The Jerusalem Marathon – A monster of a recap from my trip to Israel | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


My trip was sponsored by the Israel Government Tourist Office. As always, all opinions are 100% my own!

Ahhhh, the Jerusalem Marathon trip. I’m not even sure where to start.

I guess from the beginning.

It all started with an email I received, which I was sure was a scam. Here’s an excerpt:

On behalf of the Israel Government Tourist Office, I’d like to invite you to take part in the upcoming Jerusalem Marathon… 

The Tourist Office would love to host you for this exciting marathon, and will be providing airfare, hotels, most meals and touring as part of your visit. I’ve included the tentative itinerary…

If this is something you would be interested in participating in and covering (or just covering), please let me know.

Below the ‘invitation’ was a preliminary agenda that was mind blowing. Old City tours, Masada, the Dead Sea, museums, and markets, and a marathon. A dream come true.

I forwarded it to Melissa to see what she thought and her response was, and I quote: “Shut The F*%$ Up!!!”

After emailing back and forth with the PR firm to determine it was a legitimate offer, I did what any woman going on a 7-day all-expense trip paid trip would do…online shopping!

Day 1 – Arrival and Jerusalem

The flight to Tel Aviv was about 11 hours from the east coast, and upon arrival I was greeted at the gate by a man with a sign bearing my name, which made me feel pretty special. After breezing through customs, I hopped in a cab with three other journalists for the 45-minute ride to Jerusalem where my adventure would begin that very same day. I have about 4,800 blurry and unrecognizable pictures from this drive. I’ll refrain from boring you with them.

We spent our first evening with our tour guide, Ori, touring the Tower of David and viewing an amazing light show projected directly on the interior walls. Then it was time for the first of many {unbelievable} meals we’d share at the finest restaurants in Israel.

I fell into bed that night, and slept like the dead, which was a good thing, because I wouldn’t sleep much over the next week.

Day 2 – Via Dolorosa & the Western Wall

Up with the sunrise (it comes up early there, yo!), we hit the ground running after a delicious Israeli style buffet breakfast. Their breakfasts look nothing like American breakfasts, and that’s a very good thing. Lots of salads, fresh juices, yogurts, salmon, and herring.

We spent the morning touring the Old City, getting quite the education from our tour guide, Ori. In Israel, being a tour guide is a noble profession requiring much training and education – so we were in very good hands. Ori kept us on task and made sure we hit all the important spots along the way while he filled our brains with knowledge.

On our tour through the 4 quarters of the Old City, we walked the Vio Dolorosa – The Way of Grief –, which was the path Jesus took from his conviction to resurrection. Words cannot adequately describe the solemn walk from station to station, to the final destination in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.


Also on our morning tour was a visit to the Western Wall – I swear we must have walked 10 miles that day!

We wrapped up the day with a visit to the Israel Museum led by yet another competent docent through a quick tour including viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls and seeing a miniature replica of the Old City.

Day 3 – Press Conference, Double-Decker Bus Ride, & Segway Tour

Up bright and early, we were shuttled to a press conference on the roof of the Mamilla Hotel with the Mayor of Jerusalem (and marathon runner), Nir Barkat. He spoke lovingly of his city, and an athletically challenging and historically rich race, featuring over 25,000 runners, with 2,500 from abroad, and 6,000 participants running for various charities.

Of the race course, Barkat says, “It goes through old and new, it sees the beautiful sites of the city of Jerusalem. It is definitely a challenging marathon, and as my friends say, it’s ‘breathtaking.’ You’ve got to go a little bit slower on the hills, take some air, recharge your batteries on the down hills, and enjoy the beautiful Jerusalem Marathon.”

After the press conference, we were off again for another tour, this time on a double-decker bus with a tour of the marathon course. It became apparent very quickly to my marathon-running companions this race would be a challenge.

We spent the afternoon on a Segway tour, probably one of my favorite parts of the trip! If you’ve never been on a Segway, it’s something you need to do, and I recommend doing it with a group of people who are quickly becoming like family plus a few Russians. We laughed, we joked, and we tried to steer clear of the Russians, who were most interested in being the line leaders.

Our day ended with race packet pickup and a traditional pasta dinner hosted by the marathon organizers. Then we were whisked away to the hotel in anticipation of a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call!

