years ago. A friend suggested that I come, and I was like, let’s do it. And within two years I got to a marathon.

Tally: The marathon is because I made him do it.

Why did you make him do it?

Tally: Adi is the ideal running partner. He doesn’t grumble and he starts to sing things like, “The hills are higher on the way back” when things get tough.

Is it fun running with Tally, too?

Adi: Tally never closes her mouth, so it’s fun to run with her. You finish the run and she’s still talking about the second time she gave birth.

How many births were there?

Tally: I have three kids. I only started to run three years ago, at the age of 40.

A midlife crisis?

Tally: I weighed about 60 kilos more than I do today, and I was looking for something. Today I weigh 60-something [130-plus pounds]; back then I was 120, 130 [265-plus pounds].

Which came first – losing weight or running?

Tally: I was after pregnancies and I started to go down to the 100-kilo region, and then someone told me about an app that trains you within 30 days to run five kilometers. I said, ‘No way, I’d rather walk.’ But in the end I succeeded in running five kilometers, and then by chance I met the group’s trainer and somehow I got into it all.

Looks like you dived deep.

Tally: When you run you change your nutrition. I no longer eat Bissli and Bamba [snack foods] like I used to, even though sometimes after runs I binge on chocolate, because we burn about 2,400 calories.

Well done.

Tally: I’m a girl with different types of attention deficit problems, and running has completely changed my life. I’ve become a more focused and task-oriented person, maybe even more efficient. I’m definitely lighter on my feet, so I get more done.

Sounds like you’re in love.

Tally: My life revolves around running. I get upset if I miss a training session.

Adi: For me running is an addition.

An addition to what?

Adi: I’m a driving instructor and also a musician, and I have four daughters and a granddaughter. I’m a young grandfather.

Tally: I’m a historian. For the past half-year, I’ve been making corrections to my doctoral dissertation.

Is this your first marathon?

Adi: It’s my first and Tally’s second.

Tally: I’ve already done the Berlin Marathon.

How was it?

Tally: On the day and night before, I was basically not functioning, under terrible pressure and I couldn’t sleep. I finished the marathon in five and a quarter hours – but crawling.

That’s crazy. Doesn’t a marathon totally wreck the body?

Tally: We both take a lot of legal drugs. He has a bag that gives the security people fits of laughter if they see it.

Adi (taking out a huge bag): I take all these things daily, and I’m also flying with every type of bandage that exists. I leave no stone unturned. I’ve been to all the acupuncture people and I’ve tried everything there is. The only thing I haven’t taken yet is medical cannabis.

Tally: Yesterday his parents asked, “Why do you run like that? Why do people run when they’re in pain?”

And what’s the answer?

Tally: It’s because the only thing that would be more painful is not running. We won’t give it up, we’ve shed blood, invested time and effort, and no one is going to take that from us. We’ll get to the end.