VENICE MARATHON – SUNDAY 22ND OCTOBER 2017
I’ll start with the official blurb translated from Italian on their website
“Venicemarathon is an international marathon globally recognized certified by the IAAF Silver Label, on the Olympic distance of 42.195 kilometers, is the most classic and fascinating discipline of athletics.
Today Venice Marathon is a marathon of recognized quality, as evidenced by the IAAF Silver Label. A race that even after so many years, continues to exercise a fascination and appeal vivo and in athletes (with requests that continue to be more than 8,000 seats available) that the public is always ready to accept and participate in the marathon known as propose.”
..of course it mentions nothing of leading the runners being taken the wrong way this year, but don’t let that put you off, that will be unlikely to affect any of us.
There is also a 10K event on the Sunday morning, which follows the last 10k of the marathon route, and family races on the Saturday. Mum did the 10K, which started at 8:30, and apparently there were much less spectators around at that time. Incidentally, it’s very important that I should mention now that Mum was 2nd in her category for her race and first Brit. Great stuff Mum – needed to get that in there before you abandon reading this due to its epic War and Peace proportions.
Before all the fun and games with Ryanair, we had booked flights from Stansted to Venice Treviso airport, and luckily had no problems with this arrangement. Flight time about 1hr 30 to 2 hours depending on wind direction. From here there is a 55 minute coach journey into the centre of Venice, cost €22 return. There is the closer Marco Polo airport with plenty of flights to and from the UK, but that’s obviously a little more costly. It did get a little more complicated getting in because we flew in on the Saturday morning before the race on the Sunday and had to collect numbers etc, so I would advise on getting to Venice a couple of days before.
Pre race registration and expo
This is open on the Friday afternoon and the Saturday before the race and is held at San Guillano Park, which is on the mainland. If you’re already in Venice, then there are very regular buses or trams to the park at a cost of €1.50 each way across the 2.4 mile Ponte della Libertà. (more on that later). Amazing views across the lagoon into Venice itself. Registration itself very straight forward, plenty of stalls etc, but to be honest didn’t spend much time there as it was about midday and we’d been up since 5am and wanted to get to the apartment. The coach from the airport stopped on the mainland too, so once we’d figured out how the trams worked, we called in to pick our numbers up on the way through.
Goodie bag includes the fancy pants t-shirt and all manner of pills, potions, washing liquid and beer, and the bag for putting your stuff in for transportation.
…and here is where the fun and games really started. Being the smartie pants I thought I was, I had booked a self-catering apartment near to the finish, and for finishing purposes that was perfect. On arriving in Venice on the Saturday, Google maps informed us that we were about 50 minutes’ walk from the apartment, approximately 2 miles. Dodging tourists using their phones too and maps, Mum and I did this walk in 35 minutes. Perfect. Easy to follow, took us through both quiet and busy areas of the city, and it is stunning. On the Sunday morning, there were buses to take the 10K runners back to the park, and the 42K lot (they’re big on that rather than describing it as a marathon) to their start at the town of Stra. Last bus for 10K at 7.10, and for the marathon at 7.20. Having been served so well by Google maps the previous day, I checked again, 2.2 miles 55ish minutes’ walk to the Trochetto where the buses left. We set off at 6am into the dark phone in hand. A little way in we see other runners get on to a water taxi, but as we hadn’t bought much money with us and we had our trusty Google maps, we decided to take a gentle stroll to the bus…
Big mistake… firstly, navigating in the dark meant that we got lost several times, nerves really beginning to set in, time ticking, then we spot other competitors doing the same, looking lost too. A couple of German runners I think, who disappeared off leaving us still flummoxed finding our way once more, we got back on route, only to be lead to another water taxi stop, which Google aps had failed to inform us was part of our journey, and there were no taxis there at that time anyway. I would like to stay I handled this situation with a calm head and rational thought, but alas dear reader, no. I stopped short of stamping my feet and yelling but I was gradually seeing the months of training slipping away and me looking like a bit of a pillock as I explained I got lost and missed the bus……..
A little bit more wandering about, another manned water taxi, who said the next one would take us to another taxi station, and we would arrive about 7.30… too late. Another consultation of Google maps told us we were 40 minutes away, this being around 7am, and as it was getting lighter I could see in the distance where we needed to get to, and having nothing to lose, we set off running, not a gentle jog either to be fair, including about a mile or so of the course in the opposite direction we would (hopefully) be running later. I was not giving up yet! As we got nearer to the bus station thankfully we bumped into more late comers, who seemed a lot calmer than me (that’s Italians for you), and we slowed our pace to a walk. Mum and I parted ways, still not entirely sure whether we would make our respective buses.
