Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Running the Venice Marathon 2011

I haven't written a sciency blog post for a while, and the reason for my absence (besides the PhD) is that Simon and I have been spending our evenings and weekends training for the Venice Marathon. I'm so pleased that all those months and late night runs paid off, we both finished mostly-injury free, and had the most amazing experience doing it!

We decided to take on this crazy endeavor to raise money for the Royal National Children's Foundation. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated, there's still time to contribute here.

The Sunday morning of the race started at 6am with a quick breakfast and off to get the bus to the start. We had been advised to get the 3 min shuttle to Tronchetto, inventively named the "People Mover". When we arrived it was closed, but was going to open early at 7.10 for the marathon, however the last bus would have already left. A bit of a fail on the organisation, this wasn't boding well.

We joined the crowds and walked over to the bus stop. It was still before sunrise when we huddled onto a crowded bus for the long ride to the start, it felt like we were going in the wrong direction - away from Venice. When we arrived at the start it was still very cold, and I felt I was already being brave just taking my coat and trousers off to them on the truck - why were we doing this?

An hour later we crossing the start line, the sun had come up and there were brilliant blue skies. We soon started to warm up on the run. The route was idyllic, running alongside the Brenta River through small towns with great crowd support.

Early on in the race, struggling to get into a pace, but enjoying the spirit of the runners
We were sticking with the blue balloons for the 4hr30 pacemakers for several miles, but then had to do a quick toilet stop and never managed to catch up with them again. At 12 miles I was struggling, I felt I still hadn't got into a good rhythm (this had been taking longer the longer our training runs had gotten). I took some ibuprofen, gels and water, and gave the rucksack to Simon, and started singing an awesome running song.

By the half way point I was feeling much better and running through Mestre at mile 16 I was feeling amazing. I was finally in the "zone", the crowd support was amazing, and my legs were feeling great - we could finish this! Mestre had been described in the guidebook as Venice's ugly sister...I felt this was completely unwarranted, the streets were beautiful to run through and I was really enjoying this.

Awesome crowd support in the local towns, this was Mestre, Venice's not-so-ugly sister
The rest stops were now supplying awesome Italian cookies and fruit as well as Gatorade and water. They were all well stocked. My feet were definitely blistered and it really felt as though I'd lost a toenail (I hadn't).

Running through San Guiliano Park at 18 miles we were surprised to hear one of the bands singing Shinedown's Simple Man - how amazing!! We love this band and especially this song, there had been lots of rock bands dotted along the route, and it's so uplifting when you hear a song you love. We were going to need this for what was to come.

Liberty Bridge. How ironic. This is the 4km long bridge that stretches on for eternity. Connecting Venice to the mainland running onto this bridge you get your first glimpse of Venice, very exciting for the first time. However, after 30 minutes of running and Venice isn't getting any bigger you get to the point of despair.

We were very grateful when we did arrive in Venice that there would be only 3 miles left of the course to do. We reached the first bridge and saw the small sign "14 bridges to go". No bridges, no fun!

No bridges, no fun! Running in Venice, with the Santa Maria Salute in the background
At 38km I had a sharp pain in my left leg, and could I get this close to the end and then be injured! I spent 20 seconds walking and massaging it and then pushed on with the running, we were putting every bit of effort into running this race, and nothing was going to stop us pushing ourselves to the limit. No one would say that we didn't put everything into this race. We were going to achieve this. Pain is temporary, glory is everlasting!

Running into San Marco Square was electric. People were calling out our names, the Basilica and architecture was overwhelming, it was everything I could do not to cry! I could not wipe the large smile off my face, all these months of training were paying off, and Simon was beside me the whole way!

Running around San Marco Square!

Running hand-in-hand, the crowd support in here was electric!
The last 1km was frustrating, 5 more bridges to go and that finish line was still not in sight. The crowd were so impressive, they really kept us going. Finally, the last bridge and we could see the finish line, I told Simon we were going to sprint through, he was not impressed, but I'm not sure he had the energy left to complain. We put up our arms and the 4 hour 39 minute time was ours!!

Crossing the Finish Line

Our actual time (minus how long it took us to get to the start) was 4 hour 39 mins! Woo!

Simon very relieved it's all over
Thank you to everyone who has supported us and the RNCF charity. It's been a lifetime achievement for both of us and I'm so grateful for Simon sticking with me and doing this - I love you!

Space blankets and medals! There was also pasta, what a great incentive to finish!

Our official finishers photo


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