By Asish Samson
The Jerusalem Marathon has seen a sharp spike in foreign participants since Jerusalem’s recognition as the capital of Israel by US President Donald Trump on Dec 6th. About 100 non-Israeli participants have registered so far making up about 12 percent in the overall participants. The marathon is to be held on March 9th 2018. Almost 3500 participants have already signed up from around the world.
The number of African participants has risen by 50 percent when compared to last year according to officials. USA has the most participants with 123 followed by Germany, Poland and China. Till now all the Jerusalem Marathon events have been won by Africans with 4 Kenyans and 2 Ethiopians winning in the Men’s category and 4 Ethiopians and 2 Kenyans winning in the Women’s category. The fastest to complete record was set in 2014 by Kenyan runner Ronald Kurgat who completed the record in just 2 hours and 16 minutes.
The Jerusalem Marathon is held annually in March since its inception in 2011. The course begins at the Israeli Parliament and ends at Sacher Park passing through Old city, David’s Tower, Haas Promenade and Mount Scopus among others. It spans 42.2 kilometres with the half marathon spanning 21.1 kilometres. A Family and Community marathon are also held spanning small distances. One reporter describe the event as “the most cosmopolitan event around” highlighting the ethnic and religious diversity in the participants.
The main theme of the marathon this year will be the 50th anniversary of Reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967. The marathon is expected to generate 10 million shekels to Jerusalem. Mayor Nir Barkat had called the marathon a “ A boon to the livelihood of Jerusalemites” citing the increased revenue to hotels, businesses , entertainment industries. He is also expected to participate in the marathon formally. An ad hoc website is also run by the event managers to provide information and registration of new participants.
Security will be a key issue to the city officials particularly since Trump’s announcement early this month. Violence erupted in Israel leading to multiple deaths and missile attack by Palestinians immediately after the declaration. Israel defences, considered to be on of the best in the world are sure to casting a hawk eye on the city for any sign of disturbance.