“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional” – thus wrote author Haruki Murakami in his book What I Talk about When I Talk about Running. If this is so, then it seems that more and more people are opting for suffering – the number of races in the country rises each year, and every year the number of participants increases significantly. 
Last month the 10-kilometer Jerusalem Night Run took place. This is the second nighttime race in the city, the first one having taken place in 2011. A total of 2,168 runners participated, about 70% men (1,545 runners) and 30% women (623 runners). For the sake of comparison, the Tel Aviv Night Run that took place a few weeks previously had about 20,000 participants. Despite the huge discrepancy, it is important to keep in mind that metropolitan Tel Aviv has a much larger population than Jerusalem and that many population sectors in Jerusalem do not participate in sports events such as these. In fact, the number of participants in Jerusalem’s race was impressive and actually higher than anticipated.
About half of the runners in Jerusalem’s race were residents of the city: 1,026 runners, constituting 47% of participants. A total of 1,160 runners came from the Jerusalem District as a whole. Where did the other participants come from? The district which provided the greatest number of runners (after Jerusalem) was the Central District (411 runners), followed by the Judea and Samaria Area (260 runners), the Tel Aviv District (210 runners), Southern District (60 runners), Northern District (35 runners), and last but not least, Haifa District (32 runners). In terms of the number of participants, Tel Aviv was the second-largest city in size (after Jerusalem) – 124 runners – closely followed by Modi’in with 105 runners. Only 16 runners came from Haifa, the country’s third-largest city.
According to the 2010 Social Survey of the Central Bureau of Statistics, it seems that Tel Avivians engage in sports more than Jerusalemites do: the percentage of Tel Aviv and Haifa residents who reported that they engage in physical exercise was higher than the figure for Jerusalem (60% versus 50%). When asked about the number of times per week that they exercise, only 30% of Jerusalemites reported exercising three times per week, compared to about 35% in Tel Aviv and Haifa. 
Why do people choose to engage in physical exercise, despite the pain and suffering? In Jerusalem, the percentages of those who stated that physical exercise makes them feel good and of those who reported that it contributes to their health and prevents disease were the same (about 40%). In Tel Aviv, in contrast, a majority (50%) said that exercise makes them feel good and a smaller percentage (35%) stated that it contributes to their health. In Haifa the situation is reversed – most reported that they engage in physical activity because of its health benefits. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv the same percentage of sports participants chose to engage in physical exercise because it helps with weight loss and maintenance (about 14%).
So why do people still opt out of physical exercise, despite its importance and great benefits? In Jerusalem about 50% cited lack of time as the main reason, compared with 35% in Tel Aviv and Haifa. The second main reason for not engaging in sports was health or physical problems: about 17% in Jerusalem, 23% in Tel Aviv, and 26% in Haifa reported that they do not engage in physical exercise for this reason. tiredness were the third reason (about 10% in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa). 
With the increased awareness surrounding the importance of physical activity and the rising number of sports events in the country, all that remains for you to do is grab some running shoes, a bicycle, or swimsuit and, like everyone else, get addicted to the adrenaline running through your veins.
Sources: Central Bureau of Statistics and website of the 2013 Jerusalem Night Run