October 22nd 2017
I’ve always been put off Venice by other people. Ohhhh its dirty, it smells really bad. It’s not somewhere I ever thought I would visit except I found out you don’t need a medical certificate to run and it was dirt cheap to enter. $30 for an early bird entry. Despite google translates help, I thought I must have signed up to the 10k as it was just so cheap. However, I wasn’t wrong it really was that price for the marathon. Cheap flights and a cheapish air bnb later, it had cost around £200 for 3 nights including the race which I though was a bargain.
Bad news struck before race day when our flight company went bust. Luckily it was only one way but being 2 weeks before we were due to fly I was really worried all other flights would be booked up. I decided that it would be cheaper to fly the day before our original flights on the Thursday even with an extra night! Kerching! I received my money back on the flights too. Get in.
I had picked a hotel close to the airport as it is on the main land and our flight arrived quite late. The hotel was only a 15 minutes’ walk (along a precarious road) away. The room was exceptionally clean, and it was a help yourself continental buffet breakfast which was perfect to get away quickly the next morning. We headed back to the airport to make our way over to Venice. We chose to go by one of the boats, so we could experience a bit of Venice. There were also buses and private boats to hire. It was easy to buy a ticket as the ticket shop was in the airport and there were lots of signs to walk down to the water for the boats. We queued for about 15 minutes until a boat arrived to take us across. It was quite a choppy crossing and misty too, unfortunately the boat that took us was seating downstairs with a limited view but around 30 minutes later we arrived at the first stop in Venice. We were to get off at the second stop and as we got off it was breath-taking. So so pretty, the canals, the building, the bridges. I was already snapping away.
Our hotel was only a 5 minute walk away from the boat stop but really tricky to locate. After going up and down several little back streets it seemed there were lots of different possible addresses for the hotel. Eventually we found it down several back streets away from the hubbub of the streets. We dumped our stuff in the room and immediately went to explore and of course headed out to get our bibs.
The Venice expo is open on the Friday and the Saturday before the race and is based at San Guilano Park. This is on the mainland. It is very easy to get to, we made our way over to and got a couple of return tickets to the park and jumped on a tram. It was very simple and took only about 15 minutes. When we got off at San Guiliano we had to find our way into the Park, it was quite easy to find where we were going to as we just followed where the expo bags were coming. The expo isn’t as big as London but there are still quite a lot of companies offering goods and services for sale. Many race organisers promoting their races. We collected our bibs and a goody bag from the back of the tent, it was very straight forward just passing our letter and passport. However, the male and female runners have to collect their bibs at separate points and then you are clearly identified as a female runner on your bib! The goody bag had all sorts of snacks, sponge to soak ourselves with and a bottle of beer, result! I bought myself a nice Venice t-shirt and we headed off back to the mainland to discover some more of Italy. During the rest of Friday and Saturday we ate our own body weight in pasta and cannoli’s. The cakes!!!!! We also visited a lot of the famous sites such as St Mark’s square and drank lots of coffee. This wasn’t my standard pre-marathon routine but whilst in Italy and all.
An early night on Saturday to try and get some sleep as Sunday morning was an incredibly early start. A 30-minute walk from our hotel to where the buses were taking us across to the mainland and a good 60 minute commute across. I recommend that you get to the bus stops early as there was mainly standing room only. It’s a long way to stand up. I bagged us a couple of seats and listened to some of the other English people on the bus talk about their running. I am not much of a conversationalist first thing in the morning. We arrived in Stra in plenty of time. There were loads of portaloos and a huge changing tent where most people were huddled to keep warm.
After several loo stops and using the tent to strip down to shorts, we headed out to the gardens of the palace (Villa Pisani) to take some pics. Around 9am the last calls went for baggage to be dropped on to the buses. Bib numbers correlated to each bus. Women, again, had their own separate bus.
