Florence Half Marathon 2023 was the destination for over 30 Sportworlders and as it was my 1st running trip abroad with the gang, I put myself forward for the Report before we even left our little green Island!!

For me, running on holibops wouldn’t be something I would normally do and I never pack the running runners but with all the feedback from Salzburg I said I would give it a bash.

A group of us flew over on Saturday morning and sure you can never go out to the airport without some kinda drama or glitches, especially with us lot.

We were very lucky that Anne Sweeney made the start line as anything and everything that could go wrong in preparation for a race did for poor Sweeney! It all started when she checked in to the wrong flight,arrived with her kitchen sink and her ironing board – Think she was trying to do a De – Clutter of the Gaff!!! She then went on to sleep it out on race day and forgot her number at the start of the race followed by forgetting the code for the hotel!! I was sure she would just give up and go back to bed – She was living everyone’s worse nightmare, but the tough little cookie sucked it up and got herself back to the start with 15 mins to go and ran a blinder of a race so fair play Sweeney – Next trip I’m putting a tag on you and wrapping you in bubble wrap!!!

We arrived in Florence and walked straight to The Expo to collect our numbers – Poor Kimberly was getting very frustrated with our lack of sense of direction and the snail’s pace we were going at due to the fact Anne was lugging her kitchen sink down the road!! We arrived to the expo and got our numbers and T-shirts and Val was wondering why her number was F60 and name was Joma (who were the sponsors of the event). I was starting to think I was away with some people that were just allowed out for the weekend – we were like the blind leading the blind and I just knew there was more shambolicness to come from this bunch of headless chickens.

Myself, Val, Anne, Emily, Julie Ann, Maria, Bronwyn and Grainne had booked into a little Boutique B & B just 5 mins from the start and finish of the race which was perfect and we had full reign of the landing areas – It was like having a slumber party in a hotel with your Besters, but can’t give you any insight to the shenanigans that went on as we we were all sworn to secrecy! ‘Twas to be an early night due to the race start being so early at 9am so we just had a bit of food at our local and two sneaky drinkies – sure would be rude not to on your holibops.

Up early for the race and nerves were grand and sure all I wanted was to finish without stopping and beat my BFF Trevor!! As we lined up the atmosphere and buzz was electric and just before the gun went off Val taps me and asks how many kilometers a half marathon was – Talk about going into a race completely blind! Val had done zero long runs but all of the club sessions and I think her max distance was around 10k but Val had her Bionic body in her favour and her sheer determination that she was gonna have it all wrapped up within two hours – I was loving her positivity but also wanted to trip her up when she bounced by me like tigger at 2km, I was sure she was gonna opt for the 10k but no Val was never opting out and had a great race.

The race itself was two laps and fairly flat with just some cobbled roads but after one lap was when you could decide if you had more or less to give as you knew what was ahead. At 13 kms in I started getting notions that I could work harder but I soon got put back in my box at 16kms when my legs starting tiring though I knew at that stage I would get under the 2 hours and wouldn’t need to stop so the buzz in my head helped me push on with 2kms to go. Maria Finnegan came up beside me with 1km to go and we worked hard together and came across the line looking like two orangutans, but it was all so worth it. Maria has been carrying a knee injury for some time now and also like myself just wanted to enjoy the race and get around under the 2 hours so to both our surprises we did 1hr54 and the emotions of the whole event, I’m not gonna lie I had a wee little cry as this was a PB for me and to cross the line with Finnegan who is one of my close friends made it very special.

We all gathered around the finish area where everyone was congratulating each other and feeling really buzzed that we had all finished the race.

Deirdre McGing was the 1st Sportsworlder home, she had an absolute stormer of a race and still looked fresh at the end.

Deirdre also played a blinder booking a last-minute spot for us to eat in on Monday night, so Thank you Deirdre.

Julie Ann was our next girl home and had a super race although coach mammy Emily still thinks she can work harder – Imagine having to live up to the expectations in that family!!

Ellen who is probably the leader of our little pack and is a member of the long run crew on a Sunday had a great run and really enjoyed the race.

Kimberly who had been struggling with an injury also came in with a smile, delighted to have finished the race.

