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Survivor who escaped Nazis runs Jerusalem marathon

Jim Hollander / EPA

A marathon runner carries a Palestinian and Israeli flag as well as a a white flag with a Peace symbol as he enters the Zion Gate, after passing two Israeli Border Policemen during the Jerusalem Marathon, in Jerusalem, on March 16. It is the second year the Jerusalem Marathon has been organized and the three events, a full marathon, a half marathon and a 10 kilometers run, attracted some 15,000 participants on a chilly and rainy day in Jerusalem.

Sebastian Scheiner / AP

77-year-old Holocaust survivor Hanoch Shahar, center, runs in Jerusalem, on March 16. About 15,000 runners, including 1,500 from overseas, are competing Friday, with some 1,000 competitors expecting to complete the full 42 kilometers (26.2 miles) marathon distance, with others aiming to complete shorter distances, including Mayor Nir Barkat who says he plans to run half a marathon and 77-year old Hanoch Shahar aiming for 10km.

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 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 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.

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.

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-- Associated Press

Sebastian Scheiner / AP

Runners are seen next the Jerusalem's old city Zion Gate during the second annual marathon in Jerusalem, on March 16.