AMMAN: THE 100 YEAR MARATHON THAT TREATS RUNNERS ROYALLY
Running International city marathons has always been a great way to mix a love of running with the desire to see some of the World’s most interesting, scenic, historic or extraordinary places.
In most instances it’s possible to plan well in advance, but now and again an event comes to light with features and opportunities that makes it one of those ‘must-do’ occasions. The Amman International Marathon on Saturday 17 October 2009 is one such event!
It’s not just that the marathon is special, or date is significant, or that there are so many worldly unique places to visit, or that the Jordanian hospitality is so good, but that it’s also so easily affordable as the Royal Jordanian Airlines are offering marathoners and their families 35% off their cut prices for any direct flights into Amman. (Check destinations at www.rj.com )
Although, Amman, the capital of Jordan, celebrates a relatively short one hundred years as a municipality, it is one of the World’s oldest, constantly inhabited cities dating back to Neolithic times, around 8500BC.
The core of the two lap marathon route goes through the old city where much of the vast historic diversity is still visible. The many souks and bazaars ensure that the city centre bubbles with daily activity which will provide a rare but special atmosphere for all participants.
Both the marathon and 10km events commence from the modern Municipal Centre with a gradual climb to 3kms before relaxed downhill strides will take the participants through the market and old central city to the lower marathon turn round point. The next 6 km is a gradual incline back to the roman forum where marathoners will finish on the second lap.
Directly adjacent to the finish are two roman theatres, the largest of which, has a capacity of 6000 and will be used for the prize-giving.
A flat kilometre through the city centre completes the first lap.
To a large degree the long downhill from 3km to 14km balances out with the gradual return climb adding only a total of between 3 to 7 minutes to the times of three hours and five hour marathoners respectively.
The 10km starts concurrently with the marathon turning off just after the 8 kilometre mark making it a fast predominately downhill event.
For those who have younger family members there’s a 4km run that starts and finishes in the central forum area.
The expected overnight low of 8 degrees and midday high of 20 degree in October should result in almost ideal running conditions and the huge city centre crowd support will encourage even the most tired of runners through to the finish to receive their medal and share in the centennial celebrations.
A number of elite marathoners have already committed to the race which offers over 70000 dollars in prize money and should see the winner crossing the line in less than 2 hours 15 minutes.
Princess Dina Mired and Prince Firas Raad are members of the Amman International Marathon Board, and the race is held under the Patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein. It is not impossible that, come race day, runners will be sharing the road with members of the very popular royal family.
Clearly this is an event that attracts the support of the whole of Jordan and a race where visiting international runners of all standards are going to experience that very special warm Jordanian welcome: One could go as far as saying they are going to be treated ‘royally’.
Those who fly in to the Queen Alia International Airport on race weekend will be met and transferred to the Race Head Quarters and Hotel. On Friday prior to the race there is a Pasta party where they will meet the Prince and Princess.
To assist spectator identification along the route the race numbers of International runners in both the 10km have special coloured backgrounds. All foreign runners are encouraged to wear their country name or flag on their vests.
In addition each overseas runner will also receive a specially designed Amman International Marathon golf shirt and tracksuit and a dedicated International Meet and Greet area has been allocated at the finish where the runners can recover to share their race experiences.
Of course running the marathon is only a portion of the experience; there’s the history, legends and Jordan’s worldly wonders to see before or after the race, and what better than to start than with a free city tour on the Friday prior to race day.
Not only will runners be able to drive part of the running course, and view the start and finish areas, but also the tour takes in the ancient Roman citadel on the highest of the original seven hills that the city was built on.
Each of the seven points of the star in the Jordanian flag represents one of the hills, and beside the Citadel, known as Jabal el Qala, is a church dating back to Byzantine times before 400 AD when the city was called Philadelphia. The citadel area, which has recently been refurbished, is currently scheduled to be re-opened on marathon night by His Majesty the King.
Over history several earthquakes and natural disasters destroyed the city which remained a small village until 1887 when it became a major stop on the Hejaz rail linking Damascus and Medina. This forms a major part of the regional travel for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
In 1921 when King Abdullah 1 created the Emirate of Transjordan he commenced his reign from the old railway station, using a rail car as his office. Today modern and ancient Jordan stands cheek to jowl. It’s a mix and match that replicates the melting pot of cultures that have contributed to the rich Jordanian heritage. From the original seven hills the city now extends over 19 hills with a population estimated to be over 2.5 million people.
If tours aren’t your choice then visit the late King’s large collection of cars at the Automobile Museum, or go beyond the city where there are many unique and world famous sites.
Just 50km and a 90 minute drive to the North West is the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at more than 400 metres below sea-level. The mineral rich water provides so much buoyancy it is impossible to swim in, but the legendary healing and health-giving qualities attract many people to the luxurious spa and resorts along its edges. The Dead Sea mud and cosmetic products are famed for their skin cleansing powers throughout the world.
The area offers many religious sites including Mount Nebo, where according to the bible, Moses died and only a few kilometres from the Dead Sea, on the Jordan River, is where John baptized Jesus Christ. This is one of Jordan’s most popular tourist locations and a place of immense religious interest irrespective of faith.
For historic architecture a visit to Jerash, considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the region, is a must or take a drive into the valley of Wadi Al Seer to see the Hellenistic ruin of Qsar al Abd, and no Jordan trip is complete without staring in awe at Petra, recognized as one of the seven Wonders of the World.
Take some time out to enjoy the beautiful beaches of the at Aqaba, a haven for suba diving enthusiasts. This is Jordan’s only access to the Red Sea and provides a link to Egypt.
For the more adventurous a late afternoon jeep drive over the dunes in Wadi Rum will see the sun highlighting the beautiful and unique rock formations. If you listen carefully you can hear and see the charge of the camels as this was the venue for the filming of a number of scenes from the classic movie, Lawrence of Arabia.
Even this far west you are only a three to four hour drive from Amman.
In the other direction the lush fertile Jordan valley is home to vineyards and fruit farms.
Allowing two days for the marathon all of this can still be done at a leisurely pace in less than a week. It’s truly an experience of a lifetime that can be centred around a run through the ages in the first Amman International Marathon, held to celebrate 100 years of Amman, on Saturday 17 October – the 100th year celebration will never happen again – so be part of it in 2009!
Amman International Marathon:
+962 6 566 2999 www.amman-marathon.com