Florence Marathon-my 4th Marathon (29th Nov 2015)

The Florence Marathon (aka Firenze Marathon) took place on 29th November 2015. It was my 4th and the concluding marathon for the year.

Whenever I race in a foreign land, I make a point to reach the place 2 days earlier.This gives me enough time to acclimatize, fetch the start number, see the surroundings and most importantly-get into the marathon mood.

From Zurich, I took the train to Milan and changed to Trenitalia, a superfast train (300 km/h), to Florence. After reaching Florence, I started walking, hoping to reach the city center. As I walked down the street, it was hard to imagine that the city would be transformed into an arena where thousands of marathoners would battle it out the next day. The city looked crowded with tourists but were they all here to run the marathon? While walking I glanced at others and checked if the other person was also a runner. It is not that difficult to find out a marathon runner- they would generally wear running shoes, running t-shirts and have a body of a runner. After all this walking, it was time for a visit to the local Firenze coffee shop.

In Florence, I was going to stay with a family. I didn’t know them. One of the reasons for me to run in different places is to get connected with new people. I got connected to the More family through a common friend Rajesh. Somehow it turned out that Milind my host was also a marathoner. When I asked him if I could stay with them Milind replied “It is not a big house but there is always place for Marathon runners”. Later in the evening, I met Milind’s wife Shilpa and then we went to their home.

As for training, my previous marathon was on 25th October in Frankfurt. I had just 4 weeks in between the two races and my longest training distance before the marathon was 26 km. In my earlier races, I would train in the weekend before the race. However, this time I decided not to train in the weekend and this gave me enough time to recover. I did though need a 7 km run in the week of the race.

It was 29th November. Day for the Firenze marathon. I got up early around 5:30 am. Took a shower and had breakfast 2 hours before the race. I had bread, Nutella and a banana. I reached the starting area, then changed to my running gear and gave my bag with personal belongings to the truck which was lined up for that purpose. An announcement mentioned that 9000 runners were taking part in the marathon. Interestingly, this event had only full marathon participants. So all those around me would run the exact distance of 42.2 km.

As it was bit chilly many of the runners were still wearing jackets or pullovers before the start. As the countdown started, a relay of jackets and sweaters went flying above my head towards the sidelines. I saw this in Frankfurt too but unlike Frankfurt here the discarded clothes were being picked by some needy people.

Before the start of the race, I felt good and I was ready. I put my trademark white turban and the #turbanrunner was ready to start. This time, I was running without a watch or a phone. My idea was to keep track of the the 4 h pacemaker. I started much behind the 4 h pacemaker. Around 10 km mark, I caught up with the 4 h pacemakers and overtook them. 3 guys running with yellow balloons were making up the pacemaker team. One pacemaker was really cool. He was constantly cheering his co-runners and was saying something motivating. Sadly, I couldn’t follow his Italian words but his body language was marvelous. At 21 km, I was still going good. I had no idea about my time as I had no watch. In one way running without gadgets is good but I was at the same time quite curious to know my pace. The marathon track was all flat. The initial part of the Florence marathon is bit outside the main city but the second part of the race is within the city. It is like running in a museum; in an antiquated metropolis with its old buildings, ornate churches and curved alleys. The crowd was loud, very vocal and full of energy. Although, they couldn’t speak out my name but they shouted “Forza” “Forza” (Come On, Come On) all throughout. At 30 km, I was still ahead of the 4 h pacemaker. I was feeling my legs but I kept going on. Around 35 km, I was getting slower and at 38 km, I heard lots of cheering behind me but I didn’t want to look back. At this spot, the 4h pacemakers caught up with me. I tried to keep up with them but my legs were tired. The energetic 4h pacemaker was still infusing energy in other runners. At times in the race, when I felt tired. I shouted to myself- “Common Indi. Common. You need to do this”. These shouts just helped me to pass through the phase when I would give up.

Ultimately, I finished the 42.195 km in 4h 2min. This was my personal best. After the race, I was given my Finisher’s medal. I had earned it and I proudly hang around my neck and walked out of the race area. I had no desire to check what was written on the medal but I knew it was hanging around.

During the race, I had isotonic liquids but no concentrated sugar gels. I am still not sure, if I should take these gels. I was going strong till 35 km but then I was tired. I need to find ways that would carry me strong till the finish line.

Florence Marathon was a special race as 4 days before the race my mother-in-law Vasudha Gadre passed away. I used to call her Aai. I had to leave Megha, my daughter, with some friends as Kirti had to travel to Mumbai. I dedicate this race to Aai- Vasudha Gadre. Moreover, I thank Jidnya, Sudesh, Ala, Pushpam and Isha for taking care of Megha when both her parents were away.

Like always as in any race here again I made new friends- the More family, in particular their son Vedant. I thank them for hosting me and feeding me before and after the marathon. I invite them to Zurich and Milind- “Come and run the Zurich Marathon”.

When I start, I know I would finish
Sometimes my body doesn’t support
I shout at it - Come on. Do it.
Then the mind says. Take a rest.
I say to my mind- I need to do it.
The voices of my mind and my body want me to stop.
I don’t listen to these voices.
I keep going and I see the finish line.