What an experience. The atmosphere was electric. The excitement was almost tangible.
Today we ran our Bet She'an half-marathon. 21km. Our group was something like 30 runners from Bet Shemesh.
We got there and signed in, getting our pre-run packages including our numbers with tracking chips.
We got ready and then went out for a warm-up run. There were tons of people. I think they said 1300 had registered for this, but the results website (so far) only shows 1083.
I started near the front, because I did not want to be stuck in the back.
They give some instructions, letting us know where the water stands will be and some more details, and then he shoots the gun to start the race!
There was one section by the start where we turn left and run for a kilometer or so and then turn around and run the other direction. That is really the only opportunity to see the really fast runners, as they run by on the other side of the road.
The people in the front of the pack were a group of 5 or 6 Kenyans (or Nigerians - I really don't know), and they were already pretty decently ahead of everyone else... Those Kenyans ended up winning by a nice gap over the first "white guy"...
The race was pretty good. The track was pretty flat except for one section of uphill in the middle going through Bet She'an. The flat track was good because it meant you could really get a good rhythm going.
The weather was beautiful. That was good for us runners, but bad for Israel because we need rain. It was even a bit hot. There was one long open stretch where the wind was a bit strong and everyone was complaining afterwords that that had slowed them down.
About every 4 kilometers there were tables on the side with people handing out bottles of water. Runners would drink a few "shloogs" from the bottle and toss the rest of it into the grass on the side of the road. The grass and trees got watered pretty nicely I guess, but it seemed like a waste of a lot of water. Maybe they should have used smaller bottles (but maybe some people need that much water...).
There were people along the course cheering on their friends and relatives, and some just cheering in general for all the runners. Also, some school teachers took out their little kids to cheer on the runners.
All that, along with running with so many people, really give the runner a boost of motivation and help keep you going.
I finished the race at 1:51:07 at an average pace of 5:15/km. According to the marathon website, I placed #687.
People asked me before the race what goal time I was shooting for. I responded I am shooting to finish, and not for any specific time. I am expecting however to finish at between 1:50 and 1:55 based on my training and previous runs. So it turned otu I was right on the mark, as I finished at 1:51:07.
It was a great experience, and now I have to finish getting ready for the full marathon in another month.