First of all, I know I’m late in posting this race report, but I’ve been enjoying food, drink, and sunshine in Italy for a week, and a race report was not especially high up on my list of priorites, I’m sure you’ll understand.
I entered the Milan marathon last year, as I wanted to tackle another international marathon after my fantastic experience in Paris last year. As Milan was being held during the start of my Easter holidays, and was offering a discounted entry fee to Italian citizens, I signed up without too much consideration. And then I bullied Ronnie into entering, because I’m helpful like that.
As Ronnie has the luzury of choosing his days off, he set off for Milan on the Friday, while I was still at work. Ian and I flew to Heathrow, where we stayed in a ‘Yotel’, which is basically a pod hotel room in the airport. It was compact, but clean and quiet, and we got a few hours sleep before waking up at 5am to shower before our early flight to Milan.
I was pretty casual about booking, like, anything other than flights and a hostel room in Milan for two nights, so when Ronnie told me we were flying into the airport further out of the city, I kind of panicked for a few seconds before shrugging and deciding we’d just kind of ‘work it out’ once we arrived. Which we did. Ian and I collected our bags, caught a train into Stazione Centrale, and then jumped on the metro to the stop nearest the hostel, where Ronnie met us, and guided us to where we would be staying (and where he was staying as well). The only slight cock-up was not ‘validating’ our train ticket before we hopped on, which can apparently carry a hefty fine, but thankfully the conductor just kind of looked a bit annoyed, wrote something on our ticket, and walked away. Success! Well, apart from the view from our room…
Once we had dumped our belongings into our room, Ian and I joined Ronnie again, and we all headed towards the expo, armed with medical certificates and registration letters. It was a short enough walk, and we collected our race packs and (luminous) race shirts without incident. We also had a quick look at the stalls, but I wasn’t really in the mood for buying anything, and Ronnie made do with grabbing as many freebies as he could, pointless or not.
We headed back to the hostel for something to drink, and then went in search of some Italian carbs for our pre-race meal! Sadly, we were not staying in an area with an abundance of eateries, and every place we passed in the first 20 minutes of searching was ruled out because if we had been allowed through the door, I would have felt extremely uncomfortable in a hoodie, skirt, and trainers. Eventually, we ended up settling for a tourist trap restaurant with disappointingly average pasta dishes, but it was cheap enough, and we werern’t wanting to waste time trying to find somewhere else. Afterwards, I pretty much forced everyone to help me track down the nearest gelato shop, ignoring completely the advice in the marathon booklet to ‘avoid dairy’ the night before the race. What rebels we were!
We also checked out the the Duomo at night, and made plans to re-visit it the following afternoon.
Once back at the hostel, we said our goodnights and I went to sleep without preparing anything for the next day, because I am confident enough now in my ability to dress myself and collect anything I need within about 5 minutes of waking up. Thank you college and my crappy alarm. Unfortunately it was stuffy and hot in our room (apparently Ronnie’s was cool and breezy), and I later discovered that we must have been above a bunch of pipes or something directly underneath us, because the tiles on our floor were actually hot. Not ideal, but I eventually got to sleep.
My alarm failed to wake me up the next morning, but thankfully a police siren did, about 25 minutes before Ronnie and I had agreed to leave. I scrambled into my race kit, packed anything I might need into my Camelbak, and said goodbye to Ian before heading down for the complimentary breakfast (a croissant). There were a couple of other runners staying at the hostel, and Italian who had run Rome a couple of weeks before, and an American girl called Amira, who had picked Milan as her debut marathon. As a small group, we headed to the metro station and towards the start!
From the city centre to Rho Fiera, it was about 20 minutes on the metro. From there, it was another 10-15 minutes of walking through what looked like a giant conference centre until we found the bag drop/porta loos and queue/etc. near the start.
After all of the typical pre-race rituals, we made our way to the start line. I was in the 4:00-4:30 pen, whereas Ronnie and Amira were in the pen behind. Both failed to sneak into mine, but the guy policing the runners’ entrance called them back as they were walking away and let them in. Ronnie’s aim was to finish in about 4:30 or less, and Amira seemed happy to try and maintain 10 minute miles for as long as she could, so we agreed to run together.
