Hotter than July at the Tel Aviv (Half) Marathon


Tel Aviv Half MarathonExtreme heat and marathons are not a good combo.  So it was no surprise that the 2013 Tel Aviv marathon did not take place as scheduled on Friday.  As soon as the 96 degree marathon day weather forecast arrived last week, the marathon-cancellation-chatter began.  My friends and I were talking to each other constantly – nonstop speculation.  Would we be running or not?  On Tuesday the organizers announced that the race wasn’t cancelled, but would begin at 6:00 instead of 6:30. On Wednesday they announced that the half marathon and the 10k would take place, but that the marathon was officially postponed for a week.


The marathon was still doable, in theory, but the city wouldn’t close down again so runners could fill the streets. Instead they scheduled it to take place in Park Hayarkon, where I run almost every day.  The park isn’t long enough for a marathon, and the idea of running back and forth over a small area rather than a running a city marathon full of cheering crowds was depressing.

I didn’t know what to do, so I did what any normal husband would do… I drove my wife crazy for days.  In fact, Jess claims she lost two work days over this. I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  Should I run the Tel Aviv marathon a week later?  Should I go run another marathon?  The Rome marathon was only two days after Tel Aviv’s. The Prague marathon?  The Milan marathon?  Zurich?  Bratislava?

The biggest problem with a marathon somewhere else is the expense.  But since hernia surgery caused me to miss the Amsterdam marathon back in October, I felt it was okay to splurge now. The question was where to go.  Once I’d decided to run a marathon somewhere else, I decided to go back into training mode.  I would run the half-marathon here, but proper marathon training would require me to run 31k, not just 21.1.  So I would start early.

The start time of the half-marathon was 5:45 a.m. starting time.  It had to be this early to avoid the forecasted heat. So I had to start my own run at 4:30 a.m., the hour when the clubbers are dragging themselves home and puking in the street.

I got up at 3:45 with a BG of 172, not the best but I still had some active insulin in me and for a 19-mile run it wasn’t a bad place to start.  I ran 2 miles at a very easy pace before stopped to check my blood sugar for the first time it was 161. Although it was very early in the morning it was quite hot and there was a warm breeze, a little too warm for comfort. I ran the next few miles at a good pace, a little slower than my marathon pace (8:00-8:10).  At 5:35 I arrived at the race area. My blood sugar was 139 – time for a gel.

When the race started it still felt like night, but as I ran the first three miles daylight began to take over the sky.  And the heat began to take over the land. I was running  at a good pace but then after about eight miles I started to feel bad. I took another gel (as planned) but that didn’t do much. At 7:00 a.m. the heat really surged. My mouth was dry and it felt like I was running in a wool suit. I had only 4 miles to go but I knew I was dehydrated, and my muscles felt fatigued. I kept a decent pace for another mile but then started to slow down. I felt so horrible, as thirsty as I’d been since diagnosis, but I decided I wasn’t stopping for anything. I fought myself to the finish line and crossed it in 1:42:25 according to my Garmin (and with my blood sugar at 158). Not my best run ever but, when I arrived home and began to hear the horror stories of the half-marathon, I realized it could have been much worse: one runner died, four were comatose, and many others were in serious condition, all due to dehydration and heat stroke.

Tel Aviv Half Marathon - Last Mile
Tel Aviv Half Marathon – Last Mile

Before I left the race I met up with my friends and we hung out, talking about the race, the heat and enjoying some post race beer that was being sold for $1.25. I don’t usually drink beer, but I figured I deserved it. I bolused and had a pint.

I walked home in the heat. By 9:00 a.m. it was 90 degrees and people were still running (the 10K races started later). On my way I saw someone looking bad being loaded on to an ambulance.  

At home I took a shower and got into bed to take a nap. I asked jess to wake me in an hour

“Did you check your blood sugar?” she asked.

I hadn’t, so I did.  83.

“I’ll get you something to eat,” she said and got me some dried fruit.

Jess woke me an hour later. I had a very hard time waking up. I guessed it was dehydration but when in doubt I usually test my blood sugar. It was 53.

I had over-bolused for the beer and spent the rest of the day chasing lows.  In between the snacking and blood sugar checks I thought about the race, how despite the severe conditions I’d managed to do it and didn’t screw up my blood sugar until after the race.  And with a sense of trepidation tinged with confidence, I singed up for the Milan marathon.

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Rob Woolfson
9 years ago

I have been told never to bolus for any alcohol even beer! 

I wanted to know if you stop to check while you are running a race longer than 1 hour.  I dont like to go more than an hour and a half without checking my sugar when I am riding my bike.  I have some races coming up which will be longer than that and I am a bit worried about how to handle it.


Scott K. Johnson
9 years ago

Congrats, Mike! Sounds like the weather was pretty horrid. Makes the accomplishment that much sweeter!

9 years ago

Congratulations Mikey, that’s great!

9 years ago

Wow… congrats for running a great race.  I can barely imagine doing a 10K in that heat. Never mind a half marathon.  Congrats jess for being such a supportive spouse too!  :-)

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