Note: This is a very photo heavy post 🙂
When Sean & I were talking about our honeymoon, we immediately started looking at what races were going on during that time and when we saw that the Venice Marathon was over that time, we planned the rest of our trip around it.
Running an international marathon is a lot of fun, this is my second marathon in Italy, you can read about my experience at the Rome Marathon here but it can be a little different than in the US.
We procrastinated a little and didn’t registered for the race until late September, we paid approx $115 per person including adding on personalized video. Which actually for a marathon and all that we received, was a pretty good price.
Communication was great – I emailed them a few times with questions regarding registration. There is a health requirement in Italy and as a foreigner you have to send in a form signed by a doctor/NP showing that you are fit to run. Sean & I went to CVS Minute Clinic to get our and it cost $60 each – we don’t have a primary care physician so this was the easiest thing for us. I emailed it to them and attached it in the registration forum as well.
We received our confirmation email a few weeks before we left for Italy and they have a cool feature where they have a stop light on email letting you know if you are missing anything regarding your registration and then what your number & corral is.
I put my 2013 NYC Marathon and current PR in as my time but I forgot that I changed my name since that race until I received the email saying that I was in the last corral, oops. They check your times and because my name was different they didn’t accept my time and I had to start in the back. I tried to email them and have them change it with proof of my name change but I never heard back from them.
We received additional information on the Expo the week before the race. Everything was very clear and concise in a variety of languages.
Expo: The expo/packet pickup was on Friday & Saturday in a park on the Mestre side of Venice. There was no pick-up on race morning so we decided to head over to Venice on Saturday because we wanted to spend more time in the mountains the week before.
The expo was held in San Giuliano Park at the Exposport in Mestre. Once we finally figured out how to get there we saw lots of runners that had bags with the Venice Marathon logo on them. It was a decent sized expo with lots of vendors and other races exhibiting. The packet pickup was in the back of the tent. We got there around 3pmish and it was pretty easy to get our packets, no lines except in the solutions area. I thought about talking to them about changing my corral but that line was pretty long.
We got our bibs and then walked over to another section to get our bags and shirts. They had a unisex long sleeve shirt as the race shirt. They didn’t have a lot of race gear for purchase but one of the shirts had the course map on it and I thought that was pretty cool and should have been on the official race shirt.
In the packet was a ton of stuff, including a can of beer, some apple juice, 2 packets of fruit energy chews, Venetian style cookies, sports laundry detergent, a race book and a bunch of other race ads.
We walked around for a bit, checking out official race gear, which was pretty weak, I think there were maybe 2 different Asics t-shirts and a jacket, but not a whole lot else. I wanted to get like a cup or mug, but yeah, the didn’t have anything like that.
We still needed to check into our hotel, get dinner and a shake-out run in before heading to bed so we didn’t stay long.
The race itself starts in Stra about 20+ miles from Venice so they had buses to take us over to the start area. Since we were staying in Venice, we would have to walk over to the Tronchetto (Fruit & Vegetable Market) which was over by the cruise terminal. We walked over along with a bunch of other people – the buses would be available between 7:00 – 7:20am. Or if you were in Mestre, you could catch the bus at the Mestre Train station from 7:10 – 7:30am.
After having run races like NYC Marathon, LA Marathon & Mountains 2 Beach where there are tons of buses waiting, it was a bit of a surprise to see just one bus when we arrived. They would come probably every 3 – 5 minutes and we probably waited about 20 minutes (it was after 7:20am when we finally got on the bus). Sean & I decided to jump on this one bus even thought there weren’t any additional seats and actually stood at the front of the bus. It was a bit uncomfortable but it was fun way to see the course. If you look closely on the right of this photo you can see me in the mirror ;).
We got to the starting area around 8:00am or so, we walked over to the first set of port-a-potties, there wasn’t too long of line at the beginning however note to self…always have toilet paper or something because unfortunately we couldn’t find any with toilet paper. Not sure if that was how they came or if we missed out but I’d recommend having some if you do this race.
They had trucks for the gear bags. We would use the bag that we got at the expo with a sticker of our race number on it. One of the odd things in Italy is that they separate the women runners from the men so the truck for the women’s bags was at the end. They were much more organized in Venice vs Rome and had signs showing different bus numbers. Plus I knew from Rome that the women’s bibs & bags were different. Race bags had to be in by 8:55am so they could be transported back to the finish. If you missed the cut-off then you would have to pick up your bag at Tronchetto, which is quite far from the finish. They had a lot of announcements in Italian, German & English to let you know how much time we had before they closed the trucks.
After handing in my bag, we made our way over to the starting area. Because of my issue with my name not matching up with my corral, I was put into the last Rosso (pink) corral which Sean was in the Giallo (yellow) corral which was I believe corral 2. He wanted to split the difference and go into corral 4 but I didn’t see anyone with other colored bibs going into the earlier corrals and I get weird about that so I insisted that we start in my corral.
Side note on the bibs, women are designated with an F for this race and they put the flag of the country you are from on the bib for foreigners. I’m assuming so they know what language to speak to you in at the end of the race. I say this because they were speaking to us in English with no other info when we were finished.
