Sunday, October 25, 2009

Venice Marathon

The Venice Marathon is 42km -- 26 miles long -- like other marathons. Like other marathons there are thousands of runners (6,000 entries). But the last few kilometers are, like the city itself, absolutely unique.

The marathon begins at the Villa Pisani in Stra and follows the Brenta canal through the Riviera del Brenta, home to the Palladian summer villas of the Venetian aristocrats of the high renaissance and baroque. The course then runs through industrial Marghera and Mestre, loops for 3K through Parco San Giuliano on the landward shore of the lagoon, then crosses the lagoon over the 4km Ponte della Liberta.

It continues around the hind end of Venice, where the cruise ships dock, and reaches the Zattere, the city's southern flank. From that point, it is a run like no other. It edges the Giudecca canal, passing that unprecedented string of Palladio churches -- Redentore, Zitelle, and San Giorgio Maggiore -- and at the Punta della Dogana crosses a temporary 170m pontoon bridge over St. Mark's Basin and continues past Piazza San Marco to the finish line, several bridges later, at the Riva Sette Martiri.

As marathons go, this one is considered "flat and fast." But in the last 3km there are 14 bridges over canals; wooden ramps are placed over the stone steps of the bridges making the run a bit of a roller coaster ride. The runners crossing the bridges echo like drums and thunder.

It is also one of the most beautiful cityscapes in the world, if not the most beautiful. Crossing the pontoon bridge across the basin the runners seemed as dazzled as they were exhausted. The crowd was generous with their rallying cries and rounds of applause for the runners. The clouds parted, perhaps s little too much for running comfort, but from a spectators point of view, the bright sun and blue sky were textbook beautiful.

See for yourself in the MARATHON GALLERY

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