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Venice Marathon

Every year in late October, marathon runners compete on a course that takes them past Venice's sights and across a temporary pontoon bridge over the Grand Canal. A non-competitive 10K race follows much of the same route.

Pontoon bridge during Venice Marathon

ABOVE: An Alilaguna airport boat passes under a temporary pontoon bridge that leads Venice Marathon runners across the Grand Canal to St.Mark's Square.

Since 1986, the Venice Marathon has been one of the world's most scenic footraces, attracting thousands of runners each year to a course that includes segments along the city's famous canals.

The event takes place on the fourth Sunday of October and has three components: a full 42K (26-mile) marathon and a 21K (13-mile) half-mrathon for serious runners, and a non-competitive 10K race for any healthy person over the age of 10.

The courses are as follows:

42K marathon:

The race begins in the Riviera di Brenta, on the Italian mainland. It passes through Venice's mainland districts of Mestre and Marghera before crossing the Ponte della Libertà, a causeway that runs 6 km or 4.2 miles across the Venetian Lagoon to Venice's historic center.

Upon entering central Venice, runners continue past the cruise port, up the Zattere (a major pedestrian promenade along the wide Giudecca Canal), around the Punta della Dogana, and over the Grand Canal via a temporary pontoon bridge.

Assuming that the Piazza San Marco isn't flooded by acqua alta, competitors are then routed through St. Mark's Square (past the Campanile and Basilica di San Marco) to the central Venice waterfront.

The final stretch of the marathon takes runners past the Doge's Palace, the Hotel Danieli, and other landmarks to the finish line on the Riva Sette Martiri beyond the Arsenale vaporetto stop.

The course is mostly flat, except for footbridges in Venice that have temporary ramps installed over the steps.

Half-marathon and 10K races:

If you aren't ready for the 42-km course, you can sign up for a Half-Marathon (21K) or a 10K race. Like the full marathon, these races begin on the mainland and end at the finish line on the Riva Sette Martiri.

How to participate:

42K marathon and 21K half-marathon:

You'll need to be at least 20 years of age to run in the full or half- marathon.

To compete for prizes and be listed in the official results, you must be a member of an IAAF-recognized national sports federation and meet the medical requirements.

If your goals are merely "touristic/sporting," you can simply register online and complete a liability form.

10K race

Anyone over the age of 10 can participate in the 10K race. (If you're under 18, you'll need permission from a parent or guardian.)

This noncompetitive race is open to runners, Nordic walkers, and "fit walkers."

For more information on the 42K, 21K, and 10K events, including fees, visit the Venice Marathon Web site.

How to watch the races:

This is easy: Just go to the nearest point on the racecourse and cheer the runners as they run (or, in some cases walk) by.

If you want to stand near the finish line, head for the Riva dei Sette Martire, which is along central Venice's waterfront to the east of the Piazza San Marco.

More Venice Marathon photos:

BELOW: Venice Marathon participants run along the Zattere, a broad pedestrian promenade next to the Giudecca Canal in Venice's centro storico or historic center.

Runners in Venice Marathon

BELOW: Spectators cheer on runners from their vantage point on a footbridge along the Giudecca Canal.

Venice Marathon runners on a bridge by the Giudecca Canal

BELOW: Venice Marathon 42K and 10K participants run (or walk) across a temporary pontoon bridge over the Grand Canal. (The center image shows the Campanile di San Marco bell tower next to St. Mark's Square. In the bottom picture, you can see the domes of St. Mark's Basilica.)

Venice Marathon runners on temporary bridge over the Grand Canal

Venice Marathon pontoon bridge on Grand Canal

temporary pontoon bridge on Canal Grande during Venice Marathon