Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Tel Aviv Half Marathon in 90 degree heat!

Here we are after finishing the run! As you can see, the location is pretty spectacular, finishing along the beaches of the Mediterranean.
On Friday, Caroline and I completed the Tel Aviv Half Marathon in 2 hours and 24 minutes. This isn't exactly a world record (or even a Pals record - way to go Keith and Alan!), but we were pretty happy with it. Because of the heat, the whole process was quite an adventure.

When we originally signed up, the full Marathon kick-off time was 6:30am and our group of the half marathon was supposed to start at 7:30am. However, as the day of the race drew nearer and the forecast temperature looked to be higher and higher, the race organizers first decided to move everything up by half an hour, and then took more drastic measures. With the temperature expected to pass 90F early in the day, they decided to postpone the full Marathon until next weekend, and our start time got moved to 6am (with other groups starting even earlier!).

On the one hand, I was definitely appreciative of the change because it meant that we could finish the whole run before the asphalt started melting under our feet. On the other hand, we had planned to catch an early train from Haifa to Tel Aviv before the race, and with the earlier start time, this plan was not gonna work.

At first we considered staying in a Tel Aviv hostel, but it wasn't all that cheap or close, and they only had dorm beds available...and it just seemed like the night before running 21km isn't the time to get a lousy night of sleep. So in the end, we splurged and booked a room in the beachfront Sheraton using my hotel points from the consulting days. It was worth it, since it put us close to the race, we slept well, and we got to enjoy a nicer room after the race was over.

We arrived at the hotel on Thursday night and pretty much went straight to sleep. We woke up at 5am and started walking to the starting line by 5:30am. Even though the sun was just barely up, it already felt like a hot day. It was at least 70F by this time already.

I took this photo to capture how we felt walking to the race at 5:30am. It turned out really blurry, but maybe that helps show how we felt :)
The slogan of the race was "Non-stop party," and sure enough, even as we approached the starting line at a quarter to 6am, we could hear blasting club music from a distance away. As we found our place in the corral, it started to feel very exciting. There were 15,000 people in our race alone, the music was pumping us up, and this was going to be my first half marathon!

The race began and we took off - probably a bit too fast at first because of the excitement. Soon enough, we settled into a groove and just focused on enjoying the run. One of the downsides to a race that starts at 6am is there aren't a lot of people out cheering for you! We had a few people clap and cheer, and a group of kids on a balcony were shouting "yay! no school today!" because the roads were closed.

There were music stages placed throughout the race. Some of them were just loudspeakers playing a good beat to get you pumped up, but some had performers too. There were a couple rock bands, and outside the symphony hall there was even a kind of bluegrass group with violin. It doesn't exactly get you fired up to run fast, but it was still nice to have them out there.

The course was really beautiful for the most part. We were running on the main thoroughfares of Tel Aviv, and through some nice parks and finishing along the coast. Thanks to the buildings, most of the course was shaded so even as it got hotter we weren't exposed to the sun for kilometers on end.

The run started to show some problems in the second half, however, at the water stations. The water stations were very well-staffed, but they seemed to be running out of something. I'm not sure if it was water or cups, but we would often run past 4 or 5 tables with no water before finding a volunteer near the end of the water station who still had a cup or two remaining. I don't think we ever found without water when we wanted it, but it was a little stressful to pass table after table, not sure if there would be water farther on. I worry that the problem was even worse for runners coming later on.

Caroline and I both started to slow down a bit as we were approaching the turn onto the final 4 kilometer stretch on the waterfront, but then we encountered the 2:20 pace guy! This race featured a bunch of pace runners, who will run a fairly steady pace to finish at a certain time. You just find the guy whose vest says the time you want, and then you stick with him as best you can!

Just as our energy was starting to flag, Caroline challenged us to keep up with the 2:20 pace guy. We definitely had to pick up our pace a bit, but we stayed with him for about 3 kilometers (looking at our Strava splits, you can see where we sped up for mile 12 and 13). However, as we passed the 20km marker, the pace runner started to speed up, I think in order to make his 2:20 time. Some of the other runners with him kept up, but we couldn't kick it up another notch and we let him go.

The last kilometer seemed to go on forever, but we finally made it! The post-race situation was not really ideal. We had to walk quite a long time after the finish line before the water, and then the only food we could find in the post-race fair was yogurt. It was really good yogurt, but not exactly what we were craving after a huge exertion. Caroline suspected that maybe the yogurt company had a family connection with the race organizers so they could block out any other food sponsorships :)

We did it! Here we are enjoying our post-race yogurt.

After some time to rest our legs, we slooooooowly made our way back to the hotel. From there, we rested, showered and changed into our bathing suits. Because after all, a 90 degree day isn't great for running, but it sure is a great day to enjoy the beach!


  1. Congrats! 2:24 isn't _that_ different of a time from our Salem half, if you consider the conditions I think its a big win! Also, congrats to Sam on his first half :) New Orleans 2014???

  2. Congratulations! Great job in crazy heat. I certainly vote for New Orleans 2014! :)