Ann-Marie (Meet and Train Ann-Marie!), One of the loveliest humans with legs that go on forever – Stumpy here ain’t one bit jealous!! She was never going to allow her recent fall stop her enjoying walking the route and sucking up the atmosphere. Well Done Ann-Marie you’re a team player for sure!

Anne Sweeney just delighted she made it to the start line in one piece and exhausted from carrying her Mary Poppins bags, was over the moon with her run and enjoyed the views on route.

Aoife, who walked the 10k with Ann-Marie, came in looking as Beautiful and Irish as ever.

Audrai- Smiley Audrai – I think she sleeps smiling, really had a great run and always great to be around at the end of a race with her positive energy.

Bronwyn, sure what can I say I’m super proud to call her one of my close friends and was so proud of her as she has worked so hard to get back to the long runs which she is best at, had an outstanding run and loved every minute of it. Such a breath of fresh air.

Grainne, who I have now found out likes to talk to her watch on her runs when she thinks it’s lying about the speed she is doing, loved the race even if she nearly flung her watch into the river Arno!! Can’t imagine anyone thought you were weird on the route chatting to your watch – I’m still cackling!!

Maria Finnegan as I’ve said had a great race and has a special place in my heart for getting me across that line – If I was to build a friend it would be this one!

Olive, this quiet little hooligan, don’t be fooled by her or she will tape u, really enjoyed the race and experience – Maybe more so after than during! I think if we told her the race was cancelled she would have just shrugged – She is only there for the craic.

Ruth did the 10k that was actually 12k loved the race and had a great run – Well Done Ruth!

Fran who whizzed past me at 10km when we were being lapped by the leaders was in great form and we are going to miss her and her Sexy Lululemon accent. Wishing you all the best in your new adventure in Italia! I know you won’t forget us.

Bell, who before we went told me when I was moaning about the long-distance training that ‘I promise you you will want to sign up for another one’ and she was right. I did love it so thank you so much and well done.

Marie Varley who did the 10k or 12k, loved the day and is such a great girl to be around – I think you need to move back to Dublin – just saying!!

Padraic had a great run and was delighted to have it all wrapped up at the finish.

Mary had a belter of a race, was raring to go and in flying form for the rest of the weekend- AGM Aperol Spritzers all the way woohoo!!

Ed unfortunately had to pull out of the race due to a trip on a step but that didn’t stop him coming out for dinner with us – Love the priorities of this group!! Hope your back running soon Ed.

Eileen was so pleased crossing the line and thoroughly enjoyed the event.

Fiona, now this little one is one to watch – I think she was doing secret training, she had a great run and I’ve no doubt you have many more great half marathons up your sleeve. Well Done.

Siobhan, undoubtedly the lady of the group, always so appreciative had a great run.

Tim flew by me at 17kms shouting ‘you’re having a great run!’ – Thanks Tim, it actually did help! Tim had a great run – Well Done.

Val Pocket Power how the hell she flipping does it I really don’t know, had a brilliant run and is an inspiration to us all. Although Emily wouldn’t agree with no training for a half marathon but sure, if it works don’t change it! Not knowing the distance? Not training for the distance? I still don’t know how you do it. You’re amazing Sister from another mister straight up.

Trevor, AKA BFF, save the best until last! Sure what can I say, your sheer determination and competitiveness is undeniably the reason I like hanging out with you. You’re an inspiration to us all to keep pushing yourself no matter what. Well Done on a great race you did the training and worked hard so you deserved the great time you did.

I really hope I didn’t miss anyone.

After the race we headed for a quick Spritzer in The Michael Collins- I tell yeh Michael was laughing down at us trying to pay the bill – we were a shambles and the poor waitress was sweating, but sure we got there in the end!

We had a fabulous Authentic Italian meal all together that evening which was a lovely way to get to chat with everyone and relax after all of our great runs.

I can’t forget about Emily who was high all weekend on Coffee and Cake and was great craic to be around- Thanks Emily.

Will I go on another running trip? Most definitely yes!

Overall, it was such an enjoyable adventure with you lot so Thank You all for contributing to the fun and laughter throughout the trip.

I’m sitting here thinking – how did I end up going on this trip? And I believe that I invited myself so anyone who would like to go on our 2024 trip in March/April it’s an open invite – just make yourself known and also any suggestions are much appreciated.