This post might be kinda long so grab a beer or glass of wine and settle in.
Having suffered the pure shame of the pre Pre Venice Health Check I made sure I limited myself to one beer the day before the actual marathon. A more sensible man would probably have no beer at all but being sensible is not a claim I’ve ever made.
In keeping with martahon tradition I carb loaded the night. That’s sports talk for stuffing your face with pasta, which I did. Made sure I went home early and organised my stuff for the next morning. I’m sure everyone has their own way of doing things, but I reckon I suffer from a touch of OCD so I checked I had everything I needed, then immediately checked again and then once more before I went to bed.
As it turned out the start line for the race was out in Stra which is a bit of a trek to be honest. On the morning of the race I had to get up spectacularly early. My alarm went off at about 5.30 and then I spent a half hour doing that ten more minutes and I’ll get up thing in my head. Finally at 6 I dragged my ass out of bed to shower and get ready. It was dark and it was cold and I was tired, but also excited, and a little nervous, like I went to the toilet twice with nerves (thats the polite way of saying it).
It was far to early for the non runners to go to the start line with me so I told them to stay put. My buddy however took a stroll down to the water shuttle stop with me. Really I think it was to take embarassing photos like the one below of me. I look like a child on his first day of school. I swear I’m much more attractive in real life. Plus I look really short. I’m actually just under six foot. Well about a half a foot under six foot.
So the journey consisted of a walk from the apartment to the water shuttle stop. Then a sail down the canal to Piazzale Roma which was actually quite nice. Lots of fellow runners got on along the way and we all done that silent nod that says ‘your part of the group’ but it was far too early to be chatting. After the boat there was a 15 minute walk to get a bus. There was also a serious lack of sign posts telling us which way to go. I done the smart thing and followed a group that had that look about them that said ‘I know where I’m going’. They didn’t and we all got lost and turned back and went for Plan B which was to follow a bigger crowd because loads of people can’t be wrong. Turned out they weren’t and we found the bus.
So the bus took about 30 minutes to drive out to the starting point. As I gazed out the window I thought to myself a number of time, FUCK this is a long way and I have to run home. Finally reaching the starting line I dumped my bag at the collection point, queued for the portaloos for a final pre marathon nerves check and then wandered over to the corrals. The start line was actually in a beautiful spot called Villa Pisani which had huge walls around it. So I didn’t stand out I made sure I had a wee against the wall like everyone else and pretended to stretch my legs.
After about 15 mins we were moved into our corrals. I was number 8. The hardcore runners were up the front. By this point I was kinda cold and I was hungry too and I’d been up about 5 hours, oh and the small matter of now running 26 miles home again.
It wasn’t long before my corral was passing the start line. Quick check of my watch to see the exact time I passed. That way I could be sure to mentally torture myself along the way trying to hit my target of between 4 and 5 hours. I actually felt great as soon as I started running. I was hydrated and had plenty of gel bars strapped to me to keep me nourished. I’d made a playlist which started off nice and steady and then increased in tempo bit by bit. I made a point of drinking at each water station. There were loads of people out supporting all along the route which really helps when you are running. I had my breathing in check and I managed to hit the half marathon point in a time of 2hrs 14 minutes without stopping once. I was delighted with myself and fairly much on target with my timings.
Having already run 20 miles during my Eco 2 Run event I knew what to expect. So I kept my steady pace, albeit a little slower and continued on. The route took us through lots of little towns and villages and all the kids along the route had their hands out for high fives. The support was just tremendous.
The route was very well equipped in terms of water stations, sponging stations and after 10 miles every station had fruit and biscuit pieces to keep everyone fuelled. I hit the 20 mile mark after about 3 hrs 45 which was quite respectable. That was the furthest I had ever run before. I’d say within the space of another mile, my hips and I knew we weren’t prepared for the last 6 miles. In fairness my hips knew before I did and they weren’t shy about telling me. I was also getting a bit of a pain in my left foot (not the movie, but link to it here its quite good).
