Saturday, 29 March 2008

Run, Rabbit, Run

The foolishness started last year.

We visited Ein Gedi and Masada, wife, sister in law, son and I, and we decided like good tourists to immerse ourselves in the Yam HaMelach, the Dead Sea.

Except that I had left my swimming trunks at home.

So I pop into the gift shop to buy a hideously overpriced pair, and start chatting to the shopkeeper, who mistakes me for an elite east African long distance runner (these things happen...)

Anyway, once the mistake was cleared up, she asked me if I run. I said that I did, not adding that it was usually for the bus and not much else.

"So you must come to do the half marathon next year," she enthuses.

So I did.

The race was on a hottish day last month. It was hard work, but fun in an odd kind of way, and I actually enjoyed it enough to sign up the next day for the Jerusalem Half Marathon, which took place two days ago.


I've never really paid much attention to the city - for one thing, I'm usually driven about when I'm there, and for another, the white Jerusalem Stone that the whole city is clad in, thanks to some insane colonial (for this story and others about the misbegotten British Mandate, you must read Tom Segev's excellent 'One Jerusalem, Complete') tends to blind one in the bright summer sunshine.

So I didn't think very much about the route of the race until I mentioned it to my wife's brother-in-law last weekend.

He sprays me with his breakfast. "You do know that Jerusalem do you say it in English? Hilly?"

No, I didn't.

Mrs Goy studied at the University there, and knows the city quite well, so that evening I ask her for her opinion about the route. She asks me to read it out from the map.

"Well, we start at Givat Ram Stadium, pass the Knesset and the Supreme Court, round Kiryat Moshe..."

Her opinion, essentially, was that I was fucked. And I hadn't even reached the 5k point yet.

In the event, the run was a bastard. A five star, all expenses paid bastard. Jerusalem is extremely hilly (why I didn't know this, only G-d alone knows), and the creeps who designed the course clearly went out of their way to incorporate every possible hill in the course. I hated most of it.

Some bits were beautiful. The view from the Jerusalem Forest was breathtaking, and the Alexander Calder mobile beneath Yad Vashem was engaging enough to distract me from my pain and suffering for a little while.

Just a little while.

Anyway, somehow, I finished. And I felt pretty pleased with myself. Not that I'll be doing it again.

As I've mentioned before, I'm pretty indifferent to the city. I suppose it is a bit engaging 'to walk in the footsteps of biblical history' (copyright every half arsed hack steeped in cliché) for a little while, but after a bit I begin to long for the cosmopolitan squalor and decadence of Tel Aviv.

Many Jerusalemites that I know have left the city, reluctantly, over the last few years. The combination of the dominance of Ultra-Orthodox intolerance, general political unpleasantness and the sky-rocketing costs of real estate - caused, allegedly, by wealthy foreigners who buy up the stock at outrageous prices and don't even bother to live in the homes for more than three or four weeks in a year - have sent them elsewhere. Apparently, when University is not in session, parts of the city are, literally, deserted at night.

Work is going to take me there quite a bit in May, I think. maybe I'll explore more then.

In the meantime, I'll just soak my aching feet in hot water and enjoy the evening.

Night, all.

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