Ravenna Marathon - 2:47 - Get in!

When one of my closest friends came to me and said did I want to run the Ravenna Marathon, I just said yes straight away and thought little of it.  

Then a few days later it began to dawn on me, I’d never heard of Ravenna, I had no idea what country it was in, how big the race was, was it on the roads or trails?? So set about to investigate where this mystery place was! Well it was quite a relief to find it was a pancake flat race on the Italian coast, with almost guaranteed sunshine!

Sadly my friend had to pull out with injury (get well soon Thierry!) but my girlfriend Sarah was already committed, so we boarded the plane for Bologna and rented a car. A Fiat 500 of course!

I knew this race was going to come sandwiched in the middle of an intense period of racing, but I strongly believe in getting as much race day experience as possible. Treating it as a long training run, or an all out race to the finish.. it doesn’t really matter, it’s just a great opportunity to try new things, see the world and meet new runners. 

After day trips to Venice and San Marino, it was time to lace up and get down to the start line. 

In all the racing I’ve done, I’ve never been in a race where the half and full marathons start together and run part of the course together. It wasn’t a looped one, everyone did one loop.. it’s just the full has an extension loop half way through the course. 

It was carnage at the start, a real bun fight to get away. But after the first mile it started to open out and I found myself tucked into a group who all seemed to be aiming for the same time. My Italian language skills are zero, but luckily they spoke some English.  

We went through 10k in about 37:30 and I felt very comfortable, for the first time in ages it felt like my form was returning. I was running free, it was effortless and coasting along at a brisk pace.  

Time to take on some water.. coming into the aid station, they had bottles ready. Amazing! Grabbed the first one, big swig and it was fizzy! Who wants fizzy water mid race!!! 

As we got to 18k, all the pack I was in reduced to just me and one other runner. (Mattia) the rest all peeled off as they were running the half. 

The road ahead was completely open now, not another runner in sight. Half way came up in 1:20 and there was no obvious sign of a struggle...yet!

I’d been needing the loo (a number 1!) for the past 10k, but always refuse to stop in races.. not because I don’t want to waste time, but I can never get back up to pace again afterwards. It’s always been a weird problem I’ve had. But the need to go was becoming painful, so at 25k I dived in behind a bush.

I’d just opened a gel and taken a quick sip before stopping, but used the hand it was in to pull down my shorts and somehow I wee’d all over the gel without looking. It was one of those DID YOU ACTUALLY JUST DO THAT!!!! moments.. 

So that gel obviously got binned, meaning I only had one left for the remaining 17k.  

As predicted it was all downhill from there, the next few splits were painfully slow (4:10/4:15kms) and I couldn’t get my legs firing again at all. I got to 30k and a man on a bike said I was sitting in 9th, so that gave me a real boost, but I could tell I was quickly slowing.  

Runners were coming by me, but I was also catching others who were depleting more than I was. That last 10k was a real struggle. No gels, just pure grit and determination to get this race done. 

As 40k came up I knew I’d be finishing in 2:47 and a bit, which spurred me on to give it one last push for the finish line.

2:47:08 was my chip time and 20th place from about 1300 runners. A 6 minute improvement on Abingdon 3 weeks before and 10 minutes quicker than Amsterdam. 

So the train rolls on. Quicker, leaner and fitter. Ravenna was a great race, super flat course, very friendly and top PB potential. Valencia this coming weekend will be much tougher, with the predicted 20 degree heat, but hey.. I’ll take a tough run in sunny Spain versus a rainy training run in London any day!

Onwards and upwards, the comeback continues!