Jerusalem hills wont faze local marathon runners

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In the days after completing the Oakland Running Festival marathon last year, Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman got a call from Akiva Tor, Israel’s consul general for the Pacific Northwest.

There would be another 26.2 miles for the avid runner to tackle, Tor told him — and this time, it would be in the inaugural Jerusalem Marathon.

Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman runs the Los Angeles triathlon.

“The thought of running the first one is exciting,” said Naftalin-Kelman, executive director of Berkeley Hillel. “When you run through a city, you really see its nature and character that you don’t see any other way. To have that experience in Jerusalem will be the icing on the cake.”

On March 25, Naftalin-Kelman will join runners from around the world in Israel for the newest international marathon. The selected running tracks narrate the story of Jerusalem over its 3,000-year history.

The course traverses the Old City and modern Jerusalem, covering a  scenic route over the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus, and by the Zion and Jaffa gates, Sultan’s Pool, the Knesset, the Israel Museum and other historic sites.

A half-marathon and 10k race will occur the same day on segments of the full marathon course.

The Israeli Consulate has been hard at work recruiting local participants to send as a delegation. Special travel packages for runners, which include airfare, hotel accommodations, tours and race registration, are available until Feb. 25.

So far, 11 runners have signed up.

“We have runners coming from the Bay Area and beyond, including a group from Olympia, Wash.,” Tor said. “It helps that we’ve organized an attractively priced package, and that Bay Area runners are not easily deterred by hills.”

That’s true for Pat DelMarmol of Roseville, who is 61 and has completed four full marathons and three halves in two years. Though she dreads running hills, she promises they won’t intimidate her on race day.

“I’ve never looked at those hills with the thought that I will have to run up them,” said DelMarmol, who has traveled to Israel eight times and will go with her husband, Joseph, this time. “But I’ve been getting up at 4:30 every morning and hired a personal trainer. She’s killing me, but has promised that I will power through all these hills. I have to get the strength in my legs and endurance in my lungs, and just enjoy it.”

The Jerusalem race will be Israel’s third annual marathon, joining events in Tiberias and Tel Aviv, according to Tor. It’s a fitting addition: Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, has completed five marathons in different cities around the world.

“Few cities in the world can combine breathtaking, inspirational views, like Jerusalem’s famous historical sites and amazing landscapes, into their marathon course,” Barkat said in a statement on the event’s website. “As someone who has been running across the city for many years, I can personally testify that Jerusalem has been blessed with fresh mountain air and perfect running weather.”

That works out well for Naftalin-Kelman, who said his training is more focused on the course than on the weather. He’s found the equivalent to Jerusalem’s up-and-down terrain in the Berkeley and Oakland hills. He also incorporates cycling into the routine.

The weather does dictate whether he wears just a kippah, which stays on with the help of clips, or a hat, too.

His family’s trip to Israel will begin March 16, a good week before the marathon. Naftalin-Kelman’s wife, Elana, and their two children, ages 5 and 3, will join him. This will be their kids’ first trip to Israel, so they’ll likely do a fair amount of running through Jerusalem as well.

As for good luck charms or ritual premarathon meals, Naftalin-Kelman, who has run in three marathons, said he depends on conversation with the runners and cheers from the crowd to get him through the miles, plenty of which are spent in a solitary state of thinking and taking in the scenery.

“You can’t help but bond with the people you run with,” he said. “After 12 or 14 miles, you tend to see the same runners. I like to stay and talk with them.”

To register for the Jerusalem Marathon or for more information, click on the “Jerusalem Marathon 2011” link on