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 the Holy City of Jerusalem’s second annual marathon.
The oldest of the runners, Shahar ran 10 kilometers (6 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 a year.
“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 northern Israel.
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.
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.
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.
David Toniok, 27, from Kenya, won the marathon with a time of 2:19:52.