running by the sea

Yesterday I did something special: the Venice marathon!

It had been a long time since I ran a marathon well; at least since 2014. All last year my left knee kept me from doing any real training, and in November it got so bad that my general practitioner ordered an MRI and the results got me on the fast track for surgery to scrape away a shredded meniscus. Oh, immediate, sweet relief! Had I only known I would have done it earlier!

I started rehab the very next day and by January I was running again. In hindsight I was probably doing too much too soon and on the last day of a particularly excessive week of running, I strained muscles in my other leg and had to take a break for months.

By the end of the summer I felt like I was finally back in decent shape again. My boyfriend had won a free entry in the Venice marathon and offered it to me. I said first I’d run our local half marathon in September and see how that went. If I finished in under an hour and forty minutes without wanting to die, I’d run Venice.

I just barely made that time, and then I said first I’d run a 20-mile training run and see how that went. If I finished well without wanting to die, I’d run Venice. He offered to watch the boys one Sunday morning so I could do the run, which it went well, better than expected, and at that point I had no more excuses.

So Venice it was. And ouch! I had forgotten how painful a marathon can be, HA!

Everyone always asks you what your goal time is and it’s hard to be honest with others, and even with yourself, because you don’t want to come up short (or long, in this case) and most people will usually add five to ten minutes to their actual goal time.When people asked me what I wanted my finish time to be, I said between 3h30 and 3h40 but what I really meant was as close to 3h30 as possible. I hadn’t trained specifically for this race, so I wasn’t completely sure what I could do, but I felt like my legs could maybe handle 3h30.

I found my pace and settled in within the first km, and everything felt good, except that I started thinking about all the miles ahead, and the long causeway to Venice, and that nasty bit around the port before you get to the nice part of Venice with all the cheering crowds, and all those damn bridges at the end. What was I thinking telling people I had hopes to finish in 3h30-40? I’d be lucky to finish in 3h45!

Not long after I realized there was only one way to find out, and I tucked back into my pace, tried to keep my legs and arms as loose as possible, and kept at it, peeling off one km at a time.

It went very well up until near the end when I hit those damn bridges. They put ramps on them, but still. There were fourteen bridges to cross this year in the last two km of the race, and by then your legs are so tired – your quads are tight and rigid and throngs of tourists and friends are screaming at the top of their lungs. The son of a woman from my team was in Piazza San Marco, half a mile from the finish, and shouted, “Jenny! Spacca tutto!” And I laughed.

Oh, what a joy it would have been to tear it up those last 1100 meters!!

My watch was clear: all I needed was to keep the same pace I’d kept for the previous 25.5 miles and I’d finish in an hour and 30, but alas, it was not to be. Those damn bridges!!! (They got me last time, too.)

I finished in three hours, 31 minutes and seven seconds, and that makes two marathons so far this year, with tentative plans to run a third.

I ran San Francisco for the second time this summer with my brother and we improved our time by four minutes. I ran Venice for the second time this fall and I improved my time by one. Pisa for the second time in December seems fitting. All three are marathons near the ocean or to the sea, and all three would be my second time on the course. It can’t hurt to try – or actually, it probably will hurt, but only for a few miles, and then it’s over.


About Jennifer

I'm a freelance translator and American expat. I live in Northern Italy with my two young sons.
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2 Responses to running by the sea

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Congratulations on a run well done🍷

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