חצי מרתון תל אביב/Tel Aviv Half Marathon – February 22, 2019

Yesterday I ran the Tel Aviv Half Marathon, my new city’s premier race! I’ve wanted to run this race ever since I became a runner, and (lack of port o potties aside), it didn’t disappoint. To read my race preview, click here.

Race Week

During the week leading up to the race, I attended several adidas Runners Tel Aviv events. I ran my fifth event on Thursday, meaning that I moved up a level and get to collect my AR Tel Aviv shirt on Sunday! The events helped psych me up for the race, and ensured that I had a great pre-race taper…or what would have been a taper, had I trained properly. If I’ve learned anything during my time as a runner, it’s the following:

  1. If I don’t properly train, the next best thing is to just not injure myself.

  2. During race week I “discover” numerous knee/ankle/foot “injuries”, and 99.9% of them are false alarms.

Basically, at this point, it’s a mental game, and this is where I excel. I’m good at recognizing when I’m freaking out for no reason, and either turning off the freakout or ignoring it.

While I certainly wasn’t dreading the Tel Aviv Half Marathon, I wasn’t exactly excited, either. This brings me to my one real regret of this training cycle: the fact that I completed it alone. Thanks to my amazing time with the Dashing Whippets in NYC, running is a social activity for me. I need to get over the initial awkwardness of joining a new group, and commit to attending adidas Runners events, so I can find my running community in Tel Aviv.

Race Overview

Price: 152 shekel/$42. For an event that (in my opinion) is Israel’s equivalent of the NYC Marathon, this is a steal. This was a discounted rate that I received either as a Tel Aviv resident or a member of adidas Runners Tel Aviv…not sure which, but I’m not complaining! Value for money: A+

Website: The race website has an extensive English version! This makes sense, considering this is one of the few races that actively tries to recruit foreign runners. More of this, please! The downside is that some of the links on the English site (such as finding race pictures) didn’t work, whereas they did on the Hebrew version. Website: B (A+ if the picture link wasn’t broken.)

Publicity: Like I said, this race is Israel’s equivalent of the NYC Marathon. There’s lots of publicity, and in my opinion, if you’re a runner in Israel, you know about this event. Publicity: A+

Transportation to race: I walked, because I left my apartment at 5:20am, didn’t trust the buses since many roads near my apartment were closed to cars, and I didn’t want to deal with taxis. I live 4ish km from the race, so this wasn’t an issue. I got a nice walk/jog warm-up and arrived in time…but only because I didn’t need to use the bathroom. (Thanks, Imodium! I’d ask for free samples, but I have a stockpile…so call me in a few years.) Transportation: A+ (I guess)

Weather: PERFECT! It was chilly at the start, but once I got moving, it was great. This is an urban course, so buildings provided lots of shade. It was a sunny day, and in the mid 50s by the time I finished. Weather: A+

Time: 6:15am. WOOF. For some reason, the marathon started at 7:00am. This makes no sense! They need the pre-dawn more than I do! Waking up at 4:00am to prepare was NOT fun and I was a zombie for the rest of the day. In the end, it was worth it, for the amazing weather, so no regrets.

Start/finish area: The start/finish area is held in Park Hayarkon, so there’s plenty of space. There were various stations featuring the race sponsors, including Cafe Elite Turkish Coffee. I did not partake, because my pre-race ritual involves me drinking 1-2 cups of black coffee in the comfort of my own home/indoor plumbing. The signs pointing to the start line were only in Hebrew (FAIL). Also, there was no face painting, which as I wrote HERE, is now a race requirement for me. 😉 After the race, I really struggled to find the exit…there was insufficient signage. This is unacceptable, because I reserved exactly enough mental energy to get me through the race, and I did not have the patience to deal with the guards who let people out through a random fence in order to return to the course to run with friends, but refused to let me exit to go home. Start/finish area: B in general, F– due to mean guards who almost made me cry

tel aviv half marathon start area

ready to go!

Packet pick-up and race shirt were discussed here. Although I was initially not a fan of the shirt color, I’ll admit that it photographs well and will probably be good for nighttime running.

What I wore: Race shirt and compression shorts. I left my running sunglasses at my boyfriend’s apartment, which was a mistake. The course got bright sometimes, and the sunglasses would have been helpful.

Bag drop: Available, but I didn’t use it.

Course:

Aside from a few relatively small hills and a highway ramp, the course was mostly flat. Unfortunately, only a tiny portion of the course was run along the Mediterranean Sea–such a missed opportunity! The portion of the course that runs parallel to the sea is Hayarkon St, which is a boring, ugly street when you can’t see the sea. This was easily my least favorite part of the course.

