by Melinda Gallo

Watching the Maratona di Firenze

This morning at 8am, I was on the Ponte alle Grazie with my marito (husband) waiting for his friends to arrive to run the Maratona di Firenze. An hour before we headed outside, people were already walking through our piazza to get to the starting line at the Lungarno Pecori Geraldi. The weather was certainly on our side: clear, blue skies with no clouds in sight. It was a dream compared to last year when we had heavy rains and cold temperatures.

Living in Florence :: Watching the Maratona di Firenze

I took a photo of the group on Ponte alle Grazie with the Ponte Vecchio behind them before making our way to the starting line. It was obvious how excited they all were about the race. I was excited for them too, and impressed that they would be spending the next three to four hours running a marathon in and around Florence.

For the past few years, the starting line has been in Piazzale Michelangiolo. It was a beautiful place to start the race, but not very convenient for the runners who had to leave behind their bags in the large containers lined up along the lungarno near the Biblioteca Nazionale.

I walked my marito to the starting area and had to leave the area almost immediately due to the dense crowds moving in both directions. I missed the departure this time. It's not that amazing the departure as it is the areas after the runners have left. Once they have all passed the starting line, all you see are the clothes they stripped off before the race piled up along the fences.

While the runners headed up the viale (large avenue) toward Piazza Libertà, I walked toward Piazza Santa Croce where the finish line was. When I arrived, they were still putting up banners on the metal barriers and blowing up the red balloon arches that the runners would be going under before finishing the race. I walked through the mostly empty piazza and passed the empty stands. I walked under the finish line where the clock read “00:00:00”. I was hoping to get out of the area at Borgo dei Greci, but they had closed off the area completely with two-meter high fences made of thick wire. I walked past the tables where they were preparing the fruit, drinks, and snacks all the way to via dei Neri to get out.

I went to Vivoli to have a caffè and a brioche (pastry) before heading out to Piazza Demidoff, which was the 20 km mark for the marathon, where I was going to take photos of my marito. Since I had at least an hour and a half ahead of me, I decided to walk along the Arno, which was much quieter than usual due to the absence of cars, toward Ponte Vespucci. I usually run past this ponte and am always taken by the view of San Frediano in Cestello and its reflection on the Arno. Today, I decided to take a photo of it.

I made it to Piazza Demidoff before my husband ran by and stood in the shade in front of the monument that I took a photo of with my iPhone. After cheering on the other runners, I finally spotted my marito in the crowd and snapped a few photos as he passed me by. Afterwards, I made my way through the streets, which were partially blocked off to get to the Duomo. After a few dead-ends, I finally took a few backstreets and made it there. On one side of the Battistero was the 35 km point and on the other side 40 km. I was able to take a few pictures each time he passed.

After my marito ran right below the front of the Duomo, I followed the percorso (route) down via Proncosolo. The runners turned down via Ghibellina and I headed toward via dei Neri where I knew the runners would be exiting. Almost every runner had on the thin foil-like poncho to keep their temperature from going too low. So many smiling and relieved faces. It was a joy to see them all finish the race.

After I met up with my marito, we walked to the Ponte alle Grazie to wait for his friends to see how they did. Everyone was happy with their results and also just to have completed such an amazing feat. The one thing everyone was happy about was the weather because the conditions were perfect for running.

It was an amazing day in Florence and what a joy to see so many people succeed together in their personal goals. It is certainly inspirational not just for runners, but for all of us that if we put our mind to something and work at it, we can make dreams happen.

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