מרוץ ארץ ים המלח / Dead Sea Half Marathon – February 1, 2019
This past weekend, I ran my 11th and slowest half marathon to date! I finished in 2:29:35, achieving the goal I set at the beginning of the race, to run a sub-2:30. More importantly, I had ZERO IT band issues, and only mild muscle soreness. This means that I definitely did not push myself as hard as I could have…but with views like these, can you blame me for taking some walking breaks?
Eventually I’ll get back into running shape…but until I’m willing to invest the time and effort to improve, I won’t complain about my race times.
Some background on the Dead Sea (in Hebrew: ים המלח or sea of salt): HERE The Dead Sea, which is shared between Israel and Jordan, is the lowest point in the world. Because of the super concentrated nature of the Dead Sea, it’s very salty, only tiny microorganisms can survive within it…and everyone who goes into the Dead Sea floats. People say that the Dead Sea has great restorative properties for people with skin conditions…as someone with a skin condition, all I can say is that I don’t find intense burning sensations particularly restorative. The Dead Sea is a popular tourist attraction–anybody who visits Israel for at least a week on an organized tour usually comes here. The Dead Sea is perfect for whirlwind tours like this because aside from going into the sea/visiting the beach and the numerous spas in the area, there is absolutely nothing to do. There are other pretty nature things in the area, and you can also visit the Masada fortress…and due to the lack of things to do, all of these activities are often crunched into one day. Another reason for this is that in addition to being an actual desert, this area is a food desert. Unless you’re eating at a fancy hotel restaurant, there aren’t a lot of options.
As with most races in Israel, the race offered multiple distances: 10K, half marathon, marathon, and 50K. I registered for the half marathon because as the Dead Sea is 2 hours from Tel Aviv, I didn’t think it was worth it to schlep there just to run a 10K. Plus, I foolishly assumed that I would be more disciplined with my running by now, so a half marathon would be easy peasy. A few days before the race, I looked into dropping down to the 10K, but it seemed that I’d passed the deadline. So, a half marathon it was!
Dead Sea Half Marathon, overview:
This was the inaugural Dead Sea race series! I’ve never run an inaugural race before, so I was a bit apprehensive…though that was completely unnecessary. The race was extremely well-organized, and the social media was on point! They’re trying to build this into a big event and encourage foreign runners to attend…and in my unprofessional opinion, they did a great job! If you’re looking for a destination race in a unique setting, I highly recommend one of the Dead Sea races. For those running the Tel Aviv marathon, this race is a great “check-in,” as it was held 3 weeks prior. They should continue this in the future, because I’m sure it helped boost registration.
10K: 692/694 completed
Half Marathon: 1148/1157 completed
Marathon: 185/189 completed
50K: 133/133 completed
Price: 198 shekel/$54.43…to date, this is the most expensive race I’ve done, which makes sense. This isn’t an urban race, so all of the supplies need to be shipped in. All in all, the price seemed reasonable, especially since most of the races I run here are 10Ks. Furthermore, as a member of adidas Runners Tel Aviv, I managed to score a discount…hence why the fee is such a random/not even number. Value for money: A
Website: There was an English section, but it wasn’t always accurate. At this point, I’ve been on enough race websites, that I understand the Hebrew and don’t need to use Google translate. Since the race organizers want to attract runners from abroad, I hope they’ll beef up the English portion of the site for 2020! They did state VERY CLEARLY where the road closures would be, which was crucial when picking where to sleep the night before. This was much appreciated. Website: B+
Ease of finding info about the race: The race was very well-publicized, and after registering, I received several emails from the organizers…but not so many that it was intrusive. The Facebook and Instagram pages were also frequently updated. I follow the main running websites in Israel, so I received a lot of info about the race. The Instagram account also shared one of my posts, which was cool! Publicity: A+
How I got to the race: Car! The race started at 7am, and there were a few options to get there. There are buses that go from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea area for cheap…but due to the early start times, this wasn’t an option. The race provided a bus (for an added fee) departing from Tel Aviv at 3am and returning at 3pm, which I would have done, had my boyfriend not wanted to join the adventure…so car, it was! The race site included some hotel packages, but by the time we decided to book, the cheapest option was no longer available. Instead, we booked a tzimer for the night. A tzimer is a cabin…though this was more like a studio/efficiency apartment. It cost 400 shekel/$110 for the night. This was the cheapest option I could find, it was a 10-15 minute drive to the race start, it was clean, the bed was comfy, and the shower worked. In short, it wasn’t fancy, but it worked for us! A+, since all I had to do was book the tzimer!
