Welcome to the home of Michelangelo, the home of Giotto, and perhaps most importantly the home of Pinocchio. The Florence Marathon is a small, big city marathon. With 10000 runners it’s bigger than Edinburgh or Manchester marathons but isn’t trying to compete with say Paris, London or Berlin. It sits very nicely in the middle.
My running buddy Richard and I travelled to Italy with our respective families to race the 2015 Florence Marathon, the 32nd running of the event. It was to be my 28th marathon. Of course we decided to make a weekend of it, having never been to Florence before. We did all the usual tourist things such as climbing to the top of the dome of the stunning cathedral, visiting the decadent rooms in the Palazzo Vecchio, seeing Michelangelo’s statue of David in the Academia and walking across the beautiful Ponte de Vecchio bridge.
Florence is certainly a beautiful city, but we had a job to do and walking round doing touristy type things for two days prior to the marathon was not the best way to prepare! Still I guess it had to be done. We walked most places because the city is relatively small and on the Friday morning we made our way to the expo.
The Florence Marathon Expo was better than we thought it would be. I remember being particularly disappointed with the Lisbon Marathon Expo and so I wasn’t expecting much from this one. Again, it’s certainly not on the scale of Paris or London but my wife and I were pleasantly surprised and in fact my wife purchased her first proper running watch there, a Garmin FR 235 no less with integrated optical HR.
Number collection was straight forward. Like the Paris Marathon, you need a medical certificate to take part. Unlike Paris however, you have to email the certificate in prior to your attendance at the expo. So there is very little paperwork. Just show your passport as ID and you’re good to go. You also get your free t-shirt here, which is really rather a nice one.
Filming or Racing?
The Florence Marathon has caused me some problems. I had initially thought I would go for a fast time, possibly a PB. But then I realised I would want to film it, as it’s likely we won’t do it again for a long time, if ever. So I’d been torn between making a decent film and running a fast race for some months. I had trained, but perhaps coming in to the race I was not in tip top condition. So I eventually decided that a PB was not on the cards but that I would run as fast as possible with the camera. Goal time was anything between 3:15 and 3:20.
However, the night before the race I had a particularly poor nights sleep. It’s never great but I woke feeling pretty awful and not in the mood for running 26.2 miles. I was also worried about the weather. For some reason I hadn’t counted on it being quite so cold and I didn’t think I had adequate clothing. I do often misjudge these things and will regularly find that I am dressed in three layers of clothing whilst other hardcore runners are in a vest!
Very Crowded Start
Richard convinced me that I would warm up once we started running and actually once we had been outside for a while on race morning it didn’t feel too bad. At 8:30am we said goodbye to our wives and made our way to the 3:00-3:30 pen. There was the usual dash to relieve full bladders. Most of us jumped over the wall by the river and went in the foliage by the river bank! We had a to wait a good 40 minutes in the pens before the start. There was a big build up with the Chariots of Fire music and there also was a minutes silence in memory of those who died in the Paris attacks, before we were off. Wheelchair and partially sighted runners first, then everyone else.
First mistake. We should have got nearer the front. The pens were tightly packed. The first kilometre took us over 5 minutes and we pretty much ground to a halt because it was so crowded. But we eventually got into our running. Trying to make up lost time we probably went too quickly in the next two or three kilometres. Richard always rushes off and try as I might I couldn’t slow him down. He was forging ahead by the 5th kilometre. He did try to run a bit slower but it’s just not in his nature.
Florence Marathon 2015
The Florence Marathon route is rather average for the first 5k until you reach Parco delle Cascine. The race starts on a big main road by the river and heads north towards Giardino della Gherardesca on Viale Giacomo Matteotti. It then heads down past Fortezza Da Basso and winds through the park for 10k or so and is very pretty. Richard was gradually creeping further ahead but I could still see him. I was chugging along at a reasonable 4:36 per kilometre and felt ok.
We had very briefly seen our families just after the start of the race and we saw them again at 19k as we made our way back to towards the centre of Florence. Just as you think you’re about to go over the Ponte de Vecchio, the route turns right and heads back out along the river bank. I threw my gloves to Victoria as she waved frantically at me! Richard was right, I was perfectly warm enough with one layer of clothing.
From 20k the Florence Marathon route takes runners right out to the east of the city, past Fiorentina’s football ground. My pace was slowing marginally at this point and mentally I was a little concerned that we were only half way through. I passed the half marathon point on course for a 3:15 finish but I was already sure I wouldn’t be able to sustain the same pace for the remainder of the race.
At 29k I saw Richard up ahead. He was slowing significantly. I had wondered how he would cope given he had not run for two weeks because of a slight niggle in his knee. It’s not often I beat Richard but on this occasion I knew, unless something drastic happened to me, I would probably come in ahead this time. We wished each other well and I pushed on.
Once I got to 20 miles (32k) I was confident I could maintain this slightly slower pace to the end and I actually felt pretty good. Heading back to the city the route took us round the magnificent cathedral where I saw Victoria and Tanya again. We did eventually cross the Ponte de Vecchio bridge and we also ran right past our hotel bedroom window. As I rounded the corner into Piazza della Signoria with the view of the Palazzo Vecchio in front of me, I saw Victoria and Tanya yet again, this time at Cafe Rivoire. It is apparently the oldest cafe in the city….and also the most expensive as we discovered afterwards!
At this point, I had 2k to go and I was definitely feeling it. But although I wasn’t going to make 3:15 I was on for a sub 3:20 finish. I had to really push the last few hundred metres to make it and I sacrificed filming the end in order to do so. The battery died in my camera as I approached the line and there was no way I could stop and change it then. I finished in 3 hours 19 minutes and 28 seconds….and then I changed the battery in my camera!
Good Times and Bad
Richard came in around 3:27 having battled with a stitch much of the way. He didn’t eat breakfast until 8am so only has himself to blame!! But he will be back, fitter and faster next time. At the end you get a bag with a few bits in, nothing too exciting and the medal is also a little underwhelming. But we don’t do it for the bling….we do….no, we don’t and anyway, the t-shirt is great.
Richard was understandably a little disappointed with his run. I was very pleased with mine. My PB is 3:13. There is no way I was going to do that holding the video camera, so I can only guess what time I might have achieved had I not been filming. I was annoyed that I didn’t manage to film myself crossing the line, but these things happen and I am sure you get a decent look at the route of the Florence Marathon from what I have filmed.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
I am writing this on an Easyjet flight from Pisa to London Gatwick having spent this morning visiting the leaning tower. It looks like it does in the pictures and on TV. It certainly leans and it’s weird to climb up. The underpinning work which was finished some 10 years ago will only be good for another 300 years. So if you want to go see it, better get there soon.
It’s been a lovely trip and I think I have convinced my wife that it is possible for us to have a romantic break AND for me to run a marathon at the same time. If you have enjoyed this Florence Marathon race report and video, please don’t forget to give it a ‘like’ or a +1 and share it with your friends. See you at the next race!
“From a 5k in 4k to an ultra in Ultra HD,
We capture your running in motion,
With Film My Run, Richard and me”