Venice Marathon Race report
This report is by a new contributor, Jill Clark
“How can you run a marathon in Venice with all that water?” many of our friends asked when we told them of our plans. Simple – start 25K out of Venice in an old town called Stra and work your way in following the canals until the finish at St Mark’s Square. Therein lies the first issue. This was not only our first marathon abroad (we’ve ran 15 between us here in the UK) but our first marathon that was not a ‘loop’ and so involved some serious logistical planning on our part. Having decided we wanted to stay where we finished, we got ourselves a lovely apartment near the Square and then aimed to get the waterbus to the shuttle bus which takes runners to the start. All sounds simple, we got our kit ready the night before (we never do that normally!) and set our phones as alarms on Italian time, taking into account not only the time difference but the fact that it was the end of Italian summertime too and the clocks went back an hour. Smart phones being exactly that – smart – ours miraculously re-set themselves in the middle of the night-To LONDON GMT time! Cue a frantic panic as we realised we had got up an hour late and were in danger of missing the shuttle buses to the start. We threw on our kit, left without breakfast, and realising we had no time to get the waterbus, decided our only option was to run the 2 miles or so to the shuttle bus, in the dark, with no real clue about how to work our way through the streets and over the 450 bridges of Venice. We weren’t the only runners who were victims of the smart phone, and we picked up other runners (mostly Brits) on the way. Thankfully we made it and the shuttle bus took us on a journey to the start in Stra.
The atmosphere at the start was amazing, around 6,000 runners took part in the 29th Venice Marathon, which being a high-profile event in Italy, meant it was filmed live throughout. After a rousing Italian National Anthem we were off! The first part of the route snakes along the waters of the river Brenta, then through the centre of Marghera and Mestre, then runs for more than 2 kilometres inside San Giuliano’s Park. You then head into Venice via the Ponte della Libertà (Freedom Bridge) which is a flat and straight bridge long about 4 kilometres – which honestly at this point (20 miles) felt like it was 10 miles long. This was the most unpleasant part of the race (traffic fumes affected my asthma) but the view of Venice in the distance really is motivating!
The race then follows the harbour area of Venice and reaches the city centre for the last few kilometres, which are simply unique and unforgettable. You get to run next to the Giudecca Canal to Punta della Dogana, where you cross the Grand Canal on a floating bridge, especially built for the marathon! Passing through St. Mark’s Square, by the Campanile and by the Doge’s Palace, the marathon route reaches the finish line located in Riva Sette Martiri. The race course is refreshingly flat and in the last three kilometres you cross 14 bridges where the steps are covered with woodramps. As we opted to stay in Venice, for us it was then a short walk to our apartment – which was a good thing as we were both tired and couldn’t face anymore travelling.
Would we recommend it? Yes indeed. The route and sights are amazing, the organisation is excellent, goody bags great, and the support from the Italian spectators along the way outstanding! There were plenty of sponge stations, water stations (it was a bit too hot for my liking), isotonic stations and food stations with chopped apple, bananas, sliced oranges, and small Italian biscuits. Timing is good too, it is always the same weekend which matches with the half term holiday meant we made it a family affair and the Poly was represented by the whole family. Me and the husband (Adam Pennington) did the marathon whilst our kids – Alix (aged 16) and Archie (aged 10) completed the Venice 10K race – the first time this has been offered as a race and sold out in two days. This looks to continue next year and the 10K route (not chip timed, and there is no age limit) is the same route as the last 10K of the marathon, so the kids got to experience the best bits too. Logistically it takes some thinking about and planning, but it is well worth it and I hope it is not our last international race!