Weather: Clear skies, sunny…and by the time the sun was up, it was in the low 70s. Beautiful weather, but a little cloud coverage would’ve been appreciated…still, it beats the frigid winter weather in NYC! A
Time: 7am. I set my alarm for 5am, had 2 cups of coffee, a few dates, and an energy bar. Around 6:20am, we left the tzimer. I plugged the location the race organization sent into Waze, and we were off! The location was a parking lot that was actually pretty far from the starting area…we realized this quickly, and my boyfriend drove me until the road closures…from there, it was a 2 minute walk to the start area, where I jumped into the port o potty line. A+ boyfriend for waking up at 5:30/6am on the weekend, and driving me to the start line <3
Start/finish area: Long line for the port o potties, but it moved quickly…still, could have used more. I peed, walked to the start line, and waited only a few minutes…and the race began! There was a coffee/snack station, which I didn’t use. The finish area was separate from the start area. There was great music, snacks, and it was pretty nice, but I peaced out quickly. My boyfriend was waiting right by the finishing area, so we went back to the tzimer so I could take a much needed shower. B+…would be lower if I hadn’t been able to start on time. I appreciated that the nearby street wasn’t closed to traffic, so I could leave easily.
Packet pick-up: Offered the week before the race! I picked up the race packet from the Saucony store at the Tel Aviv port. Super easy! The packet included my race number, shirt, an energy bar (same as from the Home Run, and I ate it the morning of the race), and a sticker for completing the half marathon. I love picking up my race gear in advance whenever possible, because it’s one less thing to worry about on race morning. Also, it helps build the race excitement! A
Race shirt: Saucony (I think), black, women’s size. The material was good…a bit different from what I’ve seen in the past. Definitely one of the nicer shirts I’ve seen at Israeli races. I wish the shirt wasn’t black (for sun-reflecting purposes), but I’ll be wearing this shirt regularly. A
What I wore: Race shirt, compression shorts, hat, sunglasses, and hydration pack. This was the right move, because while I think there were enough water stops, it was sunny/hot, and I was glad to be able to drink whenever I wanted.
Bag drop: Available for a fee (boo), but I didn’t use/need it.
The course was an out and back, and as you can see, almost entirely along the coast of the Dead Sea. Very scenic, very pretty, mostly flat, and there was no crowding along the course. My one nitpick is that most of the course was on a sort of rocky path, so I spent most of the time making sure I wasn’t going to trip/twist my ankle. It also slowed me down a bit. If, like me, you’re used to road races, this will take an adjustment. I’d recommend trail running shoes for this race, if you have them. If not, no big deal. There was music at 8km/12km, which was an added bonus. B+/A-
Water stations: The race site said they would be every 3-5km…I didn’t pay attention, but it’s probably true. They gave out small plastic water bottles.
Bathrooms: THERE WERE PORT O POTTIES ON THE COURSE! True, there were only two, located at 5.8/13.5km…but still! I used the port o potty when I was returning. There was no line, so I went right in, and it was relatively clean. A++++, but a C for a US race
Pictures: Free, and easily accessible. I’ve taken better ones, but liked this:
Medal: Nice enough, but I definitely wouldn’t run the race just for this. Also, it’s the same medal, regardless of the distance you run.
In conclusion: This was a great, well-organized race. It was fun to run in such a beautiful place. While I don’t “need” to run this race every year, I’m sure I’ll be back. Due to the heat/sun, I don’t think I’d run a distance longer than the half marathon.