All the books on preparing for a marathon tell you that you should only train to a maximum of 20 miles. So thats what I done. I’m sure it works great for lots of people because these books have sold thousands of copies. However, I’m going to say it out loud, I DON’T AGREE, but that is only from experience. It’s like offering someone a lift home and then letting them out six miles before their house. Why would you do that?
So the last six miles of the marathon. Well they thought me a lot about myself. I wanted to give up. I was feeling very unmotivated. At the same time I refused to give in. I had gone that far, there was no way I was after travelling all the way to Venice and quitting in the last six miles. Sure the shame alone would kill me.
My hips were sore and my foot was sore. Funnily enough I wasn’t dramatically tired. That type of tired where ya kinda feel a bit dopey. I wasn’t dehyrdated. In fact I stopped at a little hotel along the way to use their toilet and my wee was perfecty clear which is always a good sign. I actually had a sit down wee, which for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s having a number 1 in the number 2 position when your kinda tired and want to take a moment out (yes it’s strange for men to do it but more of us do it than you think).
But god me hips were at me. Same thing happened to me after my 20 miles run a month before the marathon. But at that point they were sore before I hit 20 miles, this time they were sore after I hit 20 miles. So I had definately made progress, just not enough. The last six miles were pure and utter torture and there is no point pretending they weren’t. It took sheer grit, lots of pain, and me saying this about 20 times ‘baby Jesus if you let me finish this I’ll be the best boy ever’. I actually don’t think he was listening or he was going, ‘ah here’s yar man again with his poor me help me out routine’. On I went and just to recap:
Half Marathon point (13 miles) at 2.14 hrs
20 Mile point at 3.45 hrs
The last six miles actually took me 1 hr 28 minutes to complete. They killed me. There was a huge stretch of it which was a road right though the lagoon which was perfectly straight and seemingly never ending. I also had to stop for a wee on that stretch without the modesty of even a hedge or ditch to stand in front of. All I could find was a knee high bollard seperating the road from the railway line. The only good thing about doing a wee along a straight line like that is it encourages you to run away from the people behind you when you are finished. So thats what I did. I dug deep and pushed forward.
Hitting the island of Venice was an amazing feeling. The organisers had bulilt a pontoon bridge across the canal for us to run over which I really only appreciated afterwards. We ran through Saint Marks square. I made sure I kept my chin up and forced a smile for that bit. I even heard a couple of people call my name to encourage me (names on bibs). There were about 14 little ramps I had to go over to reach the finish line and each one was like a mini Everest to me. The closer I got the more I wanted to push harder. It’s funny how that happens. My hips were sore and my foot was sore but the rest of me was pushing forward.
Coming over the final ramp I seen the finish line and the big judgemental clock with its glaring green numbers declaring for all to see I was well behind the time I had hoped for. Nevertheless a wave of relief rolled over me. I was going to finish. I was actually going to finish the marathon. I knew my buddys were waiting at the finish line, which happened to be literally around the corner from our apartment. The finish line itself is a blur. I was slightly delerious I think (see pic below). In a matter of minutes I had passed it, been given a foil blanket, had a medal around my neck and was carrying a bag of fruit. Very efficient the Italians.
I met my buddys and within minutes we were seated outside a bar, funnily enough beside a canal. I figured since my apartment was three floors up with no lift, the sensible thing to do was to have a few beers because I may never walk again. The beer was a welcome change to the bucket loads of water I had been drinking and it was well deserved. Despite being quite well hydrated my skin was covered in salt. You could literally rub chips on my arms and eat them. I may have given my arm a bit of a lick to confirm. Yes I was salty.
It actually took a while for it to sink in that I had actually ran, walked, stumbled and nearly crawled my way through a marathon. Not only that, in the space of about 7 months, I had managed to get off the couch, run a 5k, run a 10k, run a Half-Marathon, run a 20 miler disgrace myself at a Health Check and I completed a full marathon. While my final time of 5 hrs 13 minutes was definately longer than I wanted, oveall it wasn’t too shabby and I was already thinking I wanted more.
Thats the winner, clearly it wasn’t me who won incase you thought it was!
But I came first place the day before!