After all the mountaineering done in 2017, I decided to take a break from mountaineering and work on my cardio. Last year I ran my first distance beyond 10K as well as my first half marathon. I ended up enjoying it so much that I ran three half marathons in total, aside from running more than that in training. So for 2018, I signed up for my first marathon. To prepare I also wanted to run a few half marathons and looked for one in February that I could ease into. The first available date was February 18th and it was between Barcelona and Verona. As I was going for a weekend only, I thought Barcelona couldn’t be experienced properly in one day (because the other day would be spent on running) so I opted for Verona. It helped that it was the city of Romeo and Juliet and it was right after Valentine’s day so there was a story here that I couldn’t miss.
I landed in the evening and took the excellent airport shuttle towards the city. After checking in, I walked around the city. I don’t know whether it was because of Valentine’s day but there were hearts all over the city. I went to Juliet’s house, which was locked, I snuck a peek anyway and noticed that it did not look like it does in the movie Letters to Juliet! The Piazza Dele Erbe is however beautiful at night and what I noticed was the life in the city, even at night near freezing temperatures.
The next day I spent on sightseeing. Since the city was quite compact it was also very walkable. I went around all the big sights and since I bought a Verona Card which gave me free entrance to most of the sights I got to go into most of the churches, the Arena and Juliet’s house. The highlights of the day were certainly the Arena which is huge and third largest in Italy. The Coliseum in Rome was built after this one and derives much of its design from it as well. What really impresses me is the state of it as the Coliseum is partially broken due to an earthquake striking and general disarray. Verona’s arena in comparison was maintained better and was used as an open theater for hundreds of years and still is.
Of course, a visit in Verona means a visit to Juliet’s house and balcony. This is the biggest draw of Verona and the size of the crowd definitely confirmed that. It was always busy. There’s a wall where people can put up letters which are being answered by Juliet’s secretaries (just like in the movie!). The balcony is famous but it’s a recent renovation.
Sunday was race day and below is the race report.
- What? Giulietta E Romeo Half Marathon
- When? February 18th, 2018
- How far? 21.1 kilometers
- Where? Verona, Italy
- Strava activity
- Finish – Completed
- Finish under 2 hours – Completed
- 5.4K – 00:31:21
- 7K – 00:39:52
- 10.3K – 00:58:05
- 15K – 01:24:03
- 19K – 01:46:12
- 21.1K – 01:56:59
Very little training as I am starting up training for a marathon. This is one of the first times I have run after suffering a sprained ankle in the end of January. Whatever height acclimatization I had from the mountains was long gone as well. My goal was therefore to finish in a respectable time of 2 hours.
I did my usual carb up two hours before (and it’s always at least two hours before) with toast, Nutella, ham, and eggs. At least that’s what they had in the Bed and Breakfast I stayed at. The race started at the stadium so I had to take a shuttle to get there. After delivering my clothing bag, I mistakenly walked up to the elite field before noticing that that was not my pace group! I shamefully went back and stayed behind the yellow 2-hour balloon.
The race started off in the worst way possible. Way too many people running way too slow. There’s a trick to avoiding other slow people which seem to be placing yourself in a faster group than your own. I didn’t get the memo so while everyone around me ran at a 6:30 pace I had to accelerate after a kilometer as the field cleared out a bit to catch up with my time. The beginning was slightly hilly but as we entered nearer to the old town it got flatter. I feared the wet cobblestones but they proved not to be an issue. Overall it went well for the first 5K and the pace I ran with to catch up to the slow start felt good so I continued at that pace. At 7K I took a gel as the first 2 aid stations didn’t have energy drinks. Having never used a gel before this was a gamechanger. I felt so energetic 1-2K after taking it that my pace increased. I managed to keep a steady pace until the last half a kilometer where I started to sprint and finished with a sprint finish as well.
Very Italian! There were Italian biscuits for recovery for some reason but I stuck with the fruit and energy drinks. The finish area was very crowded however so I quickly got out and celebrated with eating lasagna!
Verona is a really beautiful city, and probably even more so in the summer. It’s also very romantic so going there alone right after Valentines might not have been the best decision on my behalf. The race was well organized but I was disappointed by the lack of energy drinks at the aid stations and the crowds weren’t that impressive either. It’s a beautiful location to run in and you get to see most of the sights on the way so it was a nice race. The medal is really nice as well with the engraving of Juliet’s balcony (what else?) on it.
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