JERUSALEM, Israel – Jerusalem is most often known as the Holy City, but on a bright sunny morning, runners from Israel and around the world turned it into a giant sporting venue as they took part in Jerusalem's annual marathon.
As the race official counted down the runners for an early morning start, 40,000 participants took part in this year's Jerusalem Winner Marathon and other races. That's 10,000 more than have ever joined in the event.
"It’s the 12th marathon, and we are very excited to start the marathon. And you know it’s after the COVID and it’s something very special for us," exclaimed Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon.
Leon believes the marathon is more than a sporting event. It takes runners through 3,000 years of Jerusalem's history. "And the special thing that we have in this marathon (is) that you see the history of Jerusalem, the future of Jerusalem, and everyone that participate(s) in this marathon (very much enjoys) this event," Leon told CBN News.
Among the athletes, 2,700 runners from more than 70 countries came up to Jerusalem to take part. Runners from Kenya finished first among both the men and the women in the marathon.
The routes take runners past iconic sites such as the Tower of David, the Old City walls, and the Jaffa Gate.
Raef Guirges, an Egyptian-born US citizen, told CBN News, "I'm just trying to spread the peace, the love, between everybody, regardless of what you believe, regardless about your religion."
Eden, from Ma'aleh Adumim in Israel said, "Jerusalem is (a) special city, no matter what. So if it's with the running (or) without the running. So you're welcome to visit, especially in the Marathon." She added, "And I just want to start it and finish it, but I'm very, very excited."
Mayor Leon and his wife also took part in the 10-K run.
"I love it!" Leon enthused. "It’s my 8th time that I’m going to run."
There are six races, including a marathon, a half-marathon, 10-kilometers, 5-Kilometers, a family race and a community race.
In a press conference promoting the event, Deputy-Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum explained, "We have over 30 nonprofit organizations benefiting all types of population groups in the city, from the special needs community to all sorts of other organizations, advocating for great causes, also running – and raising money."
Nathan Ophir took part in the race that spans the generations. "I’ve been running the marathon since it began here, the Jerusalem Marathon," he told CBN News. "And this is my grandson. And this is my son...continuing the tradition for the next 50 years, because now it's my 70th birthday," Ophir said.
The full marathon is one of the world's most challenging because the city is very hilly, which may help explain the Kenyans' success here.
Nissan from Kansas City is an American immigrant to Israel. "I'm hoping to finish without hurting myself and you know, it's my first marathon, so, yeah, it should be good. I'm looking forward. It's exciting to have it all the hype and, like, not run alone," he explained.
One couple, Zvi and Ella Heller, even ran on their honeymoon. Zvi made Aliyah from Florida, and his wife Ella is from Jerusalem. Zvi explained that they just got married three days ago. "And we keep running and running and running," he said. "That's all we do. Everything's great. It's beautiful to be here."
The city is already preparing for next year and registration is open for the marathon that's unique in all the world.
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