Survivor who escaped Nazis runs Jerusalem Marathon (AP) Associated Press) By ARON HELLER JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 03/16/12 8:16 am ET)
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JERUSALEM – Hanoch Shahar discovered a lifelong love of running as a
child orphaned in World War II. On Friday, the 77-year-old Holocaust
survivor ran along with some 15,000 other athletes in Jerusalem´s
second annual marathon.
The oldest of the runners, Shahar ran 10 kilometers (six miles) in an
hour and four minutes. He completed a full marathon two months ago
and said at his age, he can run only one 42-kilometer (26-mile) race
"Running gives me a sense of freedom," said Shahar, whose parents
were killed by Nazis at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what
is now the Czech Republic. He said he ran there to escape his sorrow.
After the war, in a Prague orphanage, he would pass his time running
and listening to track events on the radio. For hours at a time, he
said, he would chase the orphanage´s German Shepherd.
"That´s where I got the running bug," he said.
He has been running ever since, eventually becoming the Israeli
champion in the 800-meter race before switching to longer distances
in later years. He has completed eight full marathons, the last in
On Friday, he and thousands of other runners dashed alongside ancient
sites and through Jerusalem´s steep streets in the second event of
its kind in the city. The route took runners through the walled Old
City, alongside the president´s residence and up Mount Scopus to
circle the campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"To run through the Old City is an amazing experience," Shahar said
as he boarded a bus back to his home town of Safed in northern Israel.
About 1,000 people ran a full marathon Friday, and others completed
David Toniok, 27, from Kenya, won the marathon with a time of
2:19:52, nearly seven minutes faster than last year´s best time.
Ethiopian Gudeta Biratu came second in 2:22:42, while John Mutai from
Kenya finished third in 2:23:31.
The fastest woman runner was Ethiopian Mihiret Anamo Antonios with
2:48:38. She was trailed by Kamila Khanipova from Russia, who
finished in 2:49:20, and Alena Vinitskaya from Belarus, with 2:50:33.
Strong winds and cold rain made for difficult ideal conditions.
Despite the city´s tough inclines, Mayor Nir Barkat, himself an avid
runner who completed a half-marathon Friday, said he hopes Jerusalem
will become on of the world´s major marathon venues. The municipality
said more than 1,500 non-Israeli runners came from 50 nations to
compete in the city held sacred by Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The marathon caused huge traffic disruptions. Nearly all the city´s
main arteries were blocked from early morning to early afternoon.
Police said helicopters, observation units, special patrols and
undercover officers were deployed to protect the race, part of a high
security presence in and around Jerusalem.
The top Palestinian Muslim cleric in Jerusalem objected to the
marathon´s route, which passed through east Jerusalem, the sector of
the city captured by Israel in the 1967 war and annexed, sought now
by the Palestinians as a capital. Palestinian mufti Sheik Mohammed
Hussein said the athletic event was an attempt by Israel to
demonstrate sovereignty in areas claimed by Palestinians.
For Shahar, it was all about the run. "The Holocaust is always on my
mind, but when I am running, I am relaxed," said Shahar, who has four
children and four grandchildren.
Six million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators
during World War II.
After the war, Shahar was eventually adopted from the orphanage by a
Jewish man who came looking for a daughter he lost during the war.
Shahar´s adoptive father encouraged his hobby and took him to track
meets to watch the boy´s hero — Czech long-distance running legend
Emil Zatopek, a four-time Olympic gold medalist. "He was my role
model," Shahar said.
In Israel, Shahar embarked on a military career as a tank mechanic
and was also a longtime volunteer paramedic. But his heart remained
in running, and he won numerous medals over the years.
He says his best result in the 10-kilometer race was around 36
minutes, about half his time in Friday´s race. ___ Additional
reporting by Daniella Cheslow. (© 2012 The Associated Press 03/16/12)
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