Another week and another international marathon, this week’s was the turn of Venice and my first Italian marathon. The family had travelled with me this time as it was half term for the kids and we were accompanied with ours friends the Bradder’s family. John had also come to run the marathon. Even though it is the Venice marathon, most of the course is actually run on the main land before running along a very long bridge/causeway on to the island of Venice, leaving only the last 3 miles actually run in Venice. Even so, don’t let this put you off the route through Italy, it is stunning with a fantastic atmosphere.
The race starts in a place called Stra, which to me sounds like a place name which hasn’t been finished off, at Villa Pisani. When we arrived we did the usual pre-race rituals before putting our bags on the transport lorries. Only once we were threading our way with the thousands of other runners towards the start along the bank of a canal did we come across an impressive gated entrance to Villa Pisani and realise that we were at an incredibly impressive old house. At the gate there was a lady handing out small squares of paper, all the runners were taking one and entering the grounds of the villa. It then dawned on us these were tickets for free entry! It all seemed a palaver over nothing to me, why didn’t we all just get let in and save her time, the tickets being printed and the eventual litter they would cause?
Anyhow the villa was truly stunning. John & I had a walk round the grounds to kill time before making our way back to the canal and the race start. We had been bussed out to the start with loads of time to spare. At least the weather was pleasant so it wasn’t a problem hanging around and added to the race build up, atmosphere and the feeling you get at a big city marathon event.
At last there was a count down over the tannoy system and the race was under way in the cool, calm sunshine, which made perfect running conditions.
For a long time we ran along the side of the canal on a wide road which was pleasantly completely free from traffic. For most of the early stages of the course we were running in the very picturesque flat Italian countryside. With the canals it almost reminded me of previous week in Amsterdam but in sunnier and warmer climate. We passed through a few quaint towns with many large old traditional villas, I wondered if they had been either owned by wealthy families or farm houses, just my thoughts as we made our way back towards the coast and Venice. After 16 miles we went through a larger town called Mestre, the crowds were fantastic, filling both sides of the road. Lots of people were shouting “Bravee” which I guest is bravo in Italian. The shop fronts had lovely architecture and there was a wonderful ornate glass arch making a covered walkway in the centre of the town’s shopping area.
Onward we went with a couple miles looping through the park where we had registered just the day before, then onto the causeway and into Venice. The causeway is a perfectly flat straight road to Venice which carries the train, tram and cars. For the purpose of the race half the road section was cordoned off for the runners. At about two miles long it just seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere and was going to be running on it forever. This illusion wasn’t helped by the fact it was miles 21 to 23 and my legs were considerably tired. Finally I was over the causeway and on the island of Venice but I still had a mile to run round the port section before getting into the portion of Venice you would imagine as Venice from pictures and films. It was lovely to be finally running in Venice even if the legs were desperately tired. I had run hard for a long time and I was feeling completely warn out. We had to go over a dozen or so bridges, temporary ramps had been installed over them. I think this was to make it easier and safer for us but it didn’t feel that way to me as the bouncy surface made my tired legs wobble. Into the last mile and the world famous Saint Marc’s square. We actually got to run in and around the square in front of a massive crowd before going back onto the front for a handful of more bridges and finally the finish.
Job done in 3 hours 20 minutes 39 seconds. Shame I couldn’t dip under 3:20 but still pleased to have run an absolutely wonderful international big city marathon with bags of atmosphere and oozing ancient, elegant, Italian architecture. There’s nowhere like this place in the world!