Day 4 – Race Day {Jerusalem Marathon}

On the morning of the Jerusalem Marathon races, the roads were abuzz with police and military setting up barricades and preparing the city for the runners that would soon flood the city. With different start & finish lines (as well as staggered start times) for all 4 races – marathon, ½ marathon, 10K, and 5K – this was a huge undertaking that from my point of view seemed to go very smoothly.

I made my way on foot from the hotel to the starting line of the 5K, taking in the excitement and celebratory atmosphere along the way. Security was tight, with police and military on foot patrol along the race routes, but it was easy to navigate the streets, and even the guys carrying guns seemed to be in a jovial spirit. With 25,000 racers descending on the streets to run, I definitely appreciated the extra safety measures being taken.

Most of my new BFFs were running the half and full marathons, so I was excited to cover the 5K race knowing I’d be at the finish line to cheer them on. The 5K race participants were mostly families, many with young children, and charity racers. The party at the start line was electric with performers on stilts and in costumes, as well as fun music that kept every hopping as they lined up to start. The race began at 8 a.m. sharp and up we went, up hill after hill, as we ran through Hebrew University, finally hitting a downhill that led us to the finish line and the park where the full marathon finished.

Because I was a member of the press, I had access to a Press Tent adjacent to the finish line filled with goodies, chairs, and WIFI. I met up with some other friends, and waited for the elite runners to cross the finish line, and then the marathon runners from our group.

Once we were all reunited, we made the trek (uphill no less) back to the hotel where we had the afternoon free. You’d think a bunch of runners who just finished perhaps the hilliest race of their lives would have been ready to relax, but no, we quickly showered and hit the streets for some ‘active recovery’ and a couple of beers.

The day ended with another fine meal, of course – clearly a theme in Jerusalem.

Day 5 – Masada & the Dead Sea & Tel Aviv

We were up and off very early for a jam-packed day of site-seeing (are you sensing a pattern here?) to Masada and the Dead Sea.

Masada National Park…what can I say. Ori, our tour guide, didn’t disappoint as he took us around this isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea, where the ruins of King Herod’s palace lie, along with a rich, and tragic Jewish history.

Next stop was the Dead Sea where we visited a spa with access to the sea, plus sulfur pools (you’ve never smelled anything like it in your life), and vats of mud for body smearing. As you can imagine, we were all feeling pretty close at this point, so the communal mud smearing and sulfur soaking commenced as we waited for the shuttle down to the sea.

Our time was soon up, and Ori quickly cracked the whip to herd us to the shuttle so we could barrel toward what would be my last night in Tel Aviv, Israel, and another dinner at one of the finest restaurants in town.

Day 6 Tel Aviv & Jaffa

The final day of this dream trip started with a typical Israeli breakfast, only this time overlooking the stunning Mediterranean Sea. After breakfast we were whisked away on our tour bus and dropped off in the old city of Jaffa for one last history lesson from Ori. Jaffa was very Mediterranean and relaxed, and much less crowded than inside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. We enjoyed many photo opportunities and some silliness before smearing some more hummus on pitas for lunch, and heading back to the hotel.

As some of our group began to depart Israel, the rest of us gathered for our last supper at a Dutch restaurant in a restored German part of Tel Aviv. The food was again the finest, but the feeling was heavy since we knew that most of us would soon be on the bus to the airport.

After a quick goodbye, we were dropped at the airport, and true to form, Ori popped in with us to make sure we knew where to go. I cannot say enough about his guidance throughout our stay in Israel. I always felt I was in safe, competent hands, and though we followed a tight schedule he always made sure to impart as much of his knowledge as possible. He was full of laughs, bossy in the best way, and didn’t hesitate to admonish us when we were goofing off and not paying attention.

My Traveling Companions:

By the end of the week, I felt like I’d spent close to a lifetime with some of other journalists and bloggers on this trip. We shared inside jokes, smears of hummus, plenty of adult beverages, and many side-eye glances during our time together.

I encourage you to get to know them as well, and also take a peek at their stories and experiences from the trip. I miss them dearly, and hope we have a chance in the future for a reunion of sorts – maybe a destination race in a foreign (or domestic) city would be apropos.

Photo courtesy of Kim Rosenlof

Here’s a link to my Facebook photo album with all of my pictures!

I’ll leave you with a little bit of the Mediterranean Sea. I keep watching it over and over and wishing I was still there!

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