Is it possible to run a Marathon in Venice, Italy? Yes it is possible to run Venice Marathon, but be prepared for a lot of bridges.
Travel & Accessibility
Getting to Venice, Italy is relatively easy. It has a major airport, which is connected to Venice by bus, or (in case you live quite close) you can also take the train. The best way to explore Venice is on foot or by taking a waterbus, which are called vaporetto. Therefore I chose a light backpack instead of a suitcase for this weekend trip, as it made it easier to travel. Make sure to take good care of your valuables as there are many people and the streets are very crowded. One of the most important thing is to plan ahead in which part you want to stay during your trip: in Venice, Mestre or Stra.
The bib pick up and Venice marathon expo is located in Mestre and is accessible by tram. If you are staying in Venice, you will have to go to the Piazzale Roma stop first, as the tram leaves from there. The start of Venice Marathon is in Stra, which is located outside of Venice. There are buses leaving from the Mercato stop to take you there. Getting to the stop in the early morning was quite a hassle, as there was only one night vaporetto scheduled, which everyone had to take and therefore it was extremely crowded. Getting onto the buses was a bit tricky. Everyone had to line up in a long queue and buses where called one by one. It took quite a while until it was our turn.
The finish line area of Venice Marathon is located at Giardini close to Piazza San Marco, which is quite a narrow part and a bit crowded. Getting back from there can be difficult. The normal vaporetto traffic is suspended, with only a few lines running. We ended up walking back to our flat, which -after having just done a full marathon- was a bit exhausting. I personally would suggest to stay in Venice, either close to the train/tram station, or close to St. Marks Square.
Pre-Race & Bib Pick-Up
The registration for Venice Marathon was complicated as the website is not very user friendly. Most of the information is only available in Italian. Luckily I speak Spanish and was able to navigate through. In the end you were asked for a medical certificate from an Italian doctor, but after having done some research I found out that any certificate from a doctor is fine and certificates are in various languages.
The Bib pick up was very smooth and easy. Be prepared to show your passport and (very important) your medical certificate.
There is also a small expo where you can buy things and checkout other races. The startline area of Venice Marathon was also okay, equipped with a changing tent and a medium amount of porta potties. However the area was quite narrow and therefore full of people.
Unfortunately there were no porta potties close to our starting corral, so we waited to get in there until the very last minute. The start is right in front of the Villa Paisano, so make sure you enjoy the views.
Venice Marathon Race & Course
The course of Venice Marathon goes the first 20km fairly straight towards Mestre, passing some pretty, but sometimes run-down palaces and villas. At around 30km you pass a quite wobbly footbridge into the San Giuliano park. The next bit is the hardest of the whole course: the 5km long bridge that brings you into Venice. This can feel like a neverending distance. The last 2km are the only ones that are in Venice as such. Be prepared to run over a lot if bridges, including a floating mobile one that is only set up for the Marathon weekend. Most of the bridges are covered with 1m wide wooden plates, so you don’t have to take the steps. But they are usually too narrow to overtake other runners.
After a quick loop around St. Marks Square (selfie time!!!) you continue along the canal, cross several more bridges -you will understand why not more people run the race- and finish in front of the Giardini park.
Venice Marathon Finish Area
The finish area of Venice Marathon was quite narrow and small, which is understandable given the city. But refreshments were good and bag pick-up was fast. However the directions how to get to the right vaporetto stop was confusing, with not all vaporetto lines running or stopping regularly. In the end we walked back home to our flat over what felt like hills, not bridges.
It is Venice after all, so it will be completely crowded with tourists. I usually like to avoid the big tourist traps, like the overpriced coffees at St Marks Square and mediocre Bellinis at Harry’s Bar.
A definite must-see is the Fontego dei Tedeschi. Not because of the fancy designer store inside, but the great rooftop terrace with amazing views on Rialto Bridge. Try to be there early, or get a pre assigned time slot.
Do you want to run a Marathon yourself? Check out my blog post on the best Marathon gear, pacing strategy and tips for your first Marathon.