Alexandra Battersby reports from the beautiful city of Venice.
Venice Marathon Race Report: Sunday 26th October 2014
After the nightmare of the Nottingham marathon I was looking for vengeance in Venice! We headed out to Venice on a hideously early flight from Edinburgh courtesy of jet2. After a short flight we arrived in Venice to discover the buses were on strike! Fortunately there is a water bus from the airport (although with no Italian between us it was fair to say there was a little confusion about this). However we successfully arrived in our hotel and headed out to collect the all important race numbers.
The expo is a short bus ride out from the centre of Venice. If you go on the Saturday there is a free shuttle bus. We went on the Friday and it’s only a 5-10 minute bus journey although this is trickier when they are on strike and the Italians do not adopt a British approach to queues! However we made it! The expo is small but the organisers helpful and it was straightforward. If you register as a club runner there is no need for the medical certificate that so many European marathons ask for.
Numbers in hand we headed back to Venice to have a meander round. Venice in October is beautiful, fewer tourists than the summer months but still warm enough to not really need a jacket. There are plenty of cultural sights but also enough to keep you amused just by wandering around.
Race day was Sunday. Another early start! There are shuttle buses leaving from the centre of Venice to take you to the start but they leave from 630am and finish at 7am so we were on a boat by 530am to get to the buses on time (however those that know me may realise I am neurotic about time so the more relaxed amongst you could leave a little later!) the bus takes about 30 mins (I slept so not sure exactly how long).
The start in stra was very well organised: plenty of toilets and tents to sit and keep warm in and free tea! It’s an impressive start and full of enthusiastic Italians. The race got underway on time and there were about 7000 runners so it quickly thinned out and it was possible to get into your own space. I was in corral 3/5 and it took 50 secs to cross the start line.
The route takes you through a number of small villages alongside a river. The temperature was warm but the route mainly shaded with a lovely breeze which made it nearly perfect running conditions. The support in the villages was phenomenal with the streets lined and overflowing with enthusiasm and cheering. There were around 1000 women running so there was even more support for the girls running through! The age of supporters at the roadside was not limited to the young with octogenarian Italians in great number cheering and shaking rattles urging you on! This definitely provided an incentive to keep moving. Markers were in km but with miles underneath. Water stops were every 5k and energy drinks, sugar cubes and fruit at the later ones.
There is a long, gentle slope across a bridge to get you back on to Venice Island but by this point you can almost feel the finish even though there are 5/6 miles to go. As you descend on to the water front over the bridge the noise from the crowd explodes and in no time you find yourself running into the iconic st marks square where there are crowds cheering your every step. At this point I was overwhelmed by the emotion of the day and it is genuinely one of my running highlights! I was practically crying! You leave St Marks square and there is just the small matter of the remaining ‘little bridges’ (there are 14 in total and there weren’t as bad as I expected) to conquer before you can see the finish where again you are greeted with cheers!
Again, a well organised finish with a good medal (t shirt received at the expo with race number) and easy to reclaim your bag! Amazing photo opportunities and we were interviewed by asics (no idea why!). A short walk back to our hotel and time to shower, change, have something to eat before heading back to the airport for the 8.30pm flight back to Newcastle! Job done!
This was a fantastic experience and an utterly brilliant marathon which I would thoroughly recommend. The bridges in the last mile and a half make a sprint finish difficult but the rest of the courses is fast and flat. The atmosphere is electric and it made me realise I am definitely a city marathoner! It is definitely one of the highlights of my marathon career except for my blister ordeal but I’ll spare you those details!
Alex Battersby 3hr 56 (officially 3hr57 but a minute for the blister attention! 39th senior woman)
Laura Pentland 3hr 58 (43rd senior woman) and a PB