On Sunday, November 29, 2015 we ran the 32nd edition of the Florence Marathon.
Florence was our last stop in Italy and after 11 days touring, it was time for the marathon. Everyone tried to have a lazy day on Saturday to rest up and recover from the miles of walking and running every day. We headed out to the expo to pick up our bibs. The expo was on the marathon course so we made sure to scout out the neighborhood and get a general feel for the run (although we missed the hill at Mile 20). The usual excitement of an expo, this time all in Italian. There were just over 9000 runners and over 90% were Italian (there were 50 Americans in total). So ... *everything* was in Italian. Which made it a lot more fun :-)
We were staying close to the start of the point-to-point race. It was late November and anything is possible but fortunately it was dry and relatively warm (~40F) with light winds. The race started beside the Arno river promptly at 8am in several waves. Each wave began with a cheer and great crowd support. Before I knew it, we were off ... and promptly split off into groups of 1 or 2 or 3. I wouldn't see some of my fellow travellers until the finish line!
Kilometers 1 - 5 were pretty straightforward - fun neighborhoods, lots to see. We ran past the main train station and into Parco del Cascine around 5.5k. I wasn't sure how this part of the run was going to go as the map looked like we would just doing loops and mentally, that can be tough. Seeing the Kenyans exiting as we were entering the park is normal stuff as they are easily twice as fast as I am. However watching the other runners loop by you over and over can kill your morale. Luckily, this run was well thought out as the park was large enough that you didn't see the other parts of the loop until you were upon them. Five miles here was great - beautiful trees, nice paths and best of all, the first stop in the park had hot tea. Some of the group found this to be a treat and made sure to hit it at every stop they could. I just stuck with the Italian-style gatorade, which was ... fizzy. But it was quite good!
After exiting the park, we crossed the Arno and after a few miles, crossed under the old city gate and past the walls that used to protect Florentinians from the attacking Siennans hundreds of years ago. We ran through town up towards the Boboli Gardens and the Piatti Palace. We then headed East along the Arno and crossed it again at Kilometer 21 - the halfway point of the marathon!
The next 10k took us through various neighborhoods in Florence, past the Academia and up to the site of the expo at Stadio Comunale. This part of the run was interesting but has lots of turns so you have to pay attention. There was a not-nice surprise waiting at Mile 20 -- a pedestrian bridge over the railway. Steep hill at Mile 20, ugh, who is the sadist that put this on the course?!
The last 7k of the marathon had an amazing number of important sites - the Duomo (and the amazing dome built by Brunelleschi), Campanile, statue of David and crossing Ponte Vecchio just before Kilometer 40.
The last 2k went by in a flash and before I knew it I was across the finish line. Quick trip to pickup our drop-off bags, shower, dinner, pack and then head to airport in the morning. Crazy trip but a great marathon!
Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:
Organization – Well organized, marked course and great support. Grade: A
Course - A lot of turns! See a number of Florence neighborhoods and listen to the locals yell "die die die!" as you run by (which apparently means "go go go"). Grade: A
Aid-stations - Many aid stations, fully stocked. Plenty of water, hot tea, bananas and fizzy electrolites. Grade: A
Swag – Nice medal and dri-fit short sleeve shirt. Grade: A