The start line wound along the road past the palace. We were in the last corral despite putting a 4 hr 30 time on the application. Venice is notoriously a fast-flat race with many athletes taking part. There was lots of excitement in our corral and everyone was chatting (mainly in Italian). The Italian national anthem was sung with passion and there were helicopters circling as this was being filmed live for Italian TV. It took a good 10-15 minutes to pass through the start line after the gun. When we passed the line, it was still very busy with lots of runners, one of the problems with starting near the back. It didn’t take long to get in a rhythm and we set off at a good steady pace. The route wound around and followed the river into nearby villages. There were motorbikes amongst the crowd with a pillion passenger on the back filming runners, I waved and smiled at them.
The villages were all picturesque and spotlessly clean. There were areas of lots of support and some areas with less. When supporters shouted they really shouted, clapped and cheered. There were whistles and clappers to encourage you to run.
We ran through the lovely villages of Dolo and Mira listening to the cheers and some of the locals singing and playing instruments. My particular favourite was the Beatles tribue, all dressed up, wigs and all. It really made me laugh. Things were going really well until around mile 15 and I got a sudden pain in the knee and I thought oh oh! I carried on running but at mile 17 I knew I was going to have to walk, the pain was becoming unbearable. I told Adam to run on as I knew I would only slow him down. The shouts for me to run were vast but I hobbled for a bit, ran for a bit and the more I went on the pain moved from my knee into my feet. Every step I took the pain shoot through my feet. As I started walking a bit my body decided now was the time to go to the loo. I ran past a number of single portaloos with big queues but the more I went on the more I became desperate.
I hit San Guilano Park at around 19 miles. On approach to the park you run up and over a bridge and loop around the park. At last a toilet that was free here, I was in and out and back running again. I felt so much better but the pain in my feet still continued. There was never a thought to give in, only to get to the finish.
Past the park you run over the bridge which connects the mainland to Venice. The water was engulfed in fog and the further you ran across the more of Venice you could see. This bridge seemed to go on forever. When you reach the end, you run down the hill to the port (near where you get the bus in the morning). It was great to see this part of Venice as we hadn’t been here. There were huge cruise ships in the port. Just as you pass the port you start hitting the 14 bridges. The organisers cover the bridges with ramps to make them easier to run. I started by counting the bridges but by the time I got to 7 I had given up. I was in so much pain I just wanted to finish. St Marks square was filled with people and I forced myself to run on to the shouts of everyone in the square. I knew it wasn’t that much further now, just more bridges.
The finish line is an amazing site and I ran the best I could through it. I saw Adam to the side and waved. It turned out he finished 10 minutes before me and had struggled too when we parted company. A marshall told me I had to go the right to collect my bag and goody bag. I was ushered along to the female bags and moved along from here quickly. I went to the tea tent to get a tea but one sip and I binned it, it wasn’t tea as I know it. I met up with Adam and we found the changing tents. We both got changed and I sat on the floor to recover (something I wish I hadn’t done as I could barely get back up). I was really pleased with the second goody bag. There were even more goodies than the first AND another beer.
Our hotel was quite a walk from the finish so we set off for a very slow stroll/hobble back through Venice. We decided to stop along the canal near St Marks Square for a celebratory pizza. I thought this would be really overpriced but they were €9-10. Very reasonable and really tasty. The organisers of the Venice Marathon do put on boats back to the bus collection point. However it had taken us 30 minutes to walk to there so thought walking through Venice would be just as fast. About half way back I had to stop again and we went for coffee. Eventually making our way back to the hotel about 3 hours post race. I dosed myself up with ibuprofen and hoped for the best. We were flying back home the next morning so made the most of Venice by going for a late tea and a hobble along the back streets we had yet to discover.
We took a bus back to airport the following day. Again, this was really easy by purchasing a ticket near the bus station. It was about a 30 minute journey by coach, luggage is stored underneath. The airport takes a while to get through security with all hand baggage being scanned before entering and a security check. The airport is full of expensive designer shops. I suggest if you have any shopping to do to do it in Venice as it’s much cheaper. We bought some beautiful pieces of Murano glass very close to our hotel along with some lovely clothes with everything €10 or less. There was a further security check of passports when called to the gate with huge queues, so don’t leave boarding until the last minute. The flight home was just over 2 hours.
I’d thoroughly recommend this marathon. It was so organised and really good value for money. The atmosphere and views you take in are also amazing and Venice did not smell and was spotless!