Quite a bit of fog greeted us Sunday morning, and I knew right away it might be a blessing in disguise for the 28th running of the Venice Marathon. Last October on race day we had Aqua Alta. Not so good for the participants. This day seemed a bit more optimistic, weather-wise. I'd been excited for race day for a couple of weeks already, ever since I watched construction teams erecting the temporary bridges over the 13 bridges along the course in the city of Venice.
People who wander around Venice this time of year have the notion that the ramps are for the assistance of handicapped people, and comment how nice this is to have. What a great help in toting luggage up and down the bridges. I am quick to remind them this is not permanent, and is only intended for the Marathon runners to make the up and down of bridges easier. None-the-less, the arrival of the ramps starts to get me in the mood.
In previous years, I've taken up a position at the San Basilio vaporetto stop, in Dorsoduro, which is one of the first good vantage point to catch the racers coming into Venice. After watching the first set of very fast runners, I'd wander down to Nico's, grab a table and a cup of tea and spend a few hours cheering on the rest of the runners as they made their way down the Zattere.
This year, I chose something a little different. Since I now live so close to Giardini, where the finish line is, I thought it might be very interesting to see the race from a new perspective. Also, my hairdresser, Simone, had been training to run the Marathon for the first time ever this year, and he had suggested I catch him at the finish line. So, that was my plan. Unfortunately, poor Simone suffered an injury to his left knee 2 weeks ago during a training run that was going to sideline him this year.
I calculated, based on previous race times, that it should take the fastest runners about 2 hours to reach Giardini. I set off a little before 11 am, taking the #1 vaporetto to Giardini. I knew that the finish line was going to be right after Via Garibaldi, so my plan was to exit the vaporetto and walk up the street to that spot. The #1 was making regular stops, except for the San Marco Vallresso stop which was closed all day to allow the runners to come over the temporary bridge and run into St. Mark's square.
My great plan was stymied before I got very far! Once I disembarked from the boat, the entire street to my left leading from Viale Garibaldi up the waterfront was blocked off- for the race, of course. I had to walk up Viale Garibaldi and then up Via Garibaldi to reach the waterfront. I figured by the time I got there any good spots along the racecourse would be occupied already. Not to be daunted, I made my way to the Riva.
Someone up there was looking down on me because there was a small opening along the barricade at the bottom of the last bridge the runners would run over, just yards from the official finish line.
I grabbed my position. I was in a great spot, and also close to the race announcer who was doing a play-by-play commentary, sort of. He was announcing what the official race time at each kilometer break , for example at 35 kilometers, at 37.5 kilometers, at 40 kilometers. From him, I knew exactly when the "elite" men's group, comprised of the first 5 runners, had crossed over the Ponte di Liberta into Venice. He announced the positions of these first 5, so I knew the Kenyans were in front, and an Italian runner was in 4th place coming over the bridge. His running commentary made the short wait a bit more entertaining, especially as the men were running over the Grand Canal and into St. Mark's square. This announcer was issuing his commentary in Italian, German and English, but his comments in English kept a grin on my face. He'd say things like " Lalli, the Italian runner, is in 4th position. Would we like him to move up?? Yes, People!"
Right after the men exited St. Mark's and were making their way down the Riva degli Schiavoni, the announcer reported that one of the racers from Kenya had developed some sort of problem and was now walking. He'd lost his early lead, sadly. The announcer got the crowd going, yelling, "Masai, Masai, come on!, We're with you. Come on , Masai!" , as well as encouraging everyone to cheer for Andrea Lalli, the Italian runner in this elite men's group.
The first two men off the last bridge in front of me were Kenyans, with Machichim in first place. Third place went to Andrea Lalli. Fourth was Masai, doing a slow run/limp, with another Kenyan runner in fifth. Unfortunately, between the last bridge where I was, and the official finish line, Masai lost his 4th place finish to the man behind him who loped past him. Two hours and 9 minutes to run 26 miles! I have no idea how they do it. One of the reasons I love watching this marathon so much is the fact that I will never be running anything like this. I'm lucky if I can do a slow run down the street anymore, what with my arthritic knees!
First place finisher, Machichim from Kenya
Third place to Andrea Lalli of Italy
Forza *in Italian means force, strength, power, or spirit) is often yelled at soccer matches and other events to encourage the participants. Just as we were waiting for the runners to hit this last bridge, the ship FORZA passed my vantage point. Certainly apropo.
After the first wave of elite men completed the race, there is a bit of a lull waiting until the remaining several thousands of runners make their way towards the finish line. I met Mike for a bite of lunch on Via Garibaldi, then headed up for Rialto by vaporetto. The boat went under the temporary bridge, I caught sight of several runners on their way over the Grand Canal. Many of them were stopping to take photos! I can imagine this is quite an unusual race course, and a unique opportunity to run over one of the most famous canals in the world.
Runners crossing the temporary bridge between Dogana Point and San Marco
My next year plan is already in swirling in my head.... thinking about volunteering to be along the race course, hopefully on the Zattere.