Destination Marathon: Rookie mistakes to avoid.
My first marathon I ran in Venice, Italy. I thought if I was going to run a marathon it should be some place awesome. Go big or Go home. I made a three week European adventure to go with it. I decided that I would visit five cities; Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Paris then Venice. My goal was to run all these cities. I could train while I was away and finish with the marathon.
Everything was fine and dandy until 12 am the morning before my flight to Venice. It was a Thursday morning and I was in Paris when I recieved an email that my flight to Venice had been cancelled. Italy was- on strike. Yes the whole country was on strike. Planes, trains you name it would all be shut down for 24 hours (all of Friday). The marathon was on Sunday. It was Thursday. I needed to get to Venice by Saturday afternoon at the latest to pick up my bib and settle in before the race.
Problem #1. Since my airline wouldn't reschedule my flight, I had to wait 30 days to get my money back. I had no extra cash, I didn't budget for emergencies. I had to call mom. I was 34 years old and I had to call my mom. How pathetic.
What I learned: I should have had an emergency fund. Duh. Also I learned that transportation striking is very common in Italy. Infact it was a planned strike months in advance. I never thought to check. But why would I have?
Problem #2. How was I going to make it to Venice in time for the marathon?
Plan 1: Fortunately Air Italia was still letting people book tickets for that Friday and said there is a 50/50 chance the plane will not take off but we will take your money if you are willing to try. I bought the ticket. Another problem remained: If and when I got to Venice on Friday how would I get to the island? All transportation was on strike. Would I just camp out at the airport until 12 am Saturday morning?
Plan 2: If the plane didn't fly I would have to take a 12 hour train ride from Paris to Venice at 12 am Saturday morning- getting me into Venice at 12 pm. Not something I was too keen about but it would have to be done. And again more money I would have to spend and another phone call to mom would have been made.
Obviously my last day in Paris sucked because I was so preoccupied strategizing how I was getting to Venice. What a waste! In Paris, stressed and depressed? WTF indeed.
I went to the airport Friday, stood in line and watched most flights to Italy get cancelled on the departure screen. I asked the counter agent if any planes were flying. She said maybe to Rome. My flight was to stop in Rome before heading to Venice. Again a 50/50 chance my flight to Venice would take off too if I made it to Rome.
Then they couldn't find my reservation. Nobody could help me. They kept passing me off to another person and then another person and time was passing and my flight was inching closer. Twenty minutes before the gates were closed I made it in. I made it to Rome . Flights were delayed massively to Venice but I made it by late Friday night and by that time water taxis were running. Yay!
What I learned: I should have arrived to Venice more than a day and a half before the marathon. I didn't plan for delays of anykind and even so I didn't leave myself enough time to get acclimated. I had one day to get my BIB (which was a whole other ordeal because the location was off the island) and figure out which water taxi I had to take the following day at the ass crack of dawn. Venice is confusing if you have never been there before so that day was super stressful figuring everything out when I should have been relaxing on a goddamn gondola. Lesson learned.
When I arrived at my hotel I was informed me that my room was actually a couple streets away (I opted for the cheapest room with a shared bathroom to cut costs). The room was fine although it was above a bar that blasted music until 3 am. No bueno for sleep. I made it through that night but the next day had to ask for an upgrade. Thankfully somebody cancelled and they were able too. Marathon weekend is busy in Venice and there were no vacancies anywhere.
What I learned: Don't skimp. There are things you can cut corners on but hotels are not one of them. I should have made sure it was a quiet room and in a quiet area before I booked. It was the cheapest I found so I took it and didn't think twice. A good night's sleep is crucial before the big day. Again Duh.
Destination marathons are meant to be fun and should be stress free! Shit happens and you can't control everything but 80 percent of my aggravation could have been avoided with proper planning and an emergency fund.