Marathoners and fitness buffs from around the world flock to Israel for these unforgettable runs through Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world, is also one of the hilliest cities making it a fitness buff’s ultimate spiritual destination. While Jerusalem is a top tourist attraction for its rich history, delicious cuisine, impressive cultural calendar and constant vision for innovation, running is definitely picking up as the sport of choice in the Holy City.
Every March, Jerusalem hosts its marathon which brings over 25,000 people, over 2500 coming from over 54 countries, to the city for a breathtaking run through the cobblestone streets of the Old City and virtual tour of the city’s impressive history. Many running enthusiasts have a bucket list of cities they’d like to complete a race in, and Jerusalem is quickly climbing the ranks for many marathon tourists.
One of the many unique aspects of the Jerusalem Marathon is seeing the impressive number of runners who are running for some cause or charity. The challenging course is no match for these dedicated runners with missions of giving and compassion.
There are a few noticeable differences between running in Jerusalem and running in other cities– the altitude, for one. Jerusalem is in the mountains, at about a half mile high altitude, and the air is noticeably thinner than the coastal plains and flatlands of many cities abroad. Another difference is that the topography of the land is a bit less smooth, so make sure to have a good pair of sneakers in Jerusalem for the ancient streets and paths. Running in downtown Jerusalem can prove to be very frustrating with the number of cars, high foot traffic, and frequent intersections.
Don’t run in the streets of downtown Jerusalem- the narrow streets make it extremely dangerous and Israeli drivers are a bit more aggressive.
We highlighted 7 specifically unforgettable runs through Jerusalem that are perfect for everyone between novice and regular marathoner:
If you live anywhere near the center of town, the place to run is Gan Sacher, the park which stretches out below the Kinesset and the Supreme Court. You can follow the asphalt pedestrian/bike path south from Gan Sacher, past the Monastery of the Cross, and through the narrow parks along side HaRav Hertzog, almost all the way to the turn-off for the Jerusalem Mall (Canyon Malka).
The whole route is around 2.5 miles from end to end and is amazingly level, so assuming you want to end up where you started, it’s a nice five mile run. If you don’t mind going up and down hills, the streets around the Kinnesset and other government buildings are as good a place to run as any, with small parks scattered around, and very little traffic outside of commuting hours. This park is also the start and finish line of the Jerusalem Marathon, so for those runners looking to get a better sense of the route, Sacher Park is definitely a great start.
Old Train Tracks
The train tracks have been a Jerusalem landmark for hundreds of years. Recently, the city of Jerusalem invested significant resources to restore the area by creating The First Station and a track that connects the center of the city to the Malcha mall.
The First Station is one of the newest tourism venues, offering cultural activities every day (including Saturday) and several restaurants for any budget.This 7.5km (about 5 miles) track offers runners is quickly becoming a popular running spot because it is one Jerusalem’s flattest and quietest running tracks.
The newest addition to the Jerusalem running scene, the Gazelle Valley is actually a perfect extension to Sacher Park.
The valley is Jerusalem’s creative way to protect a small community of gazelles that have been living in the area for many years. Landscape architects from Israel and abroad paved walking trails and bicycle paths, built a wading pool for young children, and set aside shaded spots perfect for observing nature.
Gazelle Valley is part of Jerusalem Municipality’s master plan, featuring bicycle paths that surround the park and link up with two already existing bicycle paths running along Sacher Park and The Old Train Tracks.
This running trail is ideal for the urban runner looking for an opportunity to explore some of the communities outside of the city center. The Jerusalem forest starts from Yad Sara (which is on the corner of Herzl Street) to Yad Vashem through the dirt path or road below the dirt path. This green trail offers runners dramatic views of Ein Kerem and the Calder Scuplture. Some may even spot the famous Yad Vashem cattle car that hangs over the forest. Once out near the entrance to Yad Vashem, runners can loop back through Har Hertzl, Israel’s military cemetery.
The Haas Promenade is one of the best places to start a run in Jerusalem. Located on the southern side of the city, the Promenade offers a picture perfect panoramic view of the entire city. This flat 1.5km path, is ideal for runners looking to get a sense of part of the Jerusalem marathon and to gain some historical perspective of the city. The United Nations Middle East Headquarters is located at the end of the Goldman Promenade, in the former palace of the British High Commissioner. Tourists and locals can be found running along this impressive landmark any time of the day. Make sure to bring a camera or strap your phone into your armband, because it’s the best place to catch a great postcard shot to send back home.
Running on this route is for those that want to really explore the entire city from point to point. This road is a busy street with many traffic lights but affords any runner the chance to run from southern Jerusalem past the Old City towards the city’s northern point. A large portion of Hebron Road is part of the Marathon. Runners should be careful and wary of the cars on the road and the bus lanes. While most of the run on Hebron Road is flat, there are some hills especially as you approach the Old City that are unforgettable.
Once runners are on Hebron Road, a natural extension of this run is to turn right past Jaffa Gate and run down towards the northern section of Jerusalem. This course highlights the borders of the city between East and West Jerusalem. The course gives runners the chance to get a real taste of the full Jerusalem Marathon course and all of its breathtaking hills. Make sure to stop at the Hebrew University, Mount Scopous overlook to see the northern side of Jerusalem’s panorama.
There you have it, seven unforgettable runs through Jerusalem. Whatever course runners take, they are guaranteed a rare opportunity to pass through the city’s fascinating holy sites, highlighting thousands of years of history and culture. And when you’re done, there are endless Jerusalem falafel options to refuel with.
The article was written by Mordecai Holtz, Director of New Media for Itraveljerusalem.com, the official portal for all Jerusalem travel information. Join the conversation about Jerusalem travel by following them on Twitter, Facebook or Instag