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Race Report: Lake Garda Marathon (18/10/2015)

October 20, 2015

In brief: better than expected, incredibly beautiful course, surprisingly easy to navigate the pick-up etc despite the language and culture barrier and incredibly friendly people. Would thoroughly recommend it [International Lake Garda Marathon]. Oh and how’s your Italian?

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 21.59.15

Because this happened:

Please note – the amazing Mr Bland running behind me. Legend.

And then we had to work out how to fit one of these in our Ryanair hand luggage!

International Lake Garda Marathon

I won 1st female and ended up on local Italian TV. I wish I’d been able to speak Italian. Insanity.

<UPDATE> I knew it was a small race but I now know that there were only 23 women running and 198 overall. Just in the interests of honesty <END OF UPDATE>

Anyway, I wrote a sort of blog diary over the weekend as I thought it might nice to record thoughts of my first overseas race experience. It’s really for my own records, but this is a blog and you are kind enough to read it so if you really want the long version, settle in.


Having passed up on the chance to go to the Tokyo Marathon or apply for Boston next year on the basis of trying to be wise about how we spend our money and time, it was very kind gesture of Mr B to suggest that we go to Lake Garda for our 5th Wedding anniversary whilst giving me chance to run my first ever marathon outside of England. He’d found out about it – flat, small field and achievable times given past performances and we knew that we liked the area so whatever happened we’d have a nice mini-holiday. The Italian athletics authority have quite strict rules about the documentation  required to compete, so it was only after the OK from coach Ben and a lot of help from some very kind people in AR (Paola and Ash, thankyou), the BBC Running Club and a kind gentleman at the England Athletics membership helpline that I was relatively confident I would be allowed to pick up my number and run the race.

Friday 16th

We’re off to Lake Garda for a pre-anniversary weekend away. Travelling to go to a race makes me feel like a real athlete. It’s quite odd. I know loads of people travel all over to run races, but as a first time race-traveller this is a new experience.

The main reason for this trip is to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary, so whilst what I write about will be running it’s not the most important thing about the weekend and it needs to take its place. This means a very different set of feelings than before Bournemouth two weekends ago. Bournemouth was a stomach-knotting mix of anticipation, the culmination of training, excitement and a chance to really fire up and use the fear. For this race my main concern is whether they will actually let me in and whether my legs will make it to the end and that Mr B has fun at the same time. It’s a small race but, with a 30k and 15k run at the same time. I think there’s about 300 doing the full marathon and the female winner is normally just around/over the 3 hr mark [since checked – last year it was won by Monica Carlin in 3:04:11]. I think the race will be quite a solitary affair, much more like my own long runs. I can’t imagine you can get many crowds out either. Last year I did Manchester with London one week after, so I wonder how 2 weeks of low/no training will affect this. I gave in and did a runcommute on Thursday just to prove to myself I could still get the legs going but it feels like a long time since I ran at any kind of pace.

Mr B came up with a great plan yesterday – treat the flats as marathon paced training and the uphill as whatever I like [I totally forgot this during the race! oops] . I think it’ll be  a lovely run around the lake and through vineyards. With such a small field I guess it’ll be very spread out so let’s hope it’s well marshalled. Something in the race info mentions personal sponges – not sure what that is about! It also said that Italian regulations mean water every 5k which could be nice.

I’m sure it doesn’t fit ‘proper’ training for real athletes and I probably need to think  more about race scheduling in the future, but at the moment I think there’s a lot to be said for the 1 ‘big’ aim race and another soon after for fun. Anticipation and adrenaline is good but it’s lovely just being excited to get out there and run for the fun of it. One thought though – I say there’s no time pressure but given that this is an anniversary trip I’d like to spend as much time with Mr B as possible, so the faster I run the fast I get back to eat icecreams with my gent! Now there’s an incentive.

Sat 17th

We drove some of the race route today and stopped near the end section in Riva Sul Garda. I’m so excited about getting to run this route. It’s beautiful here. A bit overcast / chilly but probably great running weather. There’s a part of me that would still love to go Sub 3 – it would feel like the season’s training was worth it  but with the taper and recovery weeks and Bournemouth I suppose that’s silly… maybe. I wonder how it will go!

Saw signs for a Sky Race in Limone including a vertical Kilometer. It made me think of the AR guys when they did one in Chamonix. I wonder how the Autumn 100 is going. It would be an amazing place to run aruond the tops of the hills/mountains. We’re going to go in search of snow on Monday.

Sun 18th

[not written on the day] No banter at the start of the race but within meters a couple of guys had excitedly commented on my BBC Running top ‘like the TV the news’ and after about 3k I settled into rhythm next to a guy who was training for the Florence marathon. He was very sweet and started translating what the people around were saying. It turned out I was second lady behind the 6 time winner, a lady called Monica Carlin who has a great record with 100k races too. The course was, as expected ,a real joy to run. There’s no need for headphones when you have views like that! Just after half way in a tunnel through a mountain and with a motorbike beside me monitoring progress I overtook the lead lady. I thought she’d give it some fight, but it later turned out she had a horrible cold. It felt great and fun all the way up to mile 20. The final 6miles are around the two towns at the top of the lake. Some of the roads are not closed and I was lucky that being lead runner meant I had a bike in front of me showing the way. It was rather odd being filmed – fun for about 1 minute and then it’s hard to keep the grin. I did wonder if I might have the 3 hr within my sights but then I remembered it was 42k and not 40k. I tried to focus a bit more on not leaning as much when I was tired at the end, though the video shows that my form was still awful. Oh dear! At 41k I heard the loudest and most welcome shout of ‘Gill’ from across a bridge and Mr B was waiting there – running with me to the end. Crossed the line 1st female in 3:04:02. Still no sub 3 for me but what an experience! I had a camera in my face and felt awful not being able to say something in Italian, but thanks Lake Garda and thanks Mr B – you were awesome. 

Mon 18th

Well, that was a bizarre day. The race felt much more enjoyable than Bournemouth. I was still really loving it at half way and even beyond. The last 2 k were pretty tough and I struggled to lift my legs but the mountains and the lake just take it all away. I am well aware that most marathons would have much faster winners, but it was a great learning experience to have to stick out there on my own. I hope that the time improvement from Bournemouth means that I was really ready to do more but just had a bad race there. Time will tell. Now we go to find snow up the top of Monte Baldo.

Monte Baldo

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2015 9:21 am

    winning is always fun! super awesome/awkward with the camera. I hope you have a copy of that video. hide it from your coach though or you’ll be doing form drills. congrats!

  2. October 21, 2015 10:09 am

    First female! What an amazing time and achievement and I can’t believe you had just done another marathon a couple of weeks before. That’s absolutely incredible, well done. Sounds like you had a brilliant weekend, happy anniversary.

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