Terry remembers – Venice 10K, 2019
I did the Venice 10k in October last year. This is what it will be like for if you go this year or in some year in the future.
You will be starting in Mestre, the functional mainland city across the water
from the Venetian islands. An early morning in San Giuliano Park, with 12,000
runners looking across the water to La Serenissima, Venezia through the mist.
You start. Very slowly, partly because they encourage all standards , walkers
and runners, and because there are a lot of Nordic walkers with big poles . This
is a very popular activity in Italy.
Through the park, a slight rise and you are on the 4 km long bridge, the Ponte
della Libertà , between Venice and the mainland. You run along with the sea on
either side, the mists are rising and Venice is coming into view. Cars on the
traffic lanes pass you with drivers honking their horns and waving. The
railwaymen on the great trains heading out from Santa Lucia to Roma, and
Milano and Istanbul sound their whistles loud and clear. The runners wave and
shout back. This is the causeway that the army of New Zealand rolled over to a
great welcome for liberating the city in 1945. Your lane is narrow and crowded
You can’t run past gangs of Nordic walkers. It is frustrating and exhilarating at
the same time.
Then, you are in Venice. But not, at first the tourist Venice. They send you
through the modern port area. Industrial, modern, unscenic, and unvisited but
an area that keeps the city as a real city and helps it scream “This is not
And then you enter the Venice of the jigsaw puzzles, of the tourist posters and
calendars. You are running along the Zattere, a 2-km-long embankment next to
the Giudecca Canal, close to the water. and for the first time your feet get wet,
slightly if it’s a lucky day , a lot if its unlucky. Who cares? You start crossing the
first of 14 city bridges, ramps on your runners side, steps on the other for
those going about their daily business..
Venetians are out on Sunday morning strolls watching you, and on the Zattere
they look like working Venetians, not day trippers. The first Gondolas and
Vaparettos appear. Across the canal you see the island of Guidecca, the gruff
part of Venice and you can pick out my favourite antithesis of Venetian tourism
the Communist Pub. Then the landmarks start coming. You see the famous
Tiepolo Church on the Island of San Giorgio and the Campanile, where you get
the best views of the lagoon.
Up some steps . You are at Santa Maria della Salute, Our Lady of Health.
painted many times by artists such as JMW Turner and Canaletto. It was built
in thanksgiving for deliverance from an unusually devastating outbreak of the
plague in the year 1630.
And you are at the mouth of the Grand Canal. What awaits you ?
A 170-meters-long pontoon bridge, erected for the day to allow runners to
cross the Grand Canal. You run to the middle. And you may stop and think.
When you first started running you may have dreamed about the places you
would like to go. The Tyne Bridge. The Mall. The Cheviot. New York. But you
never imagined that one day the Italians would build a temporary bridge
across the mouth of the Grand Canal. To allow you, a runner to cross it. This
was the place where, for centuries, the City of Venice was married each year to
the sea. If you are checking your watch here, and thinking about your time,
then you are short of a soul. Just let the Nordic walkers pass you and just feel
what you can see.
How do they follow that ? Benissimo !!
You come off the bridge, having taken it slowly to absorb it all . And then you
are straight into St Marks Square, probably the most beautiful square in the
world. Turn left by the Bibliotecca Marciana designed by Sansovino. They really
make you do a lap of St Marks Square. Marvel at the colours of the din, the
applause and cheering all around you . Gondoliers, canalboatmen, nuns,
pickpockets, bewildered tourists with big cameras, signori e signorine in
elegant San Marco fashion, beggars, seagulls, lonesome travellers, carabinieri,
Fellini extras, artists, musicians, waiters. Then at the far end of the square and
you are running back towards the great big beautiful crawling caterpillar that is
St Marks Cathedral. And the lion of St Mark watches it all from his pedestal.
Out of the Square, and more bridges to cross along the Riva degli Schiavoni.
Past the Bridge of Sighs, with a famous Palace on one shoulder and a prison on
the other. Past Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà, Vivaldi’s Church, where the
Red Priest would perform with his all girl orchestra. On your right you look
over the waters to the islands. To Murano, the glass island, and San Lazarro,
the former leper colony that became a home for stray cats. And the waters of
the Laguna Veneta, drifting out to the Adriatic Sea.
You finish in Il Giardino, where they hold the Art Biennial. A goody bag and a
queue for the boat to take you back to your hotel. On the boat you think
about the grey training days, the muddy runs, the injuries and the cold. And
because you went through them you were able to go through this morning of
colour that has got itself into your head and which you will be able to play in
strange times, dull times and awful times in the decades to come.
The next Venice 10k , and the alternative Marathon , is scheduled for October
25 th , 2020. Optimistic maybe, but there are other years and other decades. And maybe the intercession of Santa Maria della Salute