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One wedding and an ultra-run

This couple met 20 years ago but recently, they took a running trip across Italy keeping their big grande finale a secret!

Sneaker clad runners Una and Steve getting married in Italy.
Sneaker clad runners Una and Steve getting married in Italy.

Una Beaudry and Steve Mahood went quite the distance before tying the knot.

The two runners from the Ottawa area met two decades ago back when they worked together. Back then, they seemed to just click with the each other just in the same way that running seemed to click with their lifestyles. Over the years, the pair has amassed a long list of races, the distances ranging from the 5K to and ultramarathon.

Now, at 49, Beaudry works in IT as a project manager with the federal government. Mahood, 53, is a retail manager. Their passion for the active lifestyle is apparent to those who know them. Just a few years ago, they discussed the idea of cycling around Italy. After playing with the idea for a little while, they came to realize that they were bigger fans of exploring by foot. So they set the cycling idea aside.

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But like all good ideas, this one stuck around.

Years later, inspired by Canadian ultramarathoner Ray Zahab, they decided that they would tour Italy by foot. It would take longer and it would be quite the long run, but already they were plotting the adventure. Their idea began to take shape.

An ultra, a marathon and a marriage

The two adventurers decided on a 11-day adventure of Italy. They pulled out maps and with the aid of a cycling tour company, picked their route. It would go from Cinque Terre villages, to Pisa, across to Florence and south to Rome. The two decided to tour along quiet secondary roads along the Ligurian Sea, through the hills of Tuscany and the beautiful farmland of Lazio. They even planned to take in part of the famous Via Francigena (the pilgrim route to Rome). To cap off their ultramarathon adventure, they would run the Rome marathon, a race they had run before in 2013.

The total mileage added up to 500 kilometres in 11 days. How did the technicalities work? A crew of two friends would drop them off and pick them up each day, sometimes running with them for a little bit. Other friends who just happened to be vacationing in Italy dropped in to run with them on the first day and later met up with them in Rome.

“The run was certainly hard, but it was also so much fun,” says Beaudry. “We saw things we never would have on a ‘normal’ vacation, we met people along the way in many remote areas and almost every day we stopped for cappuccino and cornetto in the morning.”

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They made their way across the picturesque European country and at the end, it was time to cap it off with the Rome Marathon.

“The marathon was fantastic mostly because we took our time to enjoy it and take in the sights,” says Beaudry. “It was also the first time we’d ever run a marathon side by side or eaten cookies and oranges at the water stations. It wasn’t our best finish time but we didn’t care one bit.”

With the marathon finished, it was then time for the grande finale. And that was one well-kept secret. They took one more big step and got married. They told only a few close friends and family. In the quiet gardens of Villa Borghese in Rome, they were married with an equally stunning reception to follow.

I got hold of the newly married running couple for a few questions.

Steve, what is it like being able to share running adventures like this one with your wife?

SM: We have run and raced together for years, however this was the first time we’d run at the same pace together for so many hours over so many days. As the days became more challenging, our mindset switched from a focus on the running itself, to one of enjoying the experience by slowing down to take in the scenery and talking to the locals in the villages.

Una, what is your favourite memory from your run across Italy?

UB: On our third day, while running from Pisa toward Florence, we ran along the Arno river on a berm. As we were coming into the village of Caprona, the berm ended in an elderly woman’s backyard. She was watering her garden and looked up, gave us a big smile and pointing to our clothes shouted “primavera.” I put my very basic Italian to good use and we had a brief conversation about where we were from, what we were doing and where we were going. She was truly lovely and wished us good luck.

SM: On day eight, we were south of Viterbo when we ran through the Lago di Vico Natural Reserve. The climb into the Reserve was 5K with another 5K or so to the end. After so many days alternating between remote gravel berms and busy roads it was incredible to be surrounded by the beauty of the beech forest and the lake itself.


You can reach Noel Paine at runningwriter@hotmail.com on Twitter @NoelPaine or on his personal blog.