Gelato and Juliet: Running Italian-style in Verona

We spotted Julie's story in one of the Train Like a Mother Facebook groups and wanted to know what it's like to race in Italy. We thought you'd enjoy her story, too!

When Julie Doyle ran the Verona (Italy) Half Marathon two weeks ago, two gentlemen did not great her at the finish line. The race’s theme, however, was Romeo and Juliet so Willie Shakes did get a shout out.

Julie, who is a mom to three — a 3- and 6-year old boys and a 9-year old girl — has been running since high school where she was in both track and cross-country. She laced up her kicks off and on in college but really picked running back up after her oldest child was born.

Currently, she works at the family business: two running stores called Up-n-Running, with one location north of Pittsburgh and other in Ebensburg, PA.

Julie and her husband Kevin before the start.

Initially, Julie, her husband, and some friends were trying to pull a group together to travel and race. “But it wasn’t really working out,” she says. “Then my husband and I stumbled across this deal to go to Italy. It just so happened to be the same time as one of the races we were looking at doing with the group. We were, like, ‘well, this works out so we might as well do it.’”

The race itself started at the soccer stadium. For the first part, she ran on roads. Then the footing was less secure, when the course transitioned to cobblestones and took them into the heart of the city.

“We went  by all of the old monuments and churches. Then the very last 5K, we were really on the downtown narrow streets, kind of weaving back and forth. We came out right by the Piazza Bra. Then we ran through the first century Roman amphitheater, then out and to the finish. Running through there, everybody cheers you on in Italian. Yelling ‘bravo, bravo!’ That was pretty neat.”

Running near the Ponte Castel Vecchio Bridge. Julie is in white.

In terms of logistics, the expo and the race itself felt like a race in the states. Even without speaking Italian, Julie found it easy to navigate. There were some differences, however.

“On the course, at some of the water stops, they actually had tea,” she says. “At the first one, they had the water marked — but then there was this brown liquid in a cup. It was room temperature. Not cold or anything. Some of the last water stations had bananas and these little pieces of pie. Plus something almost like a fruit chew or chomps but bigger. They were tasty afterwards but not during.

“One interesting thing was that were so many more men that were running than woman, which is completely backwards from a half marathon here. It was maybe 2/3 men to 1/3 women. Also, mostly Italians were running. They seem to do things where everybody is part of a running club. It doesn’t matter if you’re really fast or really slow, everybody has all their club gear on. Like you have your team uniform on and you’re ready to go race. It’s not as individualized. Everybody is representing whatever running club they’re part of.”

The finish line in Piazza Bra with the Arena di Verona in the background.

Refueling after the race was a hardship that involved a charcuterie board with meats, cheeses, and, of course, wine. And also of course: gelato.

“That night for dinner I had some the best gnocchi I’ve had in my entire life,” Julie says. “It was easy to carbo-load before the race.”

Julie would enthusiastically do it again.

“It was an interesting way to be able to run all over a part of Italy and explore the city a little bit differently than walking around to all of the different hot spots that everybody sees.”

Have you ever run a race is a foreign (to you) country? How was it different from what you were used to?

2 responses to “Gelato and Juliet: Running Italian-style in Verona

  1. Oh how fun! The only races I have done outside of the USA have been in Canada. That doesn’t really count as I live half an hour from the border.

  2. Iran a 10k in Dublin. I agree, a great way to know a city from a different point of view…after race food…a vacuum pack of pasta!! No beer..can you imagine

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