Venice is a stunningly attractive city and well deserving of its World Heritage status. If you want to see this Italian treasure in all its glory then running the Venice Marathon is a unique way to do so and one which gives you the privilege of running over fourteen of the city’s bridges and gives you the privilege of running through the city’s most celebrated site, St. Mark’s Square. Leon Coppola and myself were lucky enough to do so on the 25th October. For moral support Leon was accompanied by his wife Tania and their two lovely daughters, Sienna and Arianna. Mary accompanied me for support and we all stayed in the Hotel Ca’ Formenta which is situated just 100 metres from the finish line and is a brilliant location. The added bonus was that we were blessed with four days of warm Autumn sunshine: we were just so lucky.
The race starts outside the splendid Vila Pisani in the small rural town of Stra, which is located 25 kilometres inland from Venice. This meant a 5.30 am wake up call for Leon and myself in order to get the Venice waterbus which took us on the 45 minutes boat trip to the mainland. We then boarded the free bus for the 40 minute ride to Villa Pisani and the race start at 9.30 am. It was a long and tiring journey which we could have avoided if we had stayed in a hotel closer to the start on the mainland. However, this would have meant not being in Venice and not being able to stroll the 100 metres back to our hotel at the finish!
The early morning had been quite chilly but as the start time approached the rising sun made it warm. Lemon tea was provided to quench our thirsts and I must have drank 5 cups! Runners were divided into corals at the start, your allocated coral selected on your expected time. There were race pacers with their highly visible balloons in each coral for runners to follow. Leon was in the second coral and I was in the fourth so we were separated at the beginning. I had a plan to follow a few metres behind Leon in the race, but just before the start all the corals were brought together. This meant runners of all abilities became mixed together and I had no idea where Leon and the 3hr 30 pacer were. After a rendition of the Italian national anthem we were off, except it took me nearly 3 minutes to get over the start line! I confess I had not expected this and I found it difficult to run in the crowd with the constant zig-zagging amongst the runners in an attempt to get some space. I only caught up with 4hr 15 min pacer after 5K and I never caught sight of Leon and the 3hr 30min pacer. It was only after 10K of running that I felt I could run without bumping into people, but mentally, I had lost the race by then. From the half-way point the increasing warmth began to take its toll, and for me, the race became a race just to finish. Venice’s fourteen bridges just added to the fun at the end! I did manage to finish with a chip time of 3hr 58 44. Ironically, we later discovered that Leon, and my own chip split times, showed we had been running shoulder to shoulder for most of the race up to the 35K point. Leon must have managed the bridges better than me and recorded a time of 3hr 55 54. Leon had ran the Chester marathon 3 weeks before and the Birmingham half-marathon just the week before. He was asking a lot of himself and I think he did amazingly well to do what he did. Well done Leon.
The Venice marathon is a fabulous event. There is great rock music around the course and well laid out water stations every few kilometres. It is a fantastic atmosphere and it is a truly uplifing experience to run through St.Mark’s Square in the shadow of the Doge’s Palace. For anyone with a sense of history, it’s hard to beat. The caveats are:
(1) The early morning rise if your hotel is located in Venice itself.
(2) The inevitable congestion amongst the runners for the first 10K of the race as it is not a “rolling”managed start.
Venice is a place that should be experienced, not just seen. Running the marathon is a good way of having that experience.
Race Report by Martin Judge