So, I had a few days holiday to use up before the end of the year and, with nothing much planned this side of Christmas, what else was there to do but look for another little trip away? After a quick search I found a cracking little half marathon along the shores of Lake Maggiore, north of Milan. With direct flights with Ryanair to Milan (also known as Bergamo which is 30 miles away!) and good bus and train links to get around, everything was booked and I was excited to get going.
Having left Newcastle at 07:15 on the Friday morning, it was fantastic to be eating ice cream in front of Milan cathedral by 1pm, in the sunshine and looking forward to doing a bit of sight-seeing before getting on the train to the lake the next day. The weather was great – not hot, but clear blue skies and sun which was enough to keep it mild and enjoyable just pottering around and thinking about the race.
Although there is a parkrun in Milan, I decided to give this a miss and rest the legs a bit. A lazy breakfast of coffee and croissants was the perfect start for me and I was soon on my way to catch the train north for the half hour or so trip to the race start point and Expo at Arona, at the southern end of the lake. The expo was pretty low key with different bib collection zones for the different races – 10km/21km/33km/42km, and the usual clothing and shoe stalls and race t shirt collection. Nice spot though on the lake and once I’d got my bib and shirt, I was on the train again north following the shore-line and race route to Stresa where I was staying. This is where the half marathon finishes. The full marathon continues beyond Stresa to Verbania.
Race day came and I got the train back down to Arona in plenty of time for the 9:05 start. I say plenty of time but I faffed on in my warm up and messed up so much that I actually missed the start! In the end I was practically the last person to cross the start line! But that was fine, I set off steady and gradually caught the main group of runners. The route headed south first for a few kms before turning round and heading back through Arona and then north alongside the western edge of the lake towards Stresa.
Conditions were perfect – blue sky and sun again, mild conditions and the vibe amongst the runners was great. Not many fun runners in tutu’s though but I got chatting to some randomers – a Brit from Liverpool and a couple of Italians who were interested to see some Brits making the trip. The route was very flat, only some slight inclines which weren’t that noticeable really so I’d say this was a very flat and fast course. I did slow from time to time to take a few photos along the way as the scenery right by the lake with mountains beyond and picturesque villages to run though was stunning. Maintaining a steady pace throughout, I finished in 1:54 and feeling fine really so I was pleased with how I got on.
After some lunch I had some free time for a little boat trip to an island in the lake, and a leisurely evening before catching the train back to Milan and bus to the airport on the Monday.
The half was a fab race, but with 10km, 33km and 42km races too, this would make a good club trip with something for everyone. It’s very accessible from Newcastle with short flight times, not too expensive and a parkrun option too for those who want to get up early! With such good transport links and close proximity to Milan, you could easily base yourself the entire time in Milan and just travel up and back on race day. It’s an event they also do in May if you’re interested!
Anyway, I got back to work and it turns out I have a few more days annual leave remaining which I can carry forward. I don’t have that much planned in the New Year, but then again…! Ciao