Monday, 20 December 2010

No Pisa no marathon

So, the Arctic winter in Europe meant I couldn't run my Pisa marathon in the end.

We were never able to even leave England. We arrived in Stansted on Friday evening and went through passport control and security without any problems. And then we looked at the screens to find out our gate, only to discover that our Ryanair flight to Pisa had just been cancelled. 

I am OK writing about it now, but I can tell you this. It was sheer shock, what I felt on Friday. Not a good day for me. Tears and more tears as the realisation of my recent bad marathon luck (in Athens the flu, this time the bad weather) hit home. I wouldn't be able to run a good marathon any time soon.

We looked for other flights to get to Italy, from other UK airports and to other Italian destinations. We had no luck. Pisa had just had the worse snowfall of the past 30 years, we were told, over 30 cm of snow, and the tiny airport 'Galileo Galilei' had succumbed to tons of the white stuff. We considered getting to Milan, Florence, Bologna, Rome, even Naples... Either all flights were booked by Italian students going home for Xmas, or the only one flight we could find was so expensive and near the time of the race start (arriving in Bologna Saturday evening, which meant I wouldn't get to Pisa before 10 at night) that it made no sense booking it. I would be so tired even if we did manage to get to Pisa on time... Tears and more tears... 

The way back home to Oxford was a nightmare as the snow seemed to have arrived for good not only in Italy but in England as well. It is hard enough fighting the weather on the one end of the travel itinerary, let alone on two. It took us two hours to drive a mile and a half on the A34 due to an incident on the road. 
Trapped in Oxfordshire's A34 on Saturday afternoon.

Eventually we got back exhausted but happy we were safe at home. You don't want to be outside when conditions are so extreme. We were in desperate need of a drink, so we immediately hit the pub! That would have been my race night and here I was gulping mulled wine and trying to walk across Oxford in deep snow! 

Our street in Oxford upon arrival.
Let's escape to the pub!

The race was in the back of my mind a lot and I felt with a mixture of sadness, dissapointment and  yes, some self-doubt too. Did I do everything I could to get to Pisa or did I give up too easily? Should I have paid the 700 pounds of the British Airways Saturday evening flight to Bologna? 

Well, any doubts I might have had quickly evaporated later on Saturday night when I received the following text message on my mobile: "Due to very bad weather conditions and to avoid personal injuries we are forced to cancel Pisa Marathon (42K and 21 K). For info visit". 

So there was to be no race at all! The race itself was never to happen!  There would be no start in Pontedera on Sunday morning!

Well, this had never happened to me before! But everything was beyond mine and Colin's control. So even though I am deeply dissapointed, at the same time I am also glad we never went to Italy and we were never stranded in any airport like the thousands of travelers we are now watching on the news. Leaving Stansted swiftly was a good decision, in retrospect. 

I am feeling very sorry for the race organisers (shout out to you, Andrea Maggini!) in Pisa who had given so much of their personal dedication and time to lay out a fast and safe race through Tuscany. It must surely be so horrible to see your race being cancelled (by the police, for safety reasons) at the very last minute - after the marathon expo and after all the runners have received their bips and chips and have already moved on to the pasta party. I suspect the threat of ice must have been really severe in Pisa, just as it is in Oxford at the moment. 

A walk along the beautiful and very frozen Oxford canal.

Playing with the snow in Port Meadow.
After all these disuptions, I took the entire weekend off running. Yesterday we played in the snow with Lisa and had a grand wintry pub lunch with close friends to celebrate Colin's birthday. Today I am ready to run through the snow to get to the gym and hit the treadmill. Soon I will have to reavaluate my running plans.


  1. So sorry to read this but nothing could have done. This year I've known cases of friends of mine who missed a marathon due to the icelandic volcano or a sudden airport controllers strike. Not only a flue must be considered! In these cases I realised that a marathon next to your door is a good bet.
    So, there's no way but training again. That's the way I, as a marathoner feel, trying again and again looking for the best marathon, looking for someone in our lives, for the best written words. Forever!

  2. Hi Daniel!
    Thanks for your kind words. I feel exactly like you say too. We are marathoners after all, this is the lesson we are supposed to be learning all along! To try again and again and strive for the best and then hopefully at some point we can achieve it!
    Just to be able to run is amazing and I am so thankful I can do it! Even running in the snow, as I did today, is such a special experience! We are very lucky people!
    Well, I hope we can continue to run many many more marathons to come, and who knows? maybe I will take up your invitation to Barcelona! I think after the holidays I will be ready to set new goals and challenges!
    Merry Christmas!

  3. Merry Xmas for you all!
    There are now >10.400 registrations and two and a half months to go yet! It will be a great party!
    I remember the marathon in the late 80s when we were only 3.000 of us on the streets.