I enjoyed the out and back section, that was around the midpoint of the course. On the outward portion, I fed off the energy of the faster runners, and on the way back…well, I was over halfway done, and now I knew what to expect! One huge benefit of this race compared to other Israeli races is that the larger size (there were 9,077 half marathoners) meant that I was never alone on the course. This did wonders for my energy levels, as opposed to the Haifa Half Marathon, where I felt like I ran alone for the second half of the race.

Another benefit of the course is that at one point or another, I’ve run its entirety. While I didn’t study the course too much, as I was running, I knew where I was, and I had just enough of an idea of the route to know where I was and what to expect. I think this helped my mental game in a major way. As you can see below, I ran negative spits, with kilometer 21 being my fastest!

tel aviv half marathon splits

so much for “positive splits for positive people!”

As I wrote in my race preview, my main goals were to finish/survive, not injure myself, and have fun. My time goal was sub 2:15, but given my lackluster training, I wasn’t sure this would happen. I knew it was only possible if I ran a steady, consistent pace and took no walking breaks. When I race, I hate to stop. I can take water and fuel while running, so unless I’m injured or need to use the bathroom, there’s no reason to stop/walk. However, on my training runs, I stop alllll the time. I know this is terrible for emulating race day, but I’m lazy. Long story short, my fueling was on point and whenever I felt like I was riding the struggle bus, I managed to snap out of it. What’s more, I actually felt stronger during the second half! In general, I ran according to effort, not a specific pace. During the last third of the race, I felt strong. I realized that if I ran well, I could run a sub 2:15! When I hit 2 hours just before finishing 19 kilometers, I knew I had it in the bag. I spent the entirety of kilometer 21 counting down and forcing myself to keep a faster pace. And it worked! According to the race results, I ran 21.34km in 2:14:00. This is the fastest half marathon I’ve run since making Aliyah, and it’s also the only half marathon I’ve run in Israel without stopping. I’m pleased with the results, and think know that with dedicated training (and interval/speedwork), I can get back into the 1:50s, and beat my current PR (personal record) of 1:52:03.

Water stations: I felt they were adequate. I didn’t drink at every station, but if it had been hotter, I definitely would have. The only weird thing was that I only noticed Powerade at one of the last aid stations. I had my own energy chews (that I took 15 minutes before the race, and 8km/5mi, and 16km/10mi) and aside from a small side cramp, this was sufficient…but it seemed inadequate for a race of this size. Water stations: B, for lack of electrolytes.

Bathrooms: The race map indicated that there would be bathrooms at a few points along the course, but I only saw port o potties at kilometer 18, as we were about to ascend the bridge at Ibn Gvirol, reentering Park Hayarkon. This is a huge fail! The race advertised that there were 40,000 runners. I saw men peel off the course to pee several times (to their credit, not in major urban areas), but there were no options for women! It’s absolutely disgraceful and unacceptable for a race of this size and “prestige” to not offer more bathrooms along the course. If there were more bathrooms, then they weren’t advertised clearly enough. Runners trots is a thing, and people with gastrointestinal issues NEED on-course bathrooms. Israel needs to step up its game in order to provide the accessibility that many other countries provide in their races. Bathrooms: F–

As an aside, I’ve discussed this with several runners in Israel. The response is a mix of “you’re only running for 2ish hours”/”just go into a store and use their bathroom” to “wow, I never thought about this/noticed it”. As someone who has pooped their pants on a run (albeit a short run near my parents’ house), I have ZERO desire to go into a store and ask to use their bathroom during a race. It’s humiliating. And I’m someone lucky enough to not have IBS or Chron’s Disease. If a small, local race doesn’t have port o potties along an urban course, it’s one thing. But there is no excuse for large races, and I suspect that at some point, I am going to contact race organizers and compain.

Pictures: Free, and available by the next day (today)! However, like I wrote above, I was only able to access my pictures via the Hebrew site.

tel aviv half marathon race picture braids

This was one of the better pictures I took. Here I am with my #FastBraidFriday twin!

Medal: I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit disappointed when the medals were revealed. I don’t like that it says “Tel Aviv Marathon” when I ran the half…especially since marathoners got a slightly different medal! But after the high of completing the race within my goal time, I have to admit that it’s a nice medal. And it’s colorful, which is a very rare occurrence. Medal: A

tel aviv marathon half marathon medal

pretty!

In Conclusion

I loved the Tel Aviv Half Marathon more than I expected, and I will definitely run either the half or the full marathon next year. With good weather and a proper training cycle, I think this course has good PR potential. I strongly encourage you to make the trip to Tel Aviv for the race! The weather is almost certainly going to be nicer than NYC/most of the US. That being said, make sure to pee and take Imodium before the race…

#telavivmarathon #Israel #telaviv #race #telavivhalfmarathon #halfmaraton

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