About us

Sandbach Striders was born back in 2003. Since the early days, membership has grown with a firm ethos of the club being not just about running but social activities as well. The club is affiliated to UK AAA and has its own qualified coaches. Many other special events take place on various nights too.

The club meets on Wednesdays at 18:30 and Sundays at 09:00 at Elworth Cricket Club.

Whilst many members compete in races from 5k to Marathons, the emphasis remains purely on keeping people motivated and having fun. Why not scan through our race reports to see what we’ve been up to? Having read them, you’re sure to see why Sandbach Striders has developed the motto of being

"No Ordinary Running Club!"

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Race Report; Pisa Marathon 18/12/2011

To say this weekend turned out better than expected would be a massive understatement. As I left work at 3pm on Friday I was faced with a vicious snowstorm and what should have been a straight-forward 20 minute journey home turned into an hour and twenty minute skidfest. At home out of my window I watched several cars skid across the crossroads. The thought of battling through all of this ice and snow all the way to Stansted was extremely worrying and I started to think the chances of making the flight were slim and decreasing with every subsequent flake of snow.

Torre di Pisa. Not a bad spot to finish a marathon.

This viewpoint hadn't change much an hour later when I had still to reach Keele services. Although the snow was starting to stop, the roads were still icy and the traffic heavy and slow-moving. Our hopes were raised slightly as we eventually passed Stafford and the signs of winter gradually began to decrease. Time was running out though, our time spent queueing earlier had cost us dear. We neared Stansted with only minutes to spare, fortunately the car park bus was ready and waiting to whisk us to the terminal building where a quick dash got us to the gate with barely seconds left. Of course, sod's law being what it is, the plane was late.

Getting ready for the off

Even once we got underway, it looked like we wouldn't yet make it to the start line. 50 knot gale force winds in Pisa meant some time circling the airport. We had one chance to land otherwise limited fuel meant a forced detour to Genoa. Fortunately the Ryanair pilot got us onto the ground, and in one piece too, to a huge round of applause from the packed plane full mostly of Italian residents returning home for Christmas.

We could barely believe it when we finally checked into the hotel in the early hours of Saturday morning. It looked like a weekend destined to become less of a marathon weekend and more of one spent filling out travel insurance claim forms.

The weather on Saturday was much more clement. The gale force winds had thankfully moved on. After a hearty hotel breakfast ventured out to try and find the expo. Bizarrely the organisers had decided to locate the expo a few km out of the town centre, well away from the race start and finish. The expo was unexciting, a small array of stalls flogging running kit and advertising other European marathons. The goody bag contained a nice long sleeved technical top which just about had room for the name of the event in between all the advertiser's logos. Other than that there were only a few race leaflets and a running magazine (in Italian.)

Duomo de Pisa
As you might expect trying to find pasta the night before the race wasn't a particularly challenging task. However trying to resist the lure of the local Chianti was much trickier.

The morning of the race brought a pleasant surprise. I looked out of my hotel window to see the start line about 20 feet away just by the PIazza dei Miracoli (Square of miracles).

This was lucky as I hadn't slept very well and I'd decided to forgo breakfast in lieu of an extra hour in bed. A risky strategy admittedly, but I've come to realise that having a long and good quality nights sleep the night before a race is the single most helpful thing I can do. 

The race start was chaotic with both marathon and half-marathon runners vying for the same space. The pacemakers left it until the last moment before assuming their positions, which meant the first few km ended up jammed full of jostling runners trying to find their space. In the first 2km I passed the pacemakers for 5:30, 5:00, 4:45, 4:30 and 3:45 but not in that order. I have no idea what happened to the 4:00 marker.

Water stations were every 5km and well organised with a selection of banana segments, panettone and sugar tablets also on offer.

Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John)
The route weaved its way through the narrow Pisa streets for a few km before heading off out of the city towards the coast and the Mediterranean resort of Marina di Pisa. Support was reasonable enough in the City but more or less non-existent along the rest of the route. The course was flat and along closed roads with each road junction staffed by both marshalls and police, thus ensuring that cars were kept well clear of runners.

The race finished immediately next to the Bell Tower (what we know as the Leaning Tower) and El Duomo (The Cathedral). A stunning place to finish, made all the more beautiful by the vibrant blue sky acting as the perfect foil to the shining white marble of the nearby monuments. As we crossed the line we were presented with an impressively chunky medal and a €5 deposit refund for our timing chips. This refund was a stroke of luck as surprisingly there were no drinks available after the finish line. I've run quite a few races from the huge city race to the tiny club event but I've never run an event where some kind of refreshment wasn't available. The €5 note soon disappeared into the hands of a nearby hot dog van owner in return for a couple of cans of ice cold drink.

After the race, celebrating a pb in the hotel bar
It was a few minutes after the race before it had sank in that I'd knocked 4 minutes off my pb. A result I really wasn't expecting given the build-up and it being my 21st marathon of the year! Would I recommend this race? I'd certainly recommend a visit to the city, which is common to most of Italy in that it is very welcoming and stunning. Budget airlines link Pisa with a couple of UK airports (more in the summer than in the winter) and hotels out of season are plentiful and competitively priced. This is the 3rd Italian marathon that I've run after Verona and Padua, I'm a big fan of all things Italian and I got a pb, so it probably won't come as much of a surprise to hear that this race has my heartiest recommendation.

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1 comment:

  1. Hey there Michael, I am thinking of flying from Stansted to Pisa to try to beat my PB but I am extremely worried about COASTAL WINDS and destroying me physically. I know the course is flat but what do you think of winds.

    I am a 2h:59 runner and was hoping for a 2:55-57. What do you think of the winds on the ground during the run?

    Dr. Vasilev
    Cambridge University