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Friday, 20 December 2013

Pisa Marathon 2013

Sunday 15th December 2013 - Pisa, Italy

The question posed at the start of the last post was 'Why run a marathon just SEVEN weeks after the previous one?'

Well, that was on 1st December and the question this time is 'Why run a marathon just TWO weeks after the previous one?'

Quite simply Pisa was the back up plan marathon should Lancaster on 1st Dec have not happened, which had looked a distinct possibility with the forecasted gale force winds. Of course in the end Lancaster did happen and quite a pleasant experience it was  too :)

But Pisa was booked so we weren't going to go along just to watch, so a bit of carb loading and off we went ..........

Just to join the dots, so to speak, this is how the two weeks in between looked:

Sun 1/12 - Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (Comeback PB)
Mon 2/12 - 10K @ 9:05/mile
Tues 3/12 - 10K @ 8:53/mile
Weds 4/12 - 10K @ 8:50/mile
Thurs 5/12 - 10 Miles @ 8:24/mile
Fri 6/12 - 10K @ 8:32/mile
Sat 7/12 - Harrogate parkrun 18:45 (6:02/mile)
Sun 8/12 - Londonderry 5K 17:31 (5:38/mile) (Comeback PB)
Mon 9/12 - 5K @ 9:24/mile
Tues 10/12 - 10K @ 8:35/mile
Weds 11/12 - 5K @ 8:44/mile
Thurs 12/12 - 10K @ 8:27/mile
Fri 13/12 - 5K @ 8:41/mile
Sat 14/12 - Lincoln parkrun 19:47 (6:23/mile)
Sun 15/12 - Pisa Marathon 2:54:09 (Comeback PB)

Arriving at Pisa airport at around midnight it didn't take long to find the first evidence of something happening in a few hours time:

The logistics were great in the sense that you walked out of the front of the airport and the hotel was a 2 minute walk directly ahead.

The race start/finish area, ie The Leaning Tower of Pisa, was then pretty much a straight line walk of 3k or so in the morning. No need for working out public transport systems at this event.

As we walked to the start we crossed over the river Arno and this was the scene. As can be seen from the reflections in the river there wasn't a hint of wind. This was to be the early part of the course, running down the promenade on the left side before returning up the right side of the pic at about 4k.

No matter how you photograph the tower it doesn't seem to give a true impression of just how much it is actually leaning, you keep looking at it wondering just how the hell it is actually still standing. If it did fall over the point where the top of the tower would hit the ground was exactly where the finish line of the marathon was situated. Ah well, it has loitered at that angle for quite a while now, it was unlikely to pick the very moment of my hobble across the line to perform it's crash, wasn't it?

The Race

There were no expectations in terms of what would come out of this, after all I had never run a marathon just two weeks after the previous one before ..... and a thoroughly daft idea it seemed too. On the other hand, once under way if it started to feel similar to Lancaster then who knows?

Of course Hannah had very recent experience of running two marathons close together when finishing 5th at Yorkshire with 2:57:53 on 20th Oct just 7 days after a 3:01 PB in Budapest on 13th Oct!

Start - Halfway (1:27:04)

We were in no rush to get off the start line and since it was a bit chilly early on we were quite happy to get huddled deep in the pack of runners waiting for the start:

As we rolled out through the first few kms it seemed like a never ending stream of balloons ahead. There were pacemakers in both the half marathon and marathon, and plenty of them. It was like a fun game show where you chased down a set of balloons and only when you caught them did you get to find out what you were chasing, 3:15 marathon, 1:35 half, 1:30 half, 3:00 marathon, 2:59 marathon ....... it kept me entertained anyway :)

I didn't really need to glance at the watch much as the balloons were giving a good enough idea of how it was going. The only splits I remember in the first half are 9:13 at 2km, 33:10 at 8km and 1:06:15 at 16km.

The idea was to wait until halfway, see how the legs were feeling and then decide what to do next.

Halfway came in 1:27:05. This was the first point at which any thought of running a time anywhere near the 2:54:17 at Lancaster had emerged. But clearly there had to be a chance off that first half split.

Just after halfway came a turnpoint. As soon as I rounded the cones I could see Hannah right there approaching the turnpoint no more than a minute or so behind. As it turned out she had gone through halfway in 1:28:20, which remarkably meant that her 2:57:53 PB from Yorkshire was starting to look under threat even though this was her 4th marathon in 9 weeks.

It was still relatively early days yet though so the overriding thought was still about hoping for the suffering to be delayed quite deep into the second half.


The 28km point really stood out in this race. Not only did it mark the 2/3rds distance but the views as we ran along the coast were absolutely stunning. No photograph would do the scenery justice but because of the complete stillness it felt as though you were caught in an artist's painting, it really was breathtaking.

And how could this possibly be 10 days before xmas in December, it was like mid Summer.

Back to the race and it was flowing along far better than I had imagined it could, already into the last third and heading for home. The sun was shining, there were no hills to fret about and the pace was staying constant in the region 4:05-4:10/km.

I used to really hate this part of a marathon and yet here I was for the third time in just nine weeks actually enjoying the prospect of getting stuck into the closing stages. Happy days :)

At around 30km a guy on roller blades came past in the opposite direction. Since the blades made quite a rumbling sound on the tarmac it came as no surprise a few minutes later to hear a similar rumbling coming up behind me or at least it came as no surprise initially. However, it kept getting louder and louder. How could roller blades make that much noise?

I then became aware of a shadow looming over me as the rumble finally came alongside. I looked over to my left and saw this (okay, something similar to this!):

Something had spooked it in it's field and it had made a bid for freedom, escaping from it's field around where Hannah was and then galloping alongside the marathon. It must have carried on for some distance because some of the runners well up the field had reported being worried about being taken out by it. Never a dull moment.

Into the closing stages and I couldn't have been more pleased with how the legs held together. The pictures below are myself and Hannah at about 41km. I might not look pretty but let's just say that I can remember photos looking a lot worse than that towards the end of a marathon:

The Finish (2:54:09)

What a great setting for a finish!!

It doesn't really show from this angle:

But that finishing arch is just to the right of the tower in this pic:

There was no expectation of a decent time when we set off to Pisa but the fastest marathon for 20 years (albeit by 7 seconds) was a very nice bonus:

A nice chunky medal too. They don't skimp on the metal content either as my bottom lip will testify after I somehow managed to smack myself with it while in post marathon clumsy mode:

Now that shows the lean a bit more:

Oh look, a random Airedale Dodger who it is rumoured ran 2:56:54 for another stunning marathon PB in her 6th marathon of the year and 4th in 9 weeks. it makes me feel lazy! :p

It seems that not paying too much attention to the watch doesn't harm the pacing too much - 1:27:04, 1:27:05. I blame that rogue second on the horse........

And 1:28:20, 1:28:34 for the Airedale Dodger, a woeful pacing effort :p

In the absence of the usual celebratory refreshments, we had to make do........

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up! I'm considering Pisa this year (though, much slower than you!). I noticed you arrived the night before - does that mean you can register the morning of?