Dead Sea Marathon: Running to the Lowest Point on Earth

At the starting line!

When I took my trip around the world in 2010, my goal was to run five races around the world to raise money for education and grassroots projects. You may recall (or not, depending on how long you’ve been reading this blog) that I ran two marathons just three weeks apart on my trip. I ran the Rome Marathon two weeks into the start of my trip in Italy and then ran the Dead Sea Marathon in Jordan. Three weeks does not give much time to recover but I figured I would at least still be in shape to run it. Plus, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth and who doesn’t want to say that they’ve run to the lowest point on Earth? It sounded like fun. The race also raises money to assist needy neurological patients so I was running for yet another good cause.

While I was visiting the coastal town of Aqaba in Jordan, two girls that were staying at my guesthouse saw me running on the stretch of road that goes to the Saudi Arabian border. One from South Africa and the other from England, they were teachers at an international school in Amman and would also be running the Dead Sea race (one ran the 10k and the other ran the half). They invited me to stay with them in Amman, so we all took a taxi together very early the morning of the race. The marathon started at 7 (which in my opinion was too late because we would be running through the desert) but you had to be there by 6 to get  bussed to the starting point. As we stopped to drop people at the ultra marathon (50 km) starting point, there were only a handful of people running it! When I was dropped at the marathon starting point, initially I was the only woman running it. Another bus showed up though, and there were probably about 100 participants total in the marathon and about 10 of them women. To give you some perspective, thousands of locals were running the 10k and the half, yet there were only about a hundred in the marathon. I was quite surprised.

Empty road ahead of me

Since there were so few running the marathon, it spread out pretty quickly and I felt like I was running solo through the desert with the occasional bedouin and his herd en route.

Beautiful views en route to the Dead Sea

The first 15 miles of the race were downhill. I knew that a good portion of the race would be downhill. But, I never gave it much thought when training. I learned my lesson as you will soon find out! I had to go to the bathroom around mile seven, right about the time when the first ultra marathoner caught up to me. I went behind a barricade thinking that I was nicely shielded from the runners coming downhill… that is until an ambulance decided to drive up the closed side of the street and I nearly got caught! Running down the mountain, there were stunning views of the surroundings and it was beautiful.

Passing a bedouin and his herd

I rehydrated at the halfway point and continued on. I got a pretty bad case of food poisoning in Dana just a week earlier, and at mile 21, the heat really started to get to me. My first two marathons, I never stopped to walk, but this time, I had to walk for a bit. It’s also mid-morning at this point so it’s really hot out! Since the race had staggered starting points, the half marathoners and 10k runners had already run past these aid stations, and they were out of water the last few miles.

A man walks past with his camel on the route

Finally, about two miles from the end, a man on a four- wheeler brought water to those of us on the course near the finish line.

Spotting resorts on the Dead Sea and knowing I'm close to the finish! (Israel across the way)

I gulped down some water and ran the remainder of the way to the finish. Unlike the Chicago or Rome Marathon, the Dead Sea Marathon was anti climactic. There were no cheering crowds, and when you stepped across the finish line, no one really cared. Luckily, I was happy to give myself a pat on the back!

So happy to see the finish!!

The Dead Sea Marathon provided nice medals for finishers and an efficient system for bussing people back to town. Since I had been to the Dead Sea just a few days earlier, I didn’t stay long before heading back to Amman. I was sore, hot, and tired.

Before I had reached the finish, I could already feel some muscle soreness in my quads. That is definitely not a good sign to feel pain before the race is even over. I can say, without a doubt, that I’ve never been so sore in my life as I was the day after the Dead Sea Marathon. I couldn’t sit down without bracing myself with my hands first. I could slowly walk upstairs, but I could not even walk down one flight of stairs in my friend’s apartment building, I had to take the elevator to go down. Seriously- one flight of stairs- couldn’t do it. I was beyond sore. If I had given it any thought, I would have trained to run downhill more. But I just figured downhill would be just as easy, if not easier than running a flat surface. And, while I was running downhill, since it wasn’t too steep of a decline, it was quite nice. But, oh how I felt it after!!

If you are into running marathons and can withstand a bit of heat, I highly recommend the Dead Sea Marathon. It’s really beautiful, for a good cause, and few people actually run the full marathon so there’s ample room on the course. They might run out of water, but it’s better than the half marathon I did a few months later in Rwanda where they were out of water at mile two!

Have you ever run a marathon? Or better yet, do you have any future race suggestions for me?

12 thoughts on “Dead Sea Marathon: Running to the Lowest Point on Earth

  • Hey Laura, The Austin Marathon is supposed to be pretty awesome, I have also heard great things about the Disney marathons. I was training for awhile, but then I had an injury so had to stop. I am hoping to get back in the swing of things in the next couple of weeks as far as internatational I am not so sure, it is a great research topic :)

  • I have only jogged 3 miles straight a few times in my life so no, I’ve definitely never run a marathon O:-) And I hate running in summer especially. But, if I could do this marathon with you, I would!

  • This looks amazing! Though I can imagine the heat would have been intense!

    If you ever make it out to Australia, the 6 Foot Track Marathon in the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney) is one of the nicest out there, according to my dad, who also does these crazy things. I’ll stick to slowly making my way up to a half ;)

  • Just saw this link through Our Dear Lady Expatriate’s page and wow, that looks like an amazing race! I had no idea that was the lowest place on earth. I’m just starting to train for a half marathon so it makes me really excited to read about runners in different environments succeeding and having fun! Thanks for the great story.

  • TWO weeks apart?! Geeez..It took me a while to recover from a Half! On another note, you should do the Nike Women’s Marathon – that’s the race I did the half (in San Fran), and it was so much fun!!

    • I actually went to one of the Nike training runs when I was working in San Fran. I ran the SF Half and it was fun (but a bit brutal with the hills!).

  • I’m definitely not a marathon runner, but have a lot respect for those who are! This looks like it was an amazing run. Did being so low altitude wise make the run easier than other runs you’ve done?

  • I can’t even imagine walking a marathon in the Middle East heat, but it does sound like a fun one to do. I like it that you cheered yourself up even though others didn’t care who finished the race. Hope you weren’t sore for long!

  • That’s pretty cool that you ran in the lowest point on earth – though I can’t imagine what the heat must’ve been like! I’ve recently started running as well but I had to take a bit of a break during the month of August because the heat and humidity in Korea was unbearable! Phewww, glad autumn is here. :)

  • I’m about to run my first marathon, in Chicago in a few weeks. I’m beyond terrified. This one sounds pretty amazing though. I’m already trying to plan more races for next year. Though I am much more a fan of the half marathon distance… so far, at least.

    Congratulations on finishing! I’ll bet the heat was brutal.

  • Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN is an incredibly beautiful 26.2 miles to run. I ran it this spring and would gladly do it again. There are a few hills but they aren’t too bad and you run right along the coast of Lake Superior. Props to you for running a marathon in the middle east!

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