Let me start with the end. 3H 24 min and 7 second was the time it took me to complete the 2009 Venice Marathon as well as my new personal best (PB) score. Until two weeks ago I aimed to complete the race with a time of about ten minutes less than what I have achieved, but after muscle problem this week, today the result pleased me greatly.
On Wednesday I was virtually certain that I would not be able to take off the race. In the following days things have improved but, until the last, I was not sure I could run without retiring. But then it was great, unforgettable day!
This is the narrative of this great day.
6 o'clock the alarm, I get up a little sleepy. Despite the fear and tension I slept pretty well. Breakfast with tea, biscuits, honey, toast and jam more, because I am tired of sweet things, I eat even a slice of ham with toast. After finishing breakfast, my friend Dario came along and he took me to the departure point in Stra (again thanks for the support, I own you something). In the car we agree on the point where I expected to see them on the arrival: on the left side. I tell him it is fine, I hope to get to the end and I ask them to wait for me till a certain time. If I do not arrive within the 5 hours, then they can go home, not a big deal.
Once in Stra (Venice's marathon departure, see picture on the left), I head to the bottom of the square, finding the Blogpoint site. Immediately I have identified Pasteo and his unmistakable hair. At that stage we are only the two of us. We were waiting for Bress arriving few minutes thereafter with Tosto and the commander. Simone and Anita arrived from the bar and the blogpoint is complete. A small espresso at the bar, we have taken a picture with the bottles that Pasteo has given to the Bress and we then go in the direction of departure.
After giving my bag, I started my stretching and warming to put the muscles in good condition. The day is wonderful, the atmosphere is electric before the marathon but the good company of Bress and Tosto immediately helps to defuse the tension. In short we enter into the cages, we make the road between people and we arrive at a point not too far from the start. We found Pasteo: we're back together.
The pending departure is unnerving. First the hand-bikes started, then the top female runners, finally, with a little delay, also our race. I cross the starting line just 1 minute after the official start. Ahead of me there are Bress and Tosto. I follow them for a first stretch and then let them go and I sit next to the pacers of 3H and 30. I follow the blue balloons for a while then I feel that my legs are in good shape and increase the pace. Certainly do not want to overdo it but since my legs are going, I follow them.
The route along the Brenta (see right) is wonderful.
People on the board of the road is impressive and very warm. After a few km we pass near the first of many musical groups encountered along the route. As I pass by, the group is playing "Rosanna" from Toto, a song that I particularly like because it has a great battery play. Let's go - I say - is a clear signal.
The same signal is strengthened a little later when we find another band playing Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. A third band performs in Song 2 by Blur. I had to put them in a hypothetical Ipod, I am not sure I would have done better. Music, people, and the atmosphere look like a great show.
5km later, around the 12th, my euphoria passes abruptly. I began feeling some problems in my legs. In particular, I feel my right leg a bit contract. I worry immediately, I try to run a little loose and slow down the pace. I have to keep hard, I have to hold on - I keep repeating myself, I am a little scared because I did not think problems could occur so soon. I see the shadow of the approaching retirement but, wisely, I slow down the pace and go with more calm. I think of Alvin and his advice, I put myself in ways procession of the Virgin of Sorrows. I force myself to go slowly at least until the 30th km. So during the race I start to be overtaken by a lot of people, including a runner encountered in various non-competitive year. Passing the half marathon in 1h 42 and 01, I'm progressing at a leisurely pace (around 4'55 / km) and I feel that the forces do not abandon me. The only concern is given from my legs but now I got half way, the fool hypothesis goes away and I begin to feel more comfortable.
Little further I found Albertozan, who is working today as a pacer for some of his teammates. I see him and joke with him: "Come on, take me to the finish." He told me that other people have to wait and ask me how it goes. I tell him that things are going, at that time was very good, and that if the legs are not stopping, I will arrive in Venice. We run one km together, then he stops to wait for his other friends. We are near Marghera, road-side I see a group of people with a banner, their factory has closed and they are now unemployed. Look at them and whispered a "Come on boys." They could hear me and thank me providing reciprocal incitement.
It was a beautiful moment that I am still keeping in my brain today.
