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
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?