On November 2, I ran my first “big” race in Israel, the Haifa Half Marathon!
My pre-Aliyah running was not particularly rigorous. After the NYC Half Marathon (March 2018), I took a break from distance, partly to heal from overuse injuries, and partly to give myself time to fall back in love with running. I ran when I wanted to, didn’t run when I didn’t. I did a 10 mile run through Central Park sometime in late July/early August, and everything else was around the 4-6mi/6-10km range.
I started running again in earnest in October, and had a 4 week training cycle. This wasn’t enough to get me in “racing” shape, but I saw some beautiful sites in/around Tel Aviv, logged some miles, and mostly enjoyed the process. My long runs were 11.2km, 16km, and 18.5km. Since a half marathon is 21.1km, I ended my last long run feeling confident, knowing that I could definitely finish the race. (I knew I wouldn’t PR, so I wanted a realistic goal…) A few days before the race, I went out for a run and cut it short at 2km, because I felt the familiar twinge in my right IT band…I took it easy, praying to the race gods to help me complete the race in one piece, and pain-free…
One of the reasons I was excited to run the Haifa Half Marathon was that it would take me outside of Tel Aviv, to a city I’d only visited once. I asked friends what to do in Haifa, and aside from a few recommendations from people who lived there, the general consensus was “don’t go, Haifa is boring.” Naturally, I wanted to prove them wrong! Spoiler alert: I had a great time in Haifa…but I think I stayed in a touristy area, that wasn’t particularly interesting. Oh well, there’s always next time!
Haifa Half Marathon overview:
Price: 180 shekel/$50. This is cheaper than almost every half marathon I’ve run in NYC, so I was impressed, but also skeptical about what would happen. Sidenote: A few days prior to the race, I received a 180 shekel deposit from the Ministry of Aliyah, as part of my absorption benefits (I received most of the sum earlier, in cash)…so it was a sign I was supposed to register for the race! B+, overall a decent value for the money.
Website: The website was entirely in Hebrew, but easy enough to follow. In general, all race websites use the same format, so once you’ve read 2-4, it’s easy to follow. Website: B+
Publicity: The race was publicized on various Israeli running calendars, and there was a good Facebook page. I didn’t have to struggle to find info. Publicity: A
How I got to the race: Train! The race started early, and since Haifa is at least an hour north of Tel Aviv, I decided to go the evening before. I used points and booked a hotel room near the start line, to make things as easy as possible. It was a touristy/boring area, but I was there for the race, so I didn’t care. B+…was fine, and I liked that I had a room to myself the next morning, to prepare…and wake up to this view:
Weather: Sunny, not too hot. No complaints!
Time: 6:30am. Oof. This is why I stayed as close to the start line as possible! The early start time meant I finished before it got too hot, so that was nice. I think it was worth it.
Start/finish area: Nice enough, very easy to find:
It was nice to see a wide range of ages at the race…from what I’ve seen, the longer races in Israel tend to skew much older than the shorter distances.
Packet pick-up: They offered the option to pick up the packet a few days before the race at the Saucony store at the Tel Aviv port. I take advantage of this option whenever possible, to alleviate pressure on race day (I’m anxious until I get to the start line, because I don’t want to arrive too late and miss the race!), and amp up the pre-race excitement! A+, I love convenient pre-race pick-up
Race shirt: Saucony, women’s size. The material is a little weird…it’s like the entire design was screen printed onto the shirt. I hadn’t seen it before. Not my favorite shirt, but it fits well enough, so I’ll keep it. B/B+…not my favorite, but also not bad
What I wore: Dashing Whippets singlet, compression shorts, sunglasses
Bag drop: Not sure, I didn’t use it
I have mixed feelings about the course. The beginning and end had great views of the Mediterranean…but the middle was lacking. The entire race was held on paved roads, which I appreciated…but running along an empty highway when there aren’t a lot of runners on the course can get boring/discouraging. However, I understand why this was done–Haifa is a VERY hilly city. I think the race organizers found the flattest course possible. But it was boring. B…I think they worked with what they had.
Water stations: The water stations were held frequently enough. They gave out plastic water bottles, which is wasteful, IMHO.
Bathrooms: NO PORT O POTTIES ON THE COURSE. FOR A HALF MARATHON. The course was pretty sparse, so dudes often went off to the side to do their business, and we passed some gas stations whose bathrooms we probably could have used. But still–this is unacceptable. F– If I hadn’t used Imodium, my unofficial sponsor, who knows what would have happened. (Oh wait, I do…)
Pictures: Free, and nice:
Medal: It spins! Sadly, I dropped mine, and it broke. I superglued it back together…but now it doesn’t spin. Still, it doesn’t have the standard blue/white ribbon most medals here have, and it’s colorful! B+
In conclusion: The course was sometimes boring and there were no port o potties, but I would run this race again. There aren’t a lot of half marathons in Israel in places that are easily accessible via public transportation, so I’ll probably pencil it into my 2019 race calendar and see how I feel in September.