(JTA) — Despite an elevated risk of terrorist attacks, a record-setting 30,000 people from 62 countries arrived at the starting line of the annual Jerusalem Marathon, including Mayor Nir Barkat.
The number of runners in the race Friday was slightly higher than the previous record of 26,000 in 2015, despite the fact that it is taking place at a time of frequent terrorist attacks, Army Radio reported. Foreign participants numbered 2,400 — a new record for the event, which is taking place for the sixth consecutive year.
Thousands of soldiers were deployed along the 26.2-mile route of the event to protect runners from possible attacks.
Flanked by a group of runners from Africa, Barkat, wearing the Jerusalem Marathon official orange T-shirt on the startline, told Army Radio that the city had not considered canceling the event because of the attacks.
Kpkosgei Shadrack, 25, from Kenya won the 2016 Jerusalem marathon with a time of 2:16:33 — an improvement of almost two minutes from the result of last year’s winner, Tadesse Yaee Dahbi of Ethiopia.
“Through the greatest of trials, Jerusalem does not cancel events,” said 56-year-old Barkat, a jogging enthusiast and former officer in the Israel Defense Forces Paratroopers Brigade. “It’s part of our message. We will carry on as usual.”
More than a quarter of 155 terrorist attacks documented in February occurred in Jerusalem — more than any other city in Israel, according to official data from the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet.
Some 2,400 runners outside Israel registered for this year’s race, more than double the number last year and a record both in terms of the number of countries represented and the number of foreign participants.
Countries represented include Uzbekistan, Argentina, Hong Kong, Austria, Singapore, Turkey, the United States and Switzerland. Sixty runners registered from China alone.