Much ado about a Marathon

Why the big hullabaloo about marathons? Almost the entire city is shut down for around half a day so that a bunch of people can run around it? I really don’t get it.


But call me a hypocrite. No really, call me one. Because I am a great sucker for the Jerusalem Marathon. Every year, I religiously go to the side of the road, on a street where all three routes have merged (the 10k, half marathon and full marathon), and I stand and watch the runners with no lack of fascination.I laugh. I cry. I clap. I cheer. It’s like a Hollywood movie without the kitch. (Um, no, of course I don’t call out in the middle of movies.)

I love it so much, that this year I made my first properly edited video about it:

So what is it? Is it a touching, wonderful experience or is it a silly tradition that has become more accepted than it should be?

I don’t really know.

Because of this confusion, every year, on the morning of the marathon, I grudgingly pull myself out of bed. Even though it always seems a bit silly, I know I want to go if only to cheer on my siblings Devora and Yosef and my nephew Tzion all of whom run the 10k. 

And so I sluggishly get myself out the door and then every year the same thing happens. I step outside my house and I find myself surprised by the wonderful silence of a special day in the city. As I approach Azza Street, I begin to notice the subtle tapping of the runners’ feet on the pavement.

I look at the runners and from the comfort of my three minute walk it’s hard for me to get it but I know that I’m looking at people pushing their limits. I’m seeing them when they are close to the end of their run and they are focused on finishing – maybe quickly, maybe at all.

I arrive at my cheering station and find myself a place to sit on a curb that would normally be a perfect place to get run over by a bus. But now, instead there is just the pitter-patter of hundreds of people’s running shoes. And of course the clippity-clop of the sheep hooves (see video).

Behind me I hear an older man expressing what is part of my experience. He is asking whoever is listening: “Why do they have to close all the roads on a Friday for a few runners? Why does it matter?”

Lamma ma? Ma, anachnu kmo hagoyim?!

I know that you can’t really relate to someone else’s experiences until you’ve experienced it yourself. And so I don’t get why people love participating in marathons. But maybe the reason it is such an exciting experience even for us sideline sissies is because seeing people striving for excellence in something they care about, and even more so as part of a huge collective experience, is actually the essence of life. 

And I suppose that’s why I’m suckered into it every time.


All photography, footage, video and editing is by yours truly.

About the Author
Deena writes about life, relationships and her beloved Jerusalem. She organizes "Jerusalem Encounters" and shares hand-picked cultural events in her online calendar, Things to do in Jerusalem.