A few days ago I posted a recap of my personal experience at the Tel Aviv Half Marathon.
Because this is one of the, if not the, biggest races in Israel, I want to do a review of what I thought of the race itself.
So you know, when you consider running it next year, even if it means a 12 hour flight, you can check my review and make a final decision.
There were also a marathon distance, a 10K, and a 5K. Although I’m reviewing the half marathon, a lot of aspects reviewed are the same for all distances.
Overall I give it a 4 out of 5 starts, taking into consideration how big the race is, making it so much more difficult in terms of logistics, that’s pretty good.
I’m dividing the review in sections, and keeping each one short.
Bib Pickup / Race Expo:
I didn’t pick up my bib or go to the expo (heard it was great though), so there’s only one thing I can say for myself, and it’s a negative: when you have a race this big, there should be more options for bib pickup than an expo in downtown Tel Aviv (read crazy traffic and crazy parking). Basically everyone who doesn’t live or work in Tel Aviv doesn’t want to go there just to pick up a race bib. If race day bib pickup is not possible, a mail option that is not crazy expensive should be available, same as pick up in a few more locations throughout the country, where you’d advise at registration at which location you will pick up your bib.
The race’s website listed the parking lots that would be available to park at around the race area, which was very useful. Still, parking was an issue, especially for those with later start times (10K/5K distances). Can’t blame race organizers for this, but something to keep in mind.
The race’s start and finish line was at a big boulevard (Rokach) right by Park Hayarkon, with the after party being at the park. I really liked this location, broad avenue is great for a start line, and the park right next to it made it perfect for the after party and hanging out after the race.
The entrance to the corral was fenced and well organized, the fact that they had 4 different groups for the half marathon made life so much easier, it didn’t feel crowded.
There were volunteers by the start line collecting throw away clothes, which is something I had never seen before. I was happy to (potentially) be able to give my warm hardly worn cardigan to someone who needs it, instead of just leaving it on the side of the road.
We started running exactly at 08:00 AM like we were supposed to, impressive.
Although my only entertainment while running is my IPod, I appreciate the effort of the organizers, there were music stands, DJs, and bands at different points through the course. Live bands on a race are just so cool. I think I even paused my IPod for a few seconds.
Lots of reporters and photographers mainly at the start/finish lines and also through the course. This is a big event in Israel and it was exciting to be part of it.
I loved the course of the half marathon, I love Tel Aviv and I’m used to running through parts of it. The course went by the boardwalk which was nice, then we turned into part of downtown Tel Aviv, not as nice in terms of sightseeing, but still a cool place, and I hold dear memories about those streets (I used to live and work in downtown Tel Aviv in my previous life before marriage/kids).
The course was well marked, the KM signs were visible and clear, and it was flat for the most part with little hills here and there.
My one BIG problem with the course: merging different distances, we merged with the marathoners at some point (fine, there weren’t many) and later on with the 10K’ers which was hell. Adding 18000 to my route at the 15th KM of a half marathon is not cool. This is a deal breaker for me, I will studying the courses and start times of future big races, and will not be running one where merging happens.
There were plenty, and they were well stocked on each station I went by. There would be many runners behind me (from the 10K/5K distances) so I can’t say what happened later.
We got a race shirt, which is nice and light, and a medal which is worthless and not pretty. I don’t have a use for medals so maybe someone who actually likes them feels different.
Race After Party:
The park by the finish line was were the after party was held. There were booths for different vendors (I didn’t even look, I had no money on me so there was no point), music, massage chairs, and lots of space to walk or stretch. I don’t know if it was just the endorphins or if it actually was a great after party, but I was having fun.
Food/Drink After the Race:
BAD BAD BAD. OK there were a lot of water bottles, at least that.
But no food except for one truck where they were giving away yogurt. First of all, one truck? In that big area, I didn’t see it until someone pointed it out to me. Second, nothing besides yogurt? I wouldn’t eat yogurt after running 21K if my life depended on it, can you imagine how that might seat on your stomach? I’m not taking that risk. Please give me carbs: bread, crackers, bananas, little balls of sand… give me something damn it. I’m hungry after a race. No food is inexcusable. Minus 5 points for you!
Life in Tel Aviv during the race:
A lot of the roads in Tel Aviv were closed due to the race, which of course as a runner I do not only appreciate but demand (I’m not running a race if the streets aren’t closed, that’s crazy).
However, I can imagine the trouble that caused to many residents of the city, especially on a Friday morning, which is the time when a lot of religious people get ready for the Sabbath.
Also, because the streets were closed and there was no public transportation in parts of the city, they called schools off (no school or kindergarten), which I’d personally be very upset about if I lived in Tel Aviv.
I am impressed by how quickly the results were published online, and how they kept updating them through the weekend to show only chip time (at first they were posted by finish line time), include splits, update ranks, and/or disqualify runners who didn’t run the race themselves.