Saturday, March 20, 2010

2009 Colle Marathon: a live experience

This post describes a live experience for the May 2009 Colle Mar-athon and gives you insight of what it is really look like. Below you can find a translation from the original Colle Mar-athon live experience.

Colle Mar-athon is a recent marathon, with fast growing number of participants, thanks to its perfect organization. As its Italian name might imply, it starts from the hills in the Center of Italy and finishes in the Adriatic Sea. It is in the top 20 of the Italian ranking (number 12) from the number of participants.

Guys, I've done, I arrived at the finish line!

I got 4h47'23sec as real time but I assure you that is worth much more than it appears. The Collemare Marathon is a beautiful, charming, fascinating and incredibly well organized marathon, where I felt more spoiled than in New York City. However, the Collemare Marathon is also tremendously hard, full of hills that increase legs fatigue. This year everything has been made even more difficult by north breeze that has expired incessantly almost always in the direction opposite to that of race.

But, let's start from the beginning.

I said the beauty and charm. Althought I knew pretty much the large majority of places where the marathon passes, having to run in such places is another matter. The Collemar Marathon starts from the entrance of the wall of Barchi, a village of 1,000 inhabitants about 30 km inland from the sea. It is a very charming town dating back to '500, perched on a hill which offers a breathtaking panorama of the valley and surrounding countries. The start is exciting. A shot fired by a bomb set in medieval costume historian marks the start of the race and thousands of colorful confetti is fired on participants in the first few meters after the start. I was so excited and focused to motivate myself that I even forgot to start the Garmin stopwatch, something the never happened before.

The first km is a dry and tricky descent because it seems "easy" and therefore you risk too much and may pay later. But the illusion does not last long: after the 2 km mark the road starts to climb towards Mondavio, a jewel of Le Marche. Mondavio is a village with a perfectly preserved medieval castle. The marathon is first run alongside the imposing outer walls and then passes inside the castle (where the lady of the castle welcomes the participants in costume!), in their most secret and in the courtyard where stands war medieval instruments including a catapult wood. At the 5km mark, we realized that we were only at the beginning and that the road is still long. Just the time to see other people in historical costume including buglers and flag bearers and the Marathon is back leaving Mondavio. We proceed toward Orciano after a long and difficult climb that culminates with the arrival in the historical center, reaching the 8 km mark. I have settled at around 6min15"/ km and proceeded fairly quiet running in a group formed before Mondavio with other runners, including a very nice man from Rimini named David, who did not miss a chance to try with all girls he met on the edge of the path. When he saw one girl, he started accelerating, he was making a joke and an appreciation, asking for a phone number, gave her a kiss and then started running again as if nothing had happened. A volcano of initiatives and hilarious jokes that helped me a long way not to feel the fatigue. Too bad that he is no longer able to keep it after the 16 km.

Few hundred meters of pavement in the center of Orciano, then we are already out of this third village, toward S. Giorgio di Pesaro, fourth walled town that comes after about 13 km route ending with, needless to say, another climb, this time a little softer. We turn around the old town walls and then we go toward Piagge, a small town about 200 m above sea level. We reached there the 16 km mark, preceded by other tough ups and downs, allowing however to enjoy beautiful views of the hills surroundings. After additional 5 km we reach Cerasa, arriving at the 13.1 miles passage of the half marathon. We then cross another village, S. Costanzo, which arrives after another 6 km and after the Solfanuccio climb of Solfanuccio. Even S. Costanzo is passed through the beautiful old town, where there was a lot of people in traditional costume.

After S. Costanzo and another couple of short climbs, the runners need to go through another long but gentle slope that leads to a hill that indicates the 30 km mark. From there the trail abruptly change: the green hills of the Marche gives way to a breathtaking landscape where we can see the blue see stretch between Fano and Torrette. From distance we begin to see the center and the port of Fano.

Thereafter, it begins a long descent of about 1 km, leading to sea level: the path is "flat" except for two flyovers and downtown in the old town of Fano, which is slighty uphill.

Till the end of the marathon, there are still more than 10 km, which I faced a very slow pace, alternating a light jog to fast walk. Between the 34th and 35th km, as if all the other climbs were not enough, we face a stretch of about 800 m within Metauro river gravel. Obviously my legs, already stretched thin, does not appreciate it.

At km 37 the route goes toward the promenade of Fano and then, on the 39th it reaches the historic center, slightly climbing. Almost to the 41 km mark, we can get into a walkway that runs along the port. The arrival is under there, but there is still a km to run: about 500 m above the walkway and then another 500 at the quays of harbors, where luxurious yachts are moored. There I overtake lot of people that I saw few kilometers before. The finish line is really well positioned: runners face the last right-hand bend at about 50 m from the finish line and the last few meters are bordered by railings but are close together. Therefore the crowd is so close to the participants that it creates an effect of sharing participation.

I arrived at 1:48pm with my arms raised and the speaker greeting me at the microphone "Congratulations also to Eng. Stefano Gentilini, bib No. 478, who finished his race". Indeed the Collemare-ATHON counts as Italian Marathon Championship for Engineers, Architects and Land-surveyors, I enrolled as an engineer ... What satisfaction! Even the customized arrival!
After receiving the medal I headed to the refreshment area to cool off and drink something because I felt really tired. Time to greet my cousin Massimo coming from Senigallia and then I collected my bag and I headed to the showers where I could wash and change.

I did not really enjoy the pasta party unfortunately because the train left at 3:11pm to Milan from Fano Station which is about 3 km away from the arrival path. I walk while eating the pasta dish and enormous sandwiches provided for all participants.
I got on the train where I think I fell asleep after no more than 1 minute ...

So far the news. But let me conclude with some comments.
I stated at the beginning of the quality of the organization. The Collemare marathon main competitive advantage is its beautiful location, with varied and impressive places ranging from the lush green hills of the Marche to the blue sea, passing the castles, villages medieval, scenic sites, the beach and the port of Fano.

But the organizers are really very good: they have made this race very well organized. Not even in New York I felt so cared for the perfect coach from Fano to Barchi, large locker rooms, espresso before departure (and whenever?). A volunteer before departure asked me, 'Everything OK? You need something?". Hot showers, massage and lunch for all in the end, excellent competition package. They say good things done well are recognized by the details: well, here it's all been well maintained, including the arrival ceremony, where the medal is not just delivered but put the neck of each runner.

Beyond the below expectation performance, the physical form not optimal and the final time far away from New York and Milan, it was an amazing race: a beautiful sunny day spent in beautiful places that I have often done also emotions as I ran.

Sometimes when people ask me why I have started running 40 years I played and undergo the fatigue of training, to wake up at early Sunday and also to the efforts certainly not "normal", I do not have the readiness to respond. I take the thin veil of pity and sufficient in the eyes of my interlocutor.
From now on, when I get the same question, I know what to say: even if it means running passing days like that of Collemare-ATHON my answer is "Why should not I do that?"

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