I had planned a crazy year of events to help celebrate 2015 and whilst browsing on Strava I noticed Venice Marathon on my 50th Birthday. It seemed a good plan – a marathon and a nice holiday! Hugh was game for the marathon and so was my friend Karen Fletcher. Iain would be support crew.
We travelled out very early on the Friday morning and after a bit of confusion about HOW to get to the Expo we did eventually arrive, by tram, at San Giuliano Park, over the water in Mestre. There wasn’t really much there apart from some running gear stalls and race pack collection, but it was busy. There were lots of stands promoting other major marathon and distance events but we resisted signing up for any!
We headed back to Venice by tram and enjoyed the next day and a half doing touristy things, (which included too much alcohol for pre race prep, hehe) and sussing out when/where to get the Water Taxi in the morning. We weren’t quite sure of what stop to get off at or where the bus to take us to the start would be, as some of the information was lost in translation (it told us to get the bus at the train station!). We figured we would just follow other runners in the morning.
Hotel staff were all very friendly and allowed us to take extra food the day before to keep for our early breakfast and also gave us milk to put in our room fridge. Karen then asked for more food that evening as she thought the maid had taken it away only to realise Iain had put it all in the fridge for her!
Race day arrived, up at 5:15am and after opening a few of my birthday cards and presents that I had taken out with me we got our race kit on and met Karen in the breakfast room for 6am. After breakfast we made our way to the Water Taxi stand. It was very peaceful at that time and the Water Taxi was full of runners all carrying their burgundy Venice Marathon drawstring bags (mandatory for putting your kit in for the drop bag for the finish line). We watched as none of them got off at the train station but indeed waited for the next stop, which was near the bus station.
It was a bit of a close call and my Birthday Marathon almost became a Birthday 10k! We got on a bus, squished in, standing room only, chatting away and a runner wished me happy birthday (I had a birthday badge on my hydration pack). It wasn’t until I spoke to them and noticed they had BLUE not BURGUNDY race numbers and realised we were on bus full of BLUE that would be heading to the start of the 10k at San Giuliano!! I yelled at Karen and Hugh to get off the bus quickly as I started to squeeze my way to the front through the crowds. We crossed the station and made sure the runners we stood with were heading to the Marathon before getting on the next bus that arrived!
It was around a 1hr journey to a little village called Stra and we had a wee bit to walk after getting dropped off. The start was next to the beautiful Villa Pisani but we were too caught up in pre race prep, toilet stops, organising where to put our drop bags etc. that we didn’t get a chance to wander in the grounds. There were huge marquees and they had rows of benches with runners all getting dressed/undressed/lubing up and giving us an eyeful of their undercarriages! There was also a tent where you could meet the many race pacers, who had balloons tied to them.
After dropping our bags on the lorries we headed toward the start area and chatted to a group of Glasgow girls who were running in short kilts (hot work). Hugh then headed to his race pen and Karen and I headed to ours at the back. It was very very busy and an amazing buzz. Before the start they played the Italian Anthem. It was beautiful and the runners sang proudly and tunefully. The race started at 9:40am. The weather was warm, clear blue skies with sunshine. It was going to be hot! We had been issued with 2 sponges in our race bags and these could be used at the water sponge stations every 5k. I didn’t need to use mine as my sunhat helped me keep cool, but Karen and Hugh made good use of theirs.
Karen has on-going ankle problems and the first few miles were painful for her and we had to stop a few times ‘til I gave a hard tug/crack to her ankles (puzzled looks from passers by who wondered what we were up to!) After about 4 miles it did ease a bit for her. There were loads of supporters along the route from the very start as we passed through many small villages. I gave out countless high fives to the delighted little kids supporting. There were a large number of live bands playing on the street at intervals along the route so I got photos and selfies with most of them. Mile 12 were playing one of my favourite Greenday Songs – Boulevard of Broken Dreams and at mile 15 the 2 female singers were doing a great rendition of Elvis Presley’s Burning Love – I wanted to stop and dance!
The water and snack stations were fantastic with trays loaded with 1/3 bananas, ¼ apples, ¼ oranges and biscuits. When I reached around mile 18 I was chuckling when I spotted volunteers cutting a large ham to make sandwiches for the runners! Lunchtime!
Karen and I enjoyed the scenery and the chat and quite a few runners wished me a happy birthday as they passed. Running over the 4km bridge into Venice seemed never ending and by this time there was a haze in the sky so it wasn’t quite so hot. We offered help to a couple of runners on route who were suffering with the heat/exhaustion but they declined our offers of gels/water/aid. Hugh did however sadly pass one runner who was having CPR on the bridge and there were certainly a few blue light ambulances speeding about. I suppose this is to be expected when there is an event with 7000 runners taking part. I’m not sure if this runner survived but the paramedics certainly were doing their best for him.
As we came into Venice we started crossing the first of the 14 bridges, which all had ramps across the steps to make it easier for us. I actually enjoyed this bit and was whizzing up the ramps and just glad to be using different muscles for a change as the route so far had been very flat. We crossed the Grand Canal, where they build a pontoon bridge the day before and dismantle it the following day. Karen and I stopped to pose for an official photo half way across. It was then quite bizzare as we got nearer St Mark Square to see the pavements cordoned off and waiters having to duck under and nip across carrying tray loads of food and drinks to customers. As we came over the final bridge towards the finish line I was aware of a change in the music and realised they were playing Happy Birthday for me! Karen and I had a little sprint together to the finish line and completed it in 5:00:01.
We then met up with Hugh and Iain at the reunion area. Hugh had realised early on that there was no way he could race hard for a PB since at his pace the route was absolutely crowded for the entire marathon! He decided to just enjoy and finished in 4:12:47.
After the marathon we all popped our mini bottles of Prosecco that I had bought and the shopkeeper had kindly bubble wrapped them individually so we could safely put them in our kit drop bags! It went straight to our heads.
In the evening we had a beautiful meal in a lovely restaurant specially recommended by our hotel staff as I was looking for a lovely fresh tuna steak. We had lovely champagne and wine and the meal was top class. The home made chocolate mousse for dessert came with a little birthday candle in it whilst the restaurant sang happy birthday to me.
We spent the next 2 days doing more touristy sightseeing before heading to the airport James Bond style in a private boat. A fantastic way to celebrate my 50th.