On Friday about 45 of us participated in the first Jerusalem International Marathon! I ran the 10k (6.2 miles) and could not have had a happier experience. They say there were about 10,000 runners, and I believe it. It was packed. People were holding up signs for us written in Hebrew--I’m sure they were very inspiring even though I have no idea what they said. We were cheering on some marathon runners before our race, and they were so happy and touched by our encouragement. I can’t really describe the connection there is runner to runner. It was a tear-jerking occurrence for all of us and made our race worth every shekel. It was just so awesome that every barrier between people was completely down, and we were all just human beings doing something hard together, with a common love of Jerusalem. There were men wearing kippas, girls running in skirts, old men and women and a few young kids, and even a blind man who ran the 10k. Does a course get more unique than running through the Old City and running on the roads Jesus probably ran on? It was also cool to see words and hear small phrases in Hebrew or Arabic and, knowing the meaning and context of them, realize how much I’ve learned while I’ve been here. I didn’t know what a yeshiva was or know why a street would be called Balfour Street a few months ago. I didn’t even know what a tel was, and now I’ve been on dozens of them.
I was wearing my favorite “I am BYU” shirt, and so many people came up to me asking me about BYU. One guy said that BYU’s success in March Madness has really messed up his bracket. One guy saw us all in BYU shirts and just yelled, “Jimmer Fredette!” While I was running I saw some Israelis all in BYU sweatshirts and we both cheered “BYU!!!” I don’t know how they are affiliated, but it’s just amazing how much people here know about BYU because of the Jerusalem Center. On our way home a very friendly elderly Jewish lady stopped and talked to us for a long time, and when she found out we go to Mormon University, she said she’s been to temple square in Utah and it is beautiful. In her New York accent she said we are just “delicious girls.” Then as we got near the center some neighbor kids we’ve befriended over the past few weeks wanted to play with us, so we played. We interacted with so many people that day, and I felt so good being a BYU student here.
And, I will probably never get dates (the fruit) as a post-run food at a race again.