On the differences between races in Israel and Spain

Visiting my home country, I discovered a half-marathon race during my visit and signed up. It was the Merotz Ha’Aviv, or the Spring Run in Ramat HaSharon, a suburb of Tel Aviv. It was a small town race run on a Saturday morning.

I began my racing “career” in Israel but went very far with running and racing in Barcelona. In the past few years I had the chance to participate in dozens of races, so I am able to note various aspects of the organization.

I don’t usually run in Israel recently, so my observation is far from being wide, but anyway, here goes. I also try to provide explanations for the variations, be them good or bad.

  1. Coffee and food before the race: It was nice being greeted by a table full of sweet chocolate chip cookies, salty Abadi cookies and also coffee and tea. The snacks can serve as last minute fueling options and a hot drink is always welcome before the race. I cannot remember seeing such an option in any race in Spain. Occasionally, a group organizes some treats for its members, but nothing else. The organizers provide snacks and refreshments at the end (as well as along the way), but nothing else.
  2. No place to leave your stuff!: In Spain, there is always a guardarropia. Some, such as in my excellent experience in Granollers, are perfectly managed, while others can consist of queues, but it’s elementary. I mentioned the absence of this to a fellow runner. He told me that it’s usually like that in Israel. The explanation most probably originates from the dearth of public transport usage. And there’s public transport on Saturdays. So, organizers assume that runners arrive by car, and you can always leave your stuff there.
  3. Lots of music along the way: I didn’t count the number of times I heard music coming out of speakers but it was clearly more than one would hear in a small town or even big town race in Spain. There was no live music, but that only happens in the really big events. That’s the advantage of the Middle East: you enjoy life.
  4. Lots of races in one day: As I remembered from previous runs in the Holy Land, organizers tend to cram in as many races as possible. In this case, there was a half-marathon, a 10K, a 5K and two separate 2K races. In Spain, the options are more limited: either a single race, two races (such as 5K and 10K) or a main race and a small kids race. There is always pressure to do as much as possible, be it at work, driving faster on the roads or in running races.
  5. Lots of water stations: I would hazard a guess that there was a water station every 3-4K or so. It makes sense in a warm country, even if weather conditions were quite comfortable on that day in April.
  6. Messy road signs: The half marathon route was somewhat complicated. We ran from the starting point to a distant Point A, ran back to Point B, again to A and back to the starting line. Reaching Point A for the first time, I almost continued running off-course. The sign had an arrow to continue going and the people stationed there were late to tell me to do a U-turn. I turned back to Point B, alongside another runner and back to Point A, this time knowing where to turn. I thought that from this point onwards, it’s just backtracking. Well, apparently I missed some turning point and eventually made a 700-meter shortcut. Am I that stupid? OK, maybe. Nevertheless, clear signs and a person pointing to the right direction should have prevented any mistakes. When I was half way in the wrong direction, a girl that was running there for her leisure told me I was off-course. I thought she was wrong and continued. I then saw a race staffer and was sure I was OK. He told me that I should have turned beforehand, but then he also said: “nevermind”. Only after seeing the next kilometer mark, I understood the magnitude of the shortcut. I guess that´s a disadvantge of the Middle East: organization leaves a lot to be desired…

What about the race itself? It was a fun 20.3K run for me, with generally comfortable weather and an opportunity to participate in a half-marathon in my home country.

Some excuses/explanations for the not-too-great time: I started out too fast in the downhill and was out of my element when backtracking and running uphill. Some parts were not asphalt but rather hard earth and perhaps it also imposed a tax on my time. The aforementioned mess with the route also erased a few seconds, but well, these were more than compensated with the shortcut…

Here is the run and some pictures with Edan.

Next on my backlog of posts is my experiences from the Barcelona Beer Festial. Cheers!