I followed a small group of fellow stragglers towards the Tronchetto. As we approached the pick-up point, the last bus was pulling away along the road, saw us coming and stopped in the middle of the dual carriageway to pick us up. It was 7:24. (Actually we weren’t the last ones; a couple of South Africans were picked up a little further along).
This is situated in the town of Stra, and despite there being 9,000 odd athletes milling about, it didn’t seem too crowded. There were inevitable queues for the toilets (there were plenty of them, but that didn’t stop a lot of men peeing up every available vertical space) but seemed to move quickly, though I had to leave one queue as the announcer declared there were only 10 minutes until the lorries carrying our bags were heading back to Venice. Bag dispatched, toilet queue endured, it was time to head to the start (no opportunity to check anything else out around the place, including the athletes marquee).
About bloody time I hear you cry (I did warn you it was a long one – cue sniggering from those of you with minds in the gutter, you know who you are…)
As with the whole course, the road at the start was shut so about 7000 of us made our way to our starting pens allocated by estimated finishing time. The atmosphere was amazing, a helicopter circled overhead filming and there was plenty of music. Finally, there was a rousing rendition of the Italian national anthem (I cried again, for the second time that morning) and we were off. It took just under 5 minutes for me to cross the start line, so I’m not entirely sure how my finish time ended up being only about a minute before my chip time, but there you go.
The run back to Venice follows a river for about 14 miles along long, straight, flat roads (not my idea of fun personally). Very pretty though. There were a total of 14 live music spots along the course usually in towns, which was very good at keeping you going, though the Italians do seem rather fond of thrash metal it seems. The course then goes over a footbridge (yay a “hill”) into an industrial estate in the town of Mestre. From there it goes into the town for a few miles, where there was more enthusiastic Italian support, shouting “Bravi” at all the runners. As well as there being toilets and drink stations at every 5k, there are sponge stations (where you can use the sponges given to you in your welcome pack), and I found a very helpful hotel owner at mile 16 who let me use the toilet facilities – on the first floor of course, so more hill work!).
The course is marked out with Km marks at every one of the 42 kilometres covered, with the mileage underneath. Yeah, I’m not fond of that one. At around 20 miles the course joins the 10K course at the San Guiliano park again, a bit like Ferry meadows with younger trees and no lakes. The course does a lovely meandering route through there, so you can watch runners snaking through the park all around you. Yeah, not a fan of that bit either. Then another footbridge hill and onto the 2.4 mile bridge back to Venice. Fortunately weather wise for running, it was overcast and hazy, but you could still see the huge cruise ships and towers in the distance as you made your way over the bridge…for what seems like an eternity.
Finally, with about 3 miles to go, you reach the other side and onto my favourite bit of the course. Here, run along the water’s edge towards the finish at the other end of the main island part. The views again are stunning, though you can see the finish across the water. There are 14 bridges to cross, fortunately with ramps added especially for the runners. Included in this a purpose build long pontoon bridge, which obviously moves with the water, and after 24.5 miles does mess with your head a bit. The route does deviate off the waterside for a tour of St Mark’s Square, again stunning, especially when you loop back on yourself and you run towards the Basicilica (nearly had more tears there) and at this point a lot of British support in the crowd too. Out of here for the final 3 bridges and then into the finish, with still loads of enthusiastic crowds even 5 hours in.
Hang on on there folks, nearly done.
Through the finish to collect the rather impressive medal and another goodie bag (including another can of beer – bonus), the obligatory banana (bleurgh) and water. There’s a designated area for friends and family to meet you also, massage tents etc, and lots of cheery photographers ready to snap your tired and relieved faces. Bags are ready to collect and jobs a good ‘un.
Beautiful course, especially the scenes in the last few miles in Venice
Well supported by enthusiastic crowds in the town areas.
Well organised (if you are too)
Flat (If you like that sort of thing)
You need to make sure you arrive in advance to get sorted – not really a con, because let’s face it, you’re in Venice!
There are so many things to like about this marathon. I did it, had a bad race, not my cup of tea of a course, but that’s just me. I certainly would not hesitate in recommending it to others.
When walking through St Mark’s square, keep your pizza covered. A thieving swine of a seagull swooped down and stole mine from my hand!