We chatted in the 15 minutes leading up to the start, and it only then started to sink in that I was about to run a marathon. Up until the morning, I was still genuinely unsure about whether I would run at all after my mystery foot/ankle crisis a week before. I hadn’t run in over a week, my ankle was heavily taped up to avoid rolling, and I felt kind of unfit and lazy, but there I was, watching the helicopter filming us all the the start line, about to attempt a 26.2 mile run on a questionable ankle. I remember trying to recall what the time limit for finishing was, and also wondering how long it would take to hop 10k. I was perhaps a little bit concerned, but I told myself if I couldn’t run 26 miles today, I shouldn’t even attempt 53 in less than 3 weeks time. Today was a (slightly faster than average) training run with Ronnie, and that’s what I kept telling myself to take the pressure off a little.
The sun was rising, the skies were clear, and I was happy. But I was already starting to regret my Camelbak, because I was feeling comfortably warm standing still. It was, however, too late to do anything about that, as we were edging forward, already out of sight of the elite runners.
Ronnie, Amira, and I managed to stick together for the first mile or two, and, as usual, I kept having to remind Ronnie to reign in his pace – we were still a long way from the end. After about 10 minutes I was sweating profusely, and a quick reach around revealed that my back was drenched. My ankle was sore, but not excruciating, and though the tape was digging painfully into my skin, I figured I could always stop to rip it all off if it didn’t slacken up in time (which it did, a little, thankfully).
It was around here that we lost Amira. We thought maybe we’d have a chance to see her at the end, but later found out she crossed the line in 6+ hours. I know she was catching a flight home later in the afternoon, so I really feel for her. Ronnie and I kept a pretty steady pace, though, again, I kept making him slow down, and tried tucking in behind people running at the pace we should have been trying to maintain in an effort to stay steady, but Ronnie kept overtaking them, against my strict orders. He did agree to walk the water stops every 5k, though, which is nice, because I might have murdered him if I didn’t have adequate time to drink in everything I could get my hands on. Did I mention it was warm? Because it was warm.
After just over 10k, we passed the relay pens, filled with runners eagerly awaiting their teammates. Although the relay started after the we did, it wasn’t long before the second leg runners came bounding by us, fresh and fast. Screw them and their bouncy, sweat-free hair.
At around mile 13, the course goes alongside the finishing straight, and the helicopter overhead let us know that the winner was closeby. Sure enough, on our right, at, presumably, light speed, the marathon winner, Francis Kiprop, breezed alongside us, passing us with ease, and heading to the finish line. Ian, who had decided to visit the castle at the course finish, was lucky enough to catch him just before he crossed the line, before taking in some of the historical sights.
While Kiprop crossed the line, Ronnie and I were only halfway through our race, so we pressed on, beginning to feel the heat, and our quads. There were a few cobbled sections here, so I didn’t take in any of the impressive architecture, unless you consider paving to be fascinating.
At mile 20, Ronnie hit the wall. His chatting stopped, his breathing picked up, and he finally admitted that he was starting to struggle. I told him he still had time to play with, and that as long as the 4:30 pacers were behind him, he had nothing to worry about. I went ahead a little, and kept turning back to check he was on my heels. He was the first few times I turned back, and then he wasn’t. I walked through the next sponge station, and the next water stop, walking backwards to see if I could spot Ronnie and his loud Fetch shirt, but no luck, so I kept moving forwards. I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve with my face here.
At mile 25, a guy dressed as a banana passed me. I was sweating my balls off, and this guy in a full banana suit was happily jogging past me, smiling. I later realized he was part of a banana relay team, but I was so affronted at the sight of him that I chased him all the way to the finish (he still beat me). I did, however, manage to pass a group of guys dressed as an American football team, who had managed to hold Ian’s attention at the finish line so he completely missed catching a photo of me. In fact, he would have missed me altogether if I hadn’t shouted his name as I ran by! At least the event photographers managed to catch me…
Finally, sneaking in under 4:25, I crossed the line and collected my medal. Secretly, I was the most happy that I could stop running, but secondly that I could legitimately wear my race shirt, since I had finished. I found Ian at the castle, and we kept an eye out for Ronnie, who came in just after 4:36, crushing his previous marathon PB. We took a photo at the castle with our medals, and started the slow and aching journey back to the hostel for a shower, and a rest.
That afternoon, once cleaned up, we made our way to Il Duomo, were we checked out the impressive interior, and saved money by climbing the 230+ steps to the terraces instead of taking the lift. That was fun. At least the views were worth it!
When we got back to the hostel, we wearily said our goodnights again, and went to bed in preparation for journeys the next day.