Review of the Florence Marathon

This recap was provided by Academy member Kristy Harris, who lives in England, and ran this as her first marathon.

The Firenze (Florence) Marathon in Firenze, Italy, is in its 33rd year and this year was a new course.

We rented an airBnB in downtown Florence with a view of the Duomo. This was perfect as the start and finish were literally steps away from the apartment.

The only downside to our apartment is it was a 5th story walk up!

Review of the Florence Marathon

Race Expo

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and went to the expo to pick up my bib around 11:00 on Friday. There was no line and I got my bib right away. The downside to the expo was that you had to walk a gauntlet to get o the area to get your bag and free T-shirt that went the entire length of the expo site and there was no way out from that end, so you had to walk all the way back through to the start to get out.

The expo itself was okay. Mostly booths from other European marathons and a few sales booths. The other key is that 80% of the participants are Italian so not a lot of English even at the expo, except for the other marathoners from Europe.

The expo itself was out at the Stadium, near one of the local train stations, which you will end up running through and around later. I guess you could taxi there from downtown, but be prepared to walk back to town as there weren’t many taxis around at the stadium. My friends tried to pick up their packets on Saturday around 2pm and said the expo was super crowded and not well manned, so keep that in mind.

The Course

The start was pretty good, it started at 8:30 and even I was in the last corral and crossed the start line around 8:40. They said officially the cut off was 6 hours and the last runner started at 8:45 am.

The course started on cobblestone but quickly turned to pavement. We ran past the Medici Palace and then worked our way through a big park in Florence that bordered the river. You did a bit of a serpentine through the park and then crossed over the bridge to the south side of the river.

We ran down the river for about 2 kilometers, back towards a water stop, and then again down the river another couple of kilometers. Parts of this portion between miles 8-11 were on cobblestone and then back to pavement.

We crossed the River Arno again and went into the “city” right around the half marathon mark and cruised past the Santa Croce before heading out of town towards the industrial section for miles 14-21 or so.

We went through the Stadium (where the expo was held) and worked our way back into town again through a portion of the streets and back onto cobblestone past the Duomo (the main cathedral) and winded around the cobblestones (remember how much I hated them) before crossing the Ponte Veccio Bridge (which we looped around about mile 9).

Thereafter we ran back on the south side of the river again, until we crossed back over to the main side of the city around KM 39. From then on we were back on cobblestone as we wove in and out of the old city until we crossed the finish line heading back to the Duomo.

My complaints were too much cobblestone and a bit of a feeling of “rolling up the sidewalk” as a back of packer. By the time we were back in the city at KM 40, tourists had made their way onto the course and it was hard to keep track of the turns.

Course Support

The course was well marshaled though and generally they did there best to keep you pointed in the right direction.

Water stops were great with “salts” aka electrolyte drinks, warm sweet tea and water. After Km 20 they also had fruit (bananas and lemons) and granola bars and Italian cakes after KM 35. Lots of volunteer support and great crowds to cheer you on when you were in the main part of the city. The industrial portion got a bit long, and lonely, but the rest of the race was fantastic.

Other than my slow pace which lead to crowds on the course at the end and the cobblestones (which are the price to pay to run in one of Europe’s most iconic cities) it was a great race. My only do over would be to spend a few more days as I didn’t get the chance to properly do all of the museums or eat all the food. And the food… motto delizioso!

  • Super flat, other than one overpass and one underpass.
  • Fast (the winner ran 2:13 even with the cobblestones and well supported.

I would really recommend this run, particularly if you were going to do it in 4-5 hour range…..but the 6 hour cut of is a hard stop and they no longer had any support after 2:15 p.m. (6 hours after the last person crossed the start line).

And if you do go, I have a few restaurant recommendations for you….

26.2 Thoughts about My Marathon (in no particular order)

1. I can’t believe I finished. I mean I can, I trained for it, I worked hard for it, but it is still such an amazing feeling to know I did it!
2. Cobblestones suck.
3. Gratitude takes you further when you are in pain and hitting a low spot. Knowing that I have lots to be thankful for propelled me through.
4. Mile 18 is long, and lonely.
5. My legs felt pretty good after the run, my feet did not.
6. 6 days later my toenails still hurt, refer back to #2.
7. Mental strength was the hardest thing to learn. Physical training was easy.
8. #MyRaceMyPace was the best mantra I could have.
9. #Iamstrong was the next mantra.
10. Plan. The training plan for me was key. Knowing that I had incremental goals made this achievable. Having to do this without a plan would have been impossible.
11. Cobblestones are not made for running
12. Florence (Firenze) is beautiful. Except for the cobblestones.
13. I cried when I crossed the line, not from pain, but from the joy of knowing that I made it with a smile on my face, happy, and without pain.
14. I am now in the .5% of the population that has run a marathon.
15. Marathoning is an elitist sport but I don’t think it needs to be.
16. Running a marathon is a great test of mental and physical toughness but I did it, and I think more people could do it if they really wanted to.
17. You have to really want to, this is not time for half-ass commitments.
18. I think it may be harder to be a back of pack runner on the course and watching them close up the water stations at mile 24 knowing there are still people behind you who want to finish.
19. Cobblestones are pretty. No I changed my mind, I hate them.
20. Random thoughts run through your head when you are running like;

“Why did I say I was going to do this?”

“This is awesome, I could keep running forever.”

“I am a freakin’ machine I feel so good.”

“Thank God I am almost done I am starving!”

21. I am so glad I did this. It is one of the best things I have accomplished ever (besides my kids of course, but I had help with that).
22. Runners high does exist, it just took me 26.2 miles to find it.
23. Why are my feet still swollen? Cobbles. I think you get the idea
24. Support. I could not have done this without the support. My husband is a rockstar.
25. I think the Italians are cruel. They cook amazing food, and they had the audacity to do it at lunch time, while I was still running.
26. Sometimes setting an outrageous goal as a 50 year old is what it takes to #LiveLifeAsAnAdventure
26.2 Now I am wondering, what’s next?

Kristy Harris is Director of Legal Affairs at Harley-Davidson and has lived in Oregon, China, Taiwan, and Singapore but currently hangs her hat in England.

She was a featured guest on podcast episode 159 -How Busy People Find Time to Train.

3 Responses to Review of the Florence Marathon

  1. nikolas September 28, 2021 at 2:42 pm #

    Great review! How many km (approximately) were on cobblestone ?

  2. Kristy September 29, 2021 at 8:00 am #

    Hi Nikolas- it’s been a few years but I’d say probably 10k total is cobblestone. But seemed like more at the time! It’s a great marathon you should totally do it!

  3. Phil September 2, 2022 at 10:40 am #

    Thanks, Kristy. This was a great insight into the Florence marathon (and its cobblestones). We’re running this year and can’t wait!

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