As the 14km milestone comes into sight marking the first third of the marathon, I know I won't be able to follow this pace for the rest of the race. I therefore decide to slow down a little bit as I watch the pink 3:20 balloons leaving me behind. Clearly, with my usual lack of training I aimed too high, but I feel glad I slowed down sooner than later and avoided a bigger crash. I still hope to be able to follow the 3:30 pacers later and manage a decent time.

Alas, the 20km mark is approaching and the green 3:30 balloons are already just behind me. I will have to let them go too. I know I'm not going to make a good time, so I try to enjoy the famous Valpolicella vineyard scenery instead. It's mostly gently downhill, but a few short and steeper ascents break the rhythm.

The weather is becoming increasingly hot (25°C), and I start to realise that I might be dehydrated and leading to hypoglycaemia. Drinking at the 20km water station puts me back on track, but given the quantity served, I need to take 4 cups to quench my thirst. The rest of the race will be a succession of feel-good phases and tough times.

Soon enough, we're entering Verona and start meandering and double-backing for the last 16km, passing next to the finish line at 32km. The purple 3:45 balloons must have passed me at some point, but I have little recollection of that time. Some roads are totally deserted, and it seems to last forever. After passing by a thin and cold crowd, I finally enter the majestic Verona Arena where I finish in 3:52:47, 704th out of about 1800 finishers. And first French! Yeah!

Great scenery overall, but very poor support from the crowd. I don't understand why people would come and see but not cheer. I think I would prefer seeing no one.

Ultra Romeo