Few miles before km 30th, we enter San Giuliano park (picture, right), by crossing the bridge. The wood of the deck beneath runners feet is "dancing" and is quite funny to run in such conditions. Running in the park is beautiful but the effort is beginning to be felt. Besides the expected path of detours within the curves and counter curves, in short they always seem to end but never ends. And once out of the park is the most feared section: the Liberty Bridge.
The bridge itself begins at km 34. For 4 km I can see a wide straight and monotonous road with Venice in the background. Pasteo called it, not without reason, a treadmill. You can run, run, but you don't have the impression to get ahead because Venice is still there and you never reach it! I was looking forward to the bridge since the beginning of the marathon and I have arrived there in force and full of enthusiasm. At this stage the withdrawal hypothesis is gone completely, plus I feel good and I can even accelerate. I am elated and I have little chats with everyone. After a while, in front of me a yellow t-shirt is popping up: that is Tosto. I increase the pace a little bit and I am reaching him. We had a quick conversation and he told me that he simply reduced significantly his speed at the 30th km. I feel sorry for him but I'm too good at the moment, bursting with energy and I want to use them all. I look forward and another yellow t-shirt appears. Is it for Bress? I am greeting Tosto and try to speed up, briefly overtaking the runner. Unfortunately I did not see Bress, but another “lightning friend” which I do not know the name. Besides him, I also found Angelo, greeted him and left him (not without satisfaction to be gone again).
I am approached by a runner to whom I had spoken shortly before. He says "Are you sure that you come before me as you said just now?" I look at him and tell him "Of course I come before you." "Well, then go ahead and follow me." The guy starts to increase the speed at the pace of 4'30. I follow him for a while. I do not lack energy but I am not too convinced that I can keep the pace till the end. My legs could leave me alone without notice. Towards the end of the bridge, a beginning of cramp shows up at left quadriceps. I let go the runner and slow down trying to break my leg. The operation succeeds and finds coolness.
Now that the bridge is finished, we are inside Venice and missing only 4 km. The legs are pretty good and I could increase the speed but I got scared by the principle of cramp. I have realized that the timing is more than good, and therefore I will finish below 3 hours 30 minutes, so I don’t want to run any risk.
The final part of the Venice marathon is wonderful, you run in a unique environment. Bridges are only small obstacles now. Indeed, the wooden walkways and my feet almost bouncing softly on it are pleasing me. I'm still good and it's nice to do a countdown of the 14 final bridges! Two kilometers till the end my cramp is again threatening to turn up. I still try to reduce the speed, but this time it's hard. Onward with clenched teeth, I can see the bridge of boats: there you go!
I cross the Grand Canal and I am pushing hard. The descent of the bridge allows me to dissolve the principle of cramp and the last section is an apotheosis. I will be finishing greatly! With my eyes looking for my friends who are waiting for me on the left side, I pass several bridges but I do not see them. For a moment I'm afraid of losing it and instead, a bridge from the end, they were waiting for me, call me, cheer me on.
My level of adrenaline increased dreadfully, I jumped on the bridge from where I'm coming down (as shown in photo) and gather gladly incitements. The adrenaline gives me great energy and also anger. I accelerate, I am flying in the last bridge, and I am ready for the final sprint. I crossed the line more angry than ever. I can look at the official timekeeper, I see 3 hours and 25 minutes. I am delighted and I know that I was under that performance. Great job!
Upon arrival, I find mr. Bress. I ask him about his performance, we congratulate and hug each other. I am in high spirits because of the result. I look forward to the medal and wait for friends who came to see me today. Find them and exchange a few words. It is really nice to have lived a day like this with the people with whom understand the feeling. I thank them publicly here too, especially the two Dario who provided transportation, patience, support and photo shoot! Great!
As agreed with the other bloggers we are in the tree-lined street where we took some pictures (of exquisite workmanship given the quality of subjects). I wait for for some more to see if they get someone else but to be honest, I am quite anxious to return home, mainly because of the condition of my feet (toes with several blisters and toe nails in shameful conditions) that hurt me most of the muscles legs.
I greet mr. Bress and Tosto and head for the boat that will take me to the train station. That concludes this great day. Now I have a new PB for celebration and a new target in front, that is great! I have to thank a lot of people for advice, support or even just for having been there. And then, I must thank the physiotherapist during the week I'm going to give him a statue.