We had a little bit of time, or so we thought until the start, which was supposed to be at 9:40am. They played the Italian National Anthem, and then people started moving. I thought that the corrals would have a break between them like we do here, but I don’t think there were any breaks, it just was a way to separate everyone.
We got started and I knew I was going to be pretty slow, I had a cold earlier in the week and while I was feeling better, not too long after we started, I started to feel sinus pressure in my forehead & cheeks.
So I would run for as long as I could, walk for a little bit and then run again. It wasn’t the best of races, but I was fully aware that I wasn’t going to be setting any PRs at this race.
As far as the course goes, it definitely was flat, I think the only “hill” we went over was a bridge into San Giuliano Park around mile 16 or so. And then there was the pontoon bridge towards the end of the race.
It was a very pretty course, the people who lived in the towns on the course were very nice and came out to cheer us on. The aid stations were great, with bottles of San Benedetto Water, electrolyte drink and at some of the stations, they had food: oranges, bananas & cookies.
I didn’t bring my water bottle but instead grabbed a full 1/2 Liter bottle at each station. The first station, they didn’t have lids on the bottles (I grabbed one from a volunteer so I could carry mine) but by the 2nd station they were keeping the lids on so that runners could take the bottles with them. I would trade out bottles at each station and stayed very well hydrated.
It was however a bit of a lonely course, I love races, like NYC Marathon & LA Marathon where there were so many spectators, while this one there were areas where there was practically no one in sight.
As we made our way through the little towns from Stra into Mestre, we would hit the 30k mark in the park where we picked up our packets the day before. Here there were a few little hills and some more race decorations. It was when we were heading into the park when Sean ran back (he ran back for me many times – enough to run an extra 5k during the race) and this girl next to me was like, is he training for an ultra? I just laughed and was like, you have no idea, he’s run 3 100mile & 1 200 mile race, a 100k and a bunch of marathons and that’s just since June.
After getting out of the park, we would start heading into Venice. We would run over about 3 miles (20 – 22.75 or so) over the Ponte della Liberta before we would get over near Tronchetto again. One nice thing, on the km markers they also had the mileage which was awesome!
The next 2 miles were around the back side of Venice, where eventually we would start seeing ramps starting to go over the stairs. It started to get cooler during this time too and the bright sun we saw earlier in the race was replaced with clouds and wind.
This whole time, I was going back and forth in passing the 5:30 pace group, yes, I told you I wasn’t setting any PRs at this race. I would walk, they would run, they would walk, I would run – it was kind of a game. Then probably with about 2 miles left Sean & I started running together & took a bunch of photos so I’m not sure if they finished ahead or behind me.
We got to the 40k mark (give or take) and had an awesome experience running over the area where the Grand Canal goes into the Laguna Venata. They built a pontoon bridge for us to run across! That was really cool. It was getting a bit windy at this point, and I don’t have a photo of it, but I looked out to the right of the bridge and there was this gondola going over these huge waves. It was hilarious, I swear it looked like it was a movie or something but it was real.
Once over the bridge, which made me just a little dizzy, we would head down the coast, up and over ramps on the bridges and then finally, thru Saint Mark’s Square. Because we were so far towards the back, they were starting to take down the signs on the barriers, but it was still really cool.
From there we would continue to run down the coast, up and over more ramped bridges until finally, I could see a huge balloon with San Benedetto on it. It seemed so close, but yet so far. Hand in hand Sean & I crossed the finish line in 5hr 20 mins, which is actually better than my time at Mountains to Beach.
When we finished, I turned and gave Sean a kiss. And then a few moments later, after we got our medals, the announcer came over and was like what just happened here. I think he thought that Sean proposed, but we said it was our honeymoon race and then he asked us where we were from and then took our photo. It was kind of exciting.
The medal – it was the 30th anniversary for the race so they did a special medal that we were able to vote on earlier in the year. It was nice, in gold & red, but nothing super special. While it is bigger than the one I got at Rome, the Rome Marathon medal was more unique.
Post race, they handed out grocery style bags with food inside. I was happy to see that even though we were towards the back, they still had a lot of bags available. Inside was a bottle of water, a bottle of Enervit, their idea of a sports drink, it was s lemon lime flavored carbonated drink (actually really yummy), 2 bananas, apple juice, some bread sticks and the best thing in the bag, a sample size bag of Groksi which is crunchy baked pieces of cheese. So yummy.
We walked just a little bit to get my bag, where volunteers were looking at my bib and directing me to the tent with my number. We got into warm clothes and then headed into the park before heading out into the mass chaos that is Venice near St. Mark’s Square and to get food especially some gelato to celebrate!
A day or so after the race, they sent us a link to see our photos, they used Marathon Foto, and while we haven’t purchased our photos, they were actually not that bad, I think it was 44.95 Euro to purchase the download of all the photos, which seams a lot less than what they charge here for some reason.
And then 2 weeks later they sent us the video links to our race video. This was a cool feature of the Rome Marathon too.
Overall, it was an extremely organized race. I wasn’t sure what to expect having been in Rome last year which seemed a lot more chaotic. I have to say this was a much better organized race than in Rome and while the course wasn’t as exciting as I would like, it was a great race. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to run in Italy!