One marathon a year has been my target for the past few years; and last weekend was Venice marathon turn. The scenic run easily makes it to the most beautiful in my ranking. A memorable way to see Venice, a unique experience, however not one for great times, mostly due to the 14 bridges at the end, and if you are anything like me, the “OMG this is unreal” moment on Piazza San Marco will make you loose another few seconds, just gazing in disbelief!!!
My race review: An enchanting route
Aside for a short wander into a not-so-nice industrial bit, overall the entire route is gorgeous. We ran mostly along the canal and through picturesque villages, strolling along the traditional Venetian villas. Km 30 and onward is where it starts to hurt, but it’s also where you start to enjoy the fantastic views from the top of Parc San Giuliano on the city skyline. And then, there’s the “Ponte della Libertá“. On my left a Finish lady asked how long that d@mned bridge was. Charming Lisa, our pacer, rightly answered “you don’t need to know” and started talking about how nice Helsinki was to distract her. And the more touristy we got, the more it hurt!! Once in Venice itself, the dozen bridges are a bit of a killer it’s true. The view and the magic of the Piazza San Marco in the end makes up for it in my opinion. Google map In a nutshell I would recommend the Venice Marathon for people who want to enjoy a race. Maybe hard for first timers, as you will need good personal management to “keep some” for the end; and neither for those who want to achieve a PB, the 14 bridges in the end would just kill it. And I guess the participants are just that: I have not seen statistics but I felt wholly surrounded by 35-65 y/o men, mostly Italians, no fancy-dress but we enjoyed a good crowd support nevertheless. A word of disclaimer: Venice is NOT an accessible city, I can not insist enough on that, and it make it really difficult to get the much needed pre-run rest. Vaporetto trips are quirky and romantic, but you will inevitably clock-in quite a few walking miles. Central city hotels are expensive, we stayed in Mestre in a very plain hotel and going back and forth into the city is time consuming and painful. I wouldn’t have done this without the Oltrex package and the pick up bus in the morning as the start is pretty far out (Stra) and I would have never found this place by myself. In term of organisation, it was a very good event, at least on European standards. I have to say, the start and finish being quite distant appart, I was slightly worried about the Italian legendary logistics. I normally pass the finish line and get vey grumpy when I don’t manage to get my bag like NOW. My concerns vanished when someone handed me out my pro-format stickered plastic bag before I could even ask for it, as well as a bag of recovery food supplies (and no that doesnt include Parmesan cheese like in Milan…). It also helped that we got massively lucky with the weather, but in general I would say it is a well rounded “small” event with “only” 6,000 participants, where the organisers know how much they can handle and stick to it, contrary to Paris Marathon, that sticks an impressive number of participants and turns into a logistical monster.
Good eats and other things to do:
Contrary to south Italy, restaurants an osteria’s kitchen close early here, which may actually be easier for us boring runners who go to bed early anyway. As usual, I called on a couple of local friends for recommendations. So here’s the top 5: * Have a well owned aperitivo, Spritz was the flavour of the summer in Europe this year, so enjoy the occasion to try the original one. We were recommended Al Merca, behind the Ponte di Rialto on that busy little square. Al Timon also had a well appreciated list of wine and cicchettí (the local tapas essentially). * We had an unpretentious dinner at the Osteria al Diavolo e l’AquaSanta. In the same street, Trattoria alla Madonna was recommended for its good local delicacies, I probably should have booked in advance…the queue was prohibitive so that’s one for next time * and the traditional post-run gelato crave was solved with a stop at Grom but the city really just reels with choice. For any last minute, street-food craving, try the local triangle sandwich (and never go back to Pret again…) Peggy Guggenheim spend a good part of her life in her fantastic villa, now turned to a museum, displaying her personal collection and even some of her original furniture. A trully stunning collection show-casing some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. For architecture addicts, rush to the Biennale before it closes mid November.
My plane read:
Out of this century: Confession of an art addict by Peggy Guggenheim The extravagant art addict tells the tale of her pretty extraordinary life and will remind you that one can be rich, have the most amazing sunglasses, a villa in Venice and still be unhappy in love.