A little bit more than 2 years ago I decided to run for my health. Ever have those images of a perfect run in your head? Somewhere along the boardwalk of a beach in Los Angeles or Central Park in New York? That’s just in the movies. I found my dream run in Jaffa, free from crowds, dogs and hoards of Israelis. This is your how-to guide to get the best run out of Jaffa, whether you live here or are just staying at an AirBnB. And wink at me when you run by.
Running is the perfect sport if you have good knees and some old muscle memory from childhood or your youth. If you have neither of these, move over to swimming or walking before jumping into a run. In my case I was an active teenager and ran here and there into my mid 20s. In my 20s and 30s I cycled a lot but it was nothing intensive.
By my 40s I knew it was time to run, but where in Tel Aviv? I didn’t want to drive a car to a run. I didn’t want crowds or smoky streets. Too much effort. Too much anger ever time someone bumps into me. So one evening after the kids were asleep I took off through the neighborhood of Jaffa where I live and found myself a good three mile run over a route I could live with. Here are my reasons and best tips for running around Jaffa.
- During the weekdays from Sunday to Friday there are very few people on the boardwalk, and this includes mopeds, electric bikes, cyclists and strollers. Wear your ugliest outfit (no need to impress us over here), lather on the sunscreen and let your face go as red as a beet. No one will see you. Jaffa is just one long stretch of sea. Find your bit and own it.
- The best time to run in Jaffa is from early morning to about 10AM. After this it gets way too hot in the spring and summer months, unless you plan on running and then jumping into the sea midway (recommended), risking that people might think you are an over-sweater or that you wet your pants – who cares, it’s Jaffa! You can go back from 7PM and run all night long. I have taken 2AM runs in Jaffa and never felt threatened or afraid. There is ample lighting at the boardwalk by the sea and this run takes you to a place where halfway there is a small police station at the beach. Jaffa is a super safe city. Take my word for it.
- Running away from the Port (Namal) where all the restaurants and tourists are is key. The port area is too crammed and busy to get a good pace in. I also like run in sprints. So run through Ajami’s small streets, and then cut south from the large parking lot beside the port and run along the boardwalk to the Peres Center. There are long stretches of completely flat areas which is perfect for sprint interval training. You also get a wide view ahead so can decide on which lamp pole you will stop at before you start the sprint.
- The wind from the sea is delicious. And the grass makes it easy for barefoot runners to get an incline and workout for the tendons. I would not run barefoot on the beach in Jaffa. The Jaffa beach is essentially a spit and not long ago it was a building waste dumpsite. There are all sizes of rusting metal pieces lingering everywhere. Shards of glass and ceramics and pieces of sharp objects. Keep it on the boardwalk or on the grass, which is kept relatively clean.
- Avoid running in Jaffa Friday night and all day Saturday (after 10AM) when the locals turn the southern end part of the park near the Blue Flag beach into a barbecue. You might get serenaded by the locals and suffer from smoke inhalation, have to run through a bad karaoke show or smoke a hoocha pipe to pass. Unless you want lots of adventure, rest at home.
- Enjoy seeing the regulars. Jaffa is part of a big city but it’s really in practice like a village. It’s weird and wonderful. Go out running a few times at the same time of the day and you will start to see some friendly faces, like the guy who fishes with his drone or the elderly sister (twins?) who do their speed walking with hiking canes. Never a dull moment in Jaffa. Last time I was out I saw a baby horse get a nice bath in the sea. Take note that there is no shade at the sea in Jaffa. It’s the lovely Mediterranean in full force.