Yam 2 Yam
149 km across Israel
What is the Yam 2 Yam
The Yam 2 Yam or Sea 2 City is one of the most well known races in Israel and takes in some absolutely breathtaking scenery. It's a 144km ultramarathon (with options to run 75km or 44km versions) held each year with the race being run the opposite direction on alternate years. This year the race is starting from Jaffa Port in Tel Aviv and finishing in the center of Jerusalem at the Old Train Station (Mithcham Hatachana Harishona). Runners will run throughout the night and early morning passing through 15 aid stations. They will arrive at the finish in Jerusalem having completed a journey from the sea shore, through the flat lands and orange groves of the Yarkon river area, through the gently rolling hills of the center of the country and ending with the steep climbs of Jerusalem. I ran the race in 2014.
Getting to the start
An early start to what was going to be a long day - registration opened at 8:00 and as I was an international athlete running in the elite field was asked to do a pre race T.V interview. My best friend/crew chief and top Israeli Ultra runner Roman was by my side for most of this. We picked up the race number, all the pre race info and spoke to the press. The plan was to grab breakfast, head home to finish last minute preparations then to head back to the start line at around 17:00. The first wave of runners start the 144km race around 14:00 on Thursday the 24 April, but my wave was planned for 18:00. I had a short nap and the car was stocked with race supplies like extra water, food, spare kit, maps and medical gear all ready to go on time but what we had failed to consider was traffic at rush hour.... We slowly creeped towards the event start line an inch at a time. Now nearing 30 min to go and still with over 2 miles to the start line I considered jumping out the car and running the rest of the way which Roman wisely suggested against. Only 20 min left and we had literally moved 10 meters, the pre race run was looking more likely than ever.
But without reason and almost as a gift the traffic cleared, it was a close call but I made it to the start line with moments to spare.
From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
This was never going to be easy, but then isn't that the point? 2750m of elevation gain over 149km doesnt sound like a lot, what you have to keep in mind is almost all of it happens in the last 40km of the race. Having said all that it was reassuring to have Roman (who had finished second the previous year) both crew for me and pace me to the end of the race. The journey took us for the sea shore port of Jaffa near Tel Aviv through the flatlands and orange groves of the Yarkon river area, through the gentle rolling hills of central of the country and end with steep climbs into the city of Jerusalem.
It was true trail running at its finest. Apart for the extra 5km added due to getting lost in the early hours of the morning the route was clear and easy to navigate. The real challenge was keeping a positive mindset through the heat of the midday sun. I would definitely recommend heading out there to try your luck in the heat and dust of the Israel trails.
Why the weather matters
Me: Should I take a light rain jacket?
Roman: No Need.
Me: What if it rains at night?
Roman:Where, here? You're in Israel in April!
Me: Are you sure?
Roman: TAKE IT! But you're carrying it.
Me: Oh, no jacket then.
The weather in April is like nothing you could train for in london. Hot and humid on the coast and hot and dry on the inland. The average temperature during the day is 28 degrees centigrade and not much less during the night. It was a constant game of keeping hydrated and cool without using all my water in the first 10 min. I guess the skill of judging how much to drink comes down to practice, and the way you prepare. The weeks leading up to the race I worked on using less water during my training and better pre and post run hydration. Some of the good fortune I had was due to NUUN Hydration tablets which helped to keep my electrolyte level balance during the race. Sunscreen was another winning chose as I burn easily and this can lead to hugh lose of moisture in your body making it even tougher to race in the heat.
In The end
Not only was it an honor to compete with the top Ultra athletes in the country but to also finish 2nd among them was something I will remember the rest of my life. I have a fondness for the county and being able to share my love and passion of trail running with such awesome people is one of the main reasons I do it. I want to finish this post with a quote from Roman -
'Running is something that transcends race, religion, creed, age and even ability. We should use it to unite the world and make it a better place to live for everyone'.
Check out the story in pictures