Although she has participated in events from 5K fun runs to full marathons, Anna Lee Boschetto has never run a race outside of Ontario. Here’s what happened when this first-time destination runner kicks it at the Samsung Marathon in Tel Aviv.
I’m curious by nature, adventurous by choice and always up for travel, but these days my parental status means that I weigh my decisions a little more carefully than I did when my life wasn’t filled with the joys of two children. Still, the winds of January whistled out my window and snow swirled across the front yard. I was dizzy with excitement at the thought of escaping this frigid Canadian winter. Running a half-marathon in shorts, against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea? The children would be in good hands with their dad, and my morning running routine needed a change of pace, one that didn’t have me trudging through snow and negotiating icy sidewalks. I decided to run a half marathon in Tel Aviv.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tel Aviv is an active city that’s a sports-minded person’s dream destination. It’s not uncommon to see runners, cyclists and roller bladers, along the boardwalk that spans the coastline at 1 a.m. Tel Avivians also take surfing pretty seriously, with several beachside surf schools. Add in an immaculately maintained boardwalk that weaves along the seaside from the restaurants and shops in the Tel Aviv harbor to the historic area of Jaffa, there’s so much to explore that it just makes sense to be out there for a half marathon.
As my plane landed in Tel Aviv, I could feel the warmth of the air on my face even before I stepped out of Ben Gurion Airport. When my tour guide Ari told me that it was unseasonably warm for February, I didn’t think much about how this climate might affect me on race day. To be honest, I didn’t really notice the heat all that much, even on race day, and that’s one of the cool facts about a destination race: it gives a few unexpected twists and turns to your usual running perspective.
After a couple of critical health situations in 2014, officials for the Samsung Tel Aviv Marathon bumped the date up to late February, banking on cooler temperatures. That didn’t exactly work out, but by adjusting the marathon, along with the other race start times by an hour, the majority of the 2,300 marathoners and nearly 9,000 half marathoners had a reprieve from the heat.
With the course weaving along the Mediterranean, the warmth of the sun mingling with the salty sea air, the view is exactly what you’d picture on a post card; a turquoise sea, meeting an endless skyline that’s dotted with cumulous clouds. Under the shade of the olive trees that line Sderet Rothesechild Boulevard, I’m making my way to the turnabout while high-fiving with the children who are cheering along the way. Doing so not only reminds me of my own daughters at home, but it also has me reminiscing about my own childhood spent cheering for friends and family at sporting events and how great it feels to be acknowledged. I make a mental note to do this wherever I’m running next.
Whether it was the shade, the crowds or the postcard views, I didn’t notice the rising temperatures, until the homestretch, more like the last three kilometers. At that point, I could practically hear my skin sizzling in the sun and I’m pretty sure that if I had cracked a raw egg onto the pavement, it would have promptly sizzled, too.
Nevertheless, crossing that finish line after grinding out those final kilometers, I was beaming. It wasn’t my fastest run, but by far it felt like one of my best. Maybe it was the flavour of the lemon popsicles that were given out at the finish line or the Sprite and potato chips that I chowed in lieu of a sports drink and banana in the post-race tents. Even days later, my post-race satisfaction was at an all-time high.
Like most runners, I’m a little type-A, which means that I wasn’t convinced that I could dial it back, put the time goal out of my mind and basically run like a kid. And I know we can’t all jet off to far off destinations for every running event, but it’s worth indulging your wanderlust now and again. Whether it’s the waves crashing against the rock cuts or the endlessly winding trails, sometimes you’ve got to get away to put it all in perspective.