Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) Dec. 2004 - Feb. 2005

Chris and Daniel on the run

Energy Renewal at the Sea of Galilee
A Saviour at the Deepest Marathon in the World
Jan. 6, 2005

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It must have been somewhere between 23 and 24 kilometres, when I saw Daniel for the first time in his white shirt and shorts. He wasn’t running or even walking anymore. From behind it looked like very slow motion. That was what made it possible for me to catch Daniel, since I myself was not running any more. I had passed the halfway mark of the Marathon in a bit less than two hours - faster than scheduled. Soon afterwards I did, what I planned to do – walk - fast walking. After only 99 kilometres of running last year, that was the only reasonable approach to the total distance of 42 kilometres. The first kilometre of walking proved: I would need nine minutes for every kilometre, meaning thatI would make it in less than five hours. My tenth Marathon. Easy, in a way!
Just one problem: there was nothing to eat. Nothing at all. In Germany you would get bananas at any time on a long distance run. But here on the eastern border of the Sea of Galilee I could look at them still hanging on the trees to the left, where I saw the dark blue water with the white town of the start and finish, Tiberias behind. Under the blue plastic bags the bananas were waiting for harvest - unripe. Here we got water every three kilometres and it was political correct water, not water with the Eden trade mark One peace activist told me that “Eden” was taken from a source below a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Unfortunately “Eden” has the most convenient design for drinking. But that is of minor importance in a part of the world, where nothing is not political, least of all water.
Sometime earlier we passed a gaz station at the southern tip of the sea. Mirjam had learned, while researching the net, of a German Marathon runner, close to dying of starvation near to the site of the miracle of the multiplication of bread. But I did not have anything to eat with me, only some 120 Shekalim and no time to spend them in a restaurant. But there was Daniel who was just unwrapping some date balls with coconut. “Energy balls“, he called them.He offered me one of them. It was really incredible to someone like me who doesn’t work things out in advance too carefully that anybody could offer me something from his well calculated food supply so far away from the finishing line. There was not even time to say thank you, since Daniel restarted running immediately - a kind of running, that would evidently soon come to a stop again. And so I again caught up with him a little later. „Go!“ I told him. Go faster, I meant. Otherwise he would not meet the time limit of six hours.
„Come on!“ I pushed him closer to the finish, to make him moving faster. So we could even talk a bit. I always one step in front, to keep us going. It’s Daniel’s first Marathon. His regular training partners in Tel Aviv, his brother and his brother in law, had left him far behind since they run faster. And Daniel just wants to finish his first Marathon in less than five hours which he will if he keeps up with me. So: Yalla.
It will be Daniel’s only chance this year - today, Jan. 6, 2005 - since the Tiberias Marathon is the only one in Holy Land. This is the 28th Tiberias Marathon and it is the lowest on earth. 197 metres below sea level. It is deepest winter when there are excellent conditions for running. The average temperature for this time of year at the starting time of 9 am is 15 degrees Celsius. Today it is even warmer. In some parts it’s already too hot. But then white clouds protect the runners.
A lot of things are just like at home: The pasta party on the eve. The small market for shoes and equipment. Uriel mint paste for the muscles in the starter bag. The number with four needles to fix it in place. The wheelchair contestants starting shortly before the runners. The 12 km run half an hour later. A children’s run. The entrant’s fee of 50 US-Dollar.
This may be the only chance of my life. I have been here since the end of November as an Ecumenical Accompanier in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme of the World Council of Churches in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). So for some kilometres I am accompanying Daniel. He is a journalist, who works for the peace oriented newspapaer Haaretz and now evaluates Arab newspapers for the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. He compains that the English edition of Haaretz is just a translation of the Hebrew one. And that the journalists are often made responsible for the mistakes of the translators, since the English edition is read all over the world and is therefore more important than the local one.
Daniel starts running once again. I follow him. The walking breaks are getting shorter and shorter. Daniel restarts running againa and again. He pulls me closer to the finish. We are back round the southern tip of the lake pushed forward to Tiberias by the south wind. In the north we see Mount Hermon snow covered above the Golan heights. Another water station and Daniel finds some more energy balls, and shares them with me.
The countryside, where the Bible is present in sky, sun, rock and water, is passing quickly. We reach the first hotels of Tiberias. „Kol Hakavod!“ The spectators are excited. I remember my small Hebrew vocabulary translating „kavod“ by „might, power, glory”. And soon we can see the time above the final arch. Running somewhere between 4:45 and 4:56. Praise be! Daniel would like to let me finish first: „You saved me“, he said. I soon push him forward, saying: “You saved me.” Together we pass the plastic arch. The sound from below the Champion-Chip signals that the time is registered. Daniel introduces me to his wife. She has made the energy balls for him - and for me! She saved me and my tenth Marathon as well.

Three seconds before crossing the finish line

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Disclaimer: I have been active from Dec. 2004 to Feb. 2005 for Evangelisches Missionswerk in Südwestdeutschland (EMS) as an Ecumenical Accompanier serving on the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The views contained herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer EMS or the WCC. If you would like publish the information contained here or disseminate further, please first contact the EAPPI Communications Officer and Managing Director ( for permission. Thank you.