A marathon I hadn´t planned much in advance, as my initial intention of running 12 marathons in a year was already achieved. I had firstly heard about it to Santi Hitos (Spanish runner with more marathons on his legs, near 300) in the Plazaola Marathon, back in September, that had included it in his plans.
Checking logistics back in October, I found a cheap direct flight Madrid-Pisa, 35€ return, that I bought, and a cheap B&B just a couple hundred meters of the start/finish line, with free cancellation until a few days before the race, that I booked. With plenty of time I skipped registration, and let the time go by, to get a final decision later. If I decided not to go, I would only lose the flight.
After San Sebastian marathon, and feeling with motivation for an extra race, I decide to give it a go, and just register in the last days of November. I had some doubts about trying a 13th marathon, as I had already tried in 2014, in Tenerife, and was cancelled because of the bad weather. Time to overcome my superstitions, and an occasion to visit Pisa and make my debut on Italian soil.
Early flight on Saturday, means an even earlier bus to the airport. I get up at 2.30am, walk to the bus station and take the bus to Madrid. Already in the airport, a long wait of 3h before the flight to Pisa. During the flight, and by pure chance, I sit on the adjacent seat to Pepe Turón, experienced marathon runner from my hometown, that is going to run Pisa for a 5th time. The flight seems shorter than the 2 hours it is, as we talk about races, next year calendar and running experiences.
Pisa airport is located very close to the town centre, and after arriving I decide to walk towards my accommodation. With a sunny, although cold day, is a good chance of enjoying Pisa´s old quarter, arriving to the Piazza dei Miracoli, which allocates some of the most beautiful buildings in Pisa, besides its world renowned Leaning Tower of Pisa. I check in the ticket office for the tower, as I had read online that was better to buy the tickets online in advance (with a 10€ surcharge!) because of the queues, but there is none, and decide to buy an entrance (18€) for later, so I have time to get to my B&B, leave luggage and have a quick lunch. Ascending the tower probably is a must in Pisa, although it is also possible to visit for free the nearby Cathedral and some money. The running expo is the next stop. It is in a sports centre, a bit far from the tourist places. It is not very big, and I pick my number and runner bag easily.
The morning appears cloudy and cold on race day. Temperature is going to oscillate between 1 and 5°C, with rain expected from 3pm. A very short walk gets me to the race start, at 9am, with 1800 runners registered for the marathon, and around that number for the other distances (officially half marathon, 14, 7 and 3K). There is no separation among runners, neither by time nor race. The square allocating us is quite small, although we leave it rapidly, to stroll around streets and follow the Arno riverside as we head outside Pisa.
Running between the 3.30 and 3.45 groups, the course get us to the seaside and the half marathon, with occasional front winds, following pine groves in a peaceful setting. We run parallel to the sea for 5 miles, although we only get brief glimpses, until reaching mile 18, when we start heading back to Pisa, following local roads, not always closed to the traffic on both directions. With the cold and wind, I run conservative, being surpassed by the 3.45 group with 2 miles to go. I know that the finish line is near, although we are still following side roads, and the Tower and Cathedral become visible only entering the Piazza.
Net time of 3.45.14, in position 839 out of 1714 finishers. Satisfying time considering the cold weather, I use the evening to stroll around, despite the heavy rain, and enjoy the Christmas setting.
With Pisa I finish my marathon running for 2018, where I have achieved 13 marathons for the first time. Italy becomes my country number 10, and first December marathon in my career.
Score: 3.25 (out of 5)
Pros: Pisa easily accessible by flight; airport at walking distance; central location for start/finish area, just on the side of the central square; affordable prices for food/travel/accommodation.
Cons: higher registration price for foreign runners; need of medical certificate (as with French races); lack of organization in the start; no much running in Pisa as such; sections with traffic in opposite direction, especially when returning to Pisa.