How to run a race like an Israeli

I started running 5ks when I was ten or eleven, and in my early 20s (just a few years ago) I ran three marathons. But since moving to Israel, I've run two 10ks and, er, a 5.7k and a 4.9k, and I've come to realize that road running in Israel is in some ways completely different. So here's a quick and easy guide to running a race like an Israeli:

1. Go to shvoong.co.il to find races and registration info. The racing season in Israel runs from September to May, without many races in the very hot summer months. It seems more common for races to start in the afternoon or evening in Israel than in the US, so read starting times carefully. You'll see a lot of 10Ks and some other distances-- serious runners usually compete in the 10Ks. "Amami" means a fun run, "tachruti" means a competitive run.

2. Be prepared for any race info to be posted only a month or two before a race and for it to be changed at the last minute. Apparently, Israelis see posting definitive times and dates for a race as like putting on your turn signal-- it's better to do this at the last minute so that nobody else can speed up and cut you off. Kiryat Motzkin and Kiryat Bialik both posted 5Ks taking place around the same time, and after a little bit of chicken, Motzkin moved its date up a few weeks and Bialik moved its race back a few months. The brand new Tel Aviv marathon changed its date about a month before it happened, as as someone familiar with marathon training plans, that really, really isn't beseder. I can only imagine the runners who made it all the way up to their 20 mile long runs and prepared to start the taper in training before the big race... only to discover that they actually had to extend their training by four weeks. If you want a reliable marathon in Israel, go for the Tiberias marathon-- it's been going for years and draws international runners. Last year, I got to see a spidery Ethiopian runner cross the finish line in not much over two hours. The Tel Aviv marathon should be awesome when it gets its act together, but I want to wait and see.

3. Arriving at a race in the morning and picking up your race packet is basically the same as at any road race in the US, except that you might see this while you wait in line at the port-a-potties:

Yes, he brought his own toilet paper. Oh, and an uzzi M-16.

In all fairness, though, I only saw lots of machine guns at the race in the picture above because it was the army championship, so lots of Tzahal divisions bussed in to compete. I really wanted a picture of the girl in short shorts, pink shirt, and machine gun, but the guy above will have to do.

4. Israelis tend to take a pretty relaxed attitude towards the starting line (kav hazinuk). Why be a fryer and wait behind the line? At the most recent 5Ks that I've attended, most of the group started a good couple of steps in front of the line. Yiyeh beseder.

5. Race t-shirts in Israel tend to be pretty awesome. So far I've received three micro-fiber shirts (one that was Adidas brand) out of four races... the only lousy shirt was from the 10K at the Tiberias marathon, because it's one of those prestigious races that doesn't need to lure runners with nice shirts.

6. "Field races" mean that you will literally be running through fields. And trampling corn stalks.

7. Aside from blips like the Krayot (where I live in and train), Israel is very, very hilly. I don't think I'd be brave enough to run the Jerusalem half-marathon, and the Haifa 10K was intense. Check the elevation of the races you choose to run.

8. Israeli races have a slightly casual attitude towards actual distances run. The Tavor race was supposed to be a 5.5K (who knows why!) but it turned out to be a 5.7K. The Motzkin race was supposed to be a 5 K, but due to traffic re-routing, it turned out to be 50 meters short. Yiyeh beseder.

9. There are relatively few female runners in Israeli races, so sometimes our division gets awarded fewer prizes and less prize money, but that seems to be improving even in just the last few years. In the Har Tavor 5.7K, I won a trophy for second place in my age-category... wahoo!

10. The feeling of crossing a finish line is just as sweet on any continent. Enjoy!

 Me getting REALLY excited to finally pass the guy right behind me 
as my friend and I cross the finish line in Kiryat Motzkin's 5K

Have you ever participated in any road races in Israel? How about triathlons or field races? How was your experience?


I'm back!

  Part of what has sucked away my time this month: our new living room! It's much prettier now. 

First, I never ever want to move again. We can make do with four rooms forever. (Four rooms = three bedrooms and a living room... if you want to understand how Israelis calculate "rooms" in apts, read this post.)

Ok, maybe that's not entirely true... someday I want a house with a yard so I can grow lemons and maybe get a dog. But this move was utterly exhausting, perhaps because I astounded every Israeli I know by insisting on doing most of the painting myself. We did hire four strapping Ukranians to move our boxes and furniture, and it was blissful... they hoisted our boxes about 20 at a time out of our old apt, into their truck, and into our new one all in two hours on a Thursday morning.

But it certainly is worth it... it's amazing to live in our OWN walls, and we love our new apartment. We wake up in the morning to the sound of birds, not cars (to the delight of our cats). Our cabinets are clean and white. My oven has a "convection" setting. Yes, little things make me very excited.

Anyway, I've missed a pretty momentous month of blogging. There was the end of Passover, Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut. (You can always read about what I did last year... it pretty much still applies.) While I agree that it's pretty shameful I didn't post for Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), in my defense I was very Israeli... I stayed out really late Yom HaAtzmaut watching fireworks and free concerts by singers with the last name "Peretz," and then ate myself into a semi-comatose state at a "mangal," a barbecue, the next day. Between those two sources of brain cell death, and all the paint fumes, you should be glad I've recovered in just two weeks. (I also discovered that cotton candy in Hebrew is called "searot savta," Grandmother's hair. Isn't that awesome and mildly disgusting?)

Another day this month was momentous for me: on the day we moved into our very own apartment, I also hit my two year mark in Israel. It feels at once like it couldn't possibly have been two years and like it's incredible that I lived in the US just 25 months ago. I'm working on a post about that soon!

We've also been busy in other ways... my husband and I participated in a few Israeli 5Ks (well, actually a 5.7 K and a 4.9 K... Israelis aren't big on details) and I accepted a last-minute role in a Chekhov play (come see me with the Haifa English Theatre in early June!). I've also been painting some creepy Russian Orthodox Christian-esque props for said Chekhov play. Introducing the icon my husband and I have dubbed Gregor, Patron Saint of Constipation:

This is something I definitely wouldn't have predicted aliyah would lead me to paint.... 

My day job apparently also hasn't gotten the idea that it should stop demanding my attention when my life gets busy. Still, it was really nice to log in and discover that I have 90 followers and 15 comments to moderate. Wahoo!!

So I'm back... and this last month has definitely given me plenty of material to blog about. :)

How was your month? Anything interesting happen to you while I was busy inhaling paint fumes painting our new apt?
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