I set out on this marathon with two goals in mind: run the whole way and finish in under 4 hours… and I achieved both! It was not the most incredible run or the most fun I’ve ever had, but it was a pretty course and an amazing weekend away.
With only four weeks between Dublin & Florence, there wasn’t a lot of time to train or even run long in preparation. I also got plagued by sickness and blisters which was frustrating, but thankfully both cleared up before race day.
I flew out to Florence by myself on the Saturday morning for another whirlwind weekend away returning on the Sunday evening. I wouldn’t have a support crew along the route, so this marathon became the perfect opportunity to try and run the whole distance, which I have never done before.
Once again I donned a tutu (this time dark blue) and attached a large Australian flag to the back of my shirt, as had been suggested by my friend Vu. The whole look ended up looking like a superhero, so I dubbed myself bogan superwoman!
TO THE RESCUE! or the finish line. I’ll take either
There were a few other people from my London run club who had come to Italy to run the marathon too, and we all caught up for pre-race pasta the night before. In amongst this group was the incredible Gill Bland, who was attempting her 3rd sub-3hour marathon in 3 months (spoiler alert: she did it!).
Most of the others were in the same start group as me, so I kept an eye out for them in the start pen but didn’t find them. We had to be in the start pen quite early, so I stood around in my glorious aqua-coloured bin bag & drank super-sweet tea to try and stay warm. This is the first marathon where they have handed out refreshments before the run, I was very impressed!
Annoyingly my flag was trod on a few times, and I had no idea what the Italian announcers were saying, but we eventually headed towards the start line. I had positioned myself some 20m behind the pink balloons of the 4:00 pacers. My intention was just to run along, keep them in sight somewhere in front of me and all would be fine. Inevitably though, I passed them after 6km (having locked on to a slightly quicker pace) and slowly left them behind.
Mr Squiggle, do your worst. (Courtesy of Strava)
The Florence marathon route is very twisty-turny, but takes you on a wonderful sightseeing tour of the city. Although it loops back on itself multiple times, you somehow never feel like you’ve run a particular section before.
The first part of the race was great. You start by heading out west to do a few lengths of a park, where I got my only glance of the leaders and had a few conversations with people from english-speaking countries (I can’t speak more than 3 words in Italian). We then crossed over to the other side of the river to visit the imposing Pitti Palace before running along both sides of the river. Many times in this part we were running down very ‘Italian’ narrow streets, which I very much enjoyed!
Although I had looked at the official course map before the race it had not shown any kilometre markings. I had thought that by the Pitti Palace we would be at least halfway, but my calculations were terribly off and there was still a long way to go! This is not a great feeling to have at this stage of a marathon…
I crossed the 21.1km halfway point in 1:55ish. Having run the first 11km in just under an hour, and finished the next 11km (to 22km) in slightly quicker than that, I felt happy with the pace I had found. The next goal was to continue maintaining it as I crossed through the 28km mark (furthest I’d ever run before in one go, at Copenhagen Marathon in May) and beyond.
Taken exactly at halfway. Such organisation, much wow.
The aid stations along the course were great. Every 5km from the 5km mark they had water, electrolyte drink (translated as ‘salts’) and hot tea(!). Then in between, every 5km from 7.5km they had sponges soaked in water which were a total godsend. From 20km they also started giving out fruit (banana chunks, oranges, lemons), although I dropped my first piece! Devastating! After that I always took two.
The volunteers were also great, and would shout your name and cheer as you ran through the aid stations. I was the only person I had seen in any sort of costume, and I think the crowd were not quite sure how to respond to fancy dress, so the support from the volunteers was great.
In the second half of the race we headed east along some uninspiring back streets to the Firenze stadium. It was here that I crossed that 28km mark and was in unchartered distance-run territory. I was starting to realise that not stopping/resetting/hugging your supporters is a bit lonely. As it turns out, I like breaks!
My enjoyment of the race was starting to wane, and it reflects in my kilometre splits. So far I had managed to maintain a fairly consistent ~5:25 pace, but km 30 & 31 are closer to 5:40. I picked up to the low 5:30s again after taking a gel, but there was a noticable dip in the middle there.
The lady on the right’s face 10/10 makes this picture fabulous
Out at the stadium we ran a loop of the athletics track, which reminded me of the finish of Melbourne marathon. We had then run 33km which I had achieved in just under 3 hours (on pace!), and I told myself that from this point onwards it really didn’t matter how slow I ran. Even if I shuffle-jog-plodded to the end I would still make it through the next 9km in an hour and would achieve both my goals. My legs were still in their rhythm & didn’t want to slow much, so I just kept going.
34km: the hill. Really it was just a short-but-steep bridge but you could see it coming and could see all the people walking up it. Later I complained about it (especially as the rest of the course was pretty flat), but actually I had a lot of fun, as I tend to be stronger than others at hills. I ran up it and passed a bunch of people which drew some cheers, so that felt satisfying.
The race had started at the Duomo in the centre of town and would finish there too, but with 5km to go we had to run past it again - twice! I had thought this part of the race would be awful if you could see the finish line but not run through it, but as it turns out the Duomo is so big that whatever corner we ran past at this stage was nowhere near the actual finish.
Then Victoria from my running group called out my name & started running next to me! Our other friend Vaz had somehow passed me and was just ahead, so for the last few kilometres the three of us ran in close proximity to each other. It was nice to see some familiar faces and be able to complain about how we were feeling, that did a lot to help with the final push.
Must make flag fly. Must make flag fly. Sprint!
The final stretch took us over the Ponte Vecchio and back to the Duomo. I found an ounce more speed in my legs once we reached the final 2km, and then at last there was the blue carpet and the finish line. I threw my arms up as I crossed over the line but there was no jumping to be had. I was just happy I could stop running!
Immediately afterwards my thoughts on the race were somewhat grim, but later in the day (with a beer in hand!) I finally felt proud of my achievement. I ran non-stop, non-walking for 3 hours, 51 minutes and 9 seconds, for my 3rd fastest marathon time. I had never felt like I couldn’t keep running. I had never felt like I couldn’t maintain my speed. I had competed my 5th marathon ever, 4th marathon this year, and 3rd marathon in 3 months.
Florence: what an absolutely stunning city
I like medals. Medals are pretty. Nomnomnom.