I ran the Maratona di Roma in Rome, Italy on April 2nd. This was an add-on to my trip to run the marathon in Paris. I registered for Paris first, then learned that Rome’s marathon was one week prior; it was an easy decision to start my trip to Europe early and do both races. I had been to Rome before, so I had an idea of what I was getting into with the course.
|Rome Marathon backpack "Lo Zaino"; the design All Roads Lead to Rome was also on the back of the race shirt|
I left for Rome on Thursday, March 30th, which was my birthday, and arrived on Friday. After taking the train from the airport to the Roma Termini train station, I found my way to my hotel on the Via Nazionale and got checked in. From there I went straight to the expo, several stations away on the subway. It was a beautiful day for the walk to the expo building. I picked up my bib, race shirt and souvenir backpack, which was also to be used as our gear-check bag. Most of the vendor booths were for other European marathons. I was very disappointed in the lack of Maratona di Roma branded gear. I noticed some generic “run Rome” shirts in the New Balance booth, but nothing with the marathon logo. I wanted to buy a Rome Marathon jacket, but there were none to be had. The race organizers missed an opportunity to make money on merchandise sales.
|Site of the race expo|
|The start/finish line the evening before the marathon|
The rest of Friday and all of Saturday were reserved for enjoying good food and drink and sightseeing. I didn’t pack a lot into my schedule since I had seen most of the sights in Rome on my previous trip. On this trip, I wanted to see a few things that I hadn’t seen before, and to relax. The new things I got to see were Piazza Navona, where I had a wonderful outdoor lunch, and the Pantheon. I had beer, wine, pizza, pasta and gelato during my stay in Rome, and loved it all. I used my marathon backpack as a prop and took photos of it in front of several landmarks. It was fun.
|Lo Zaino at Trevi Fountain|
|Lo Zaino at Piazza Navona|
|Lo Zaino at the Pantheon|
|Lo Zaino at the Spanish Steps|
|Lo Zaino at the Coliseum|
Sunday was race day and my hotel started breakfast early for the runners, so that was really nice. Then I made the short walk to the Colosseum where the race would start and end. I booked my hotel based on proximity to the race area, but on Sunday morning I had to walk farther than expected to get around all the temporary fencing. The temperature was just about perfect, but the forecast called for thunderstorms and rain all day. I checked my bag and waited in my corral for quite a while. I was in the last corral, which included everyone with a predicted finish of 4:30 and up. That’s a lot of people, at very different paces, given that the cut-off time was 7:30.
|Ready to go with breakfast in hand from the hotel buffet|
|Almost directly across the street from my hotel was this tunnel, which we could be running through (toward the camera) near the end of the race; it was uphill; it was on cobblestones; I knew this as I was walking to the race start|
Finally, the Italian anthem was sung, the wheelchairs and faster runners were released, and it was our turn. It started raining almost immediately after I started. At first, it was a light drizzle, but it quickly turned into a pouring rain with thunder and lightning, just as forecasted. The crowd was still thick early in the race and everyone cheered after each lightning strike. If you can’t change it, embrace it, I guess. I was thoroughly soaked before mile 2 and stayed that way for the entire race. My shoes and socks were wet, and it was hard to dodge all the puddles, so I accepted that this is how the race would be.
|Start corral; the balloons indicate the pacers|
|Runners excited to run!|
We ran on cobblestones at the start, which get pretty slippery when wet. Thank goodness the entire course wasn’t cobblestones. And after about mile 5, the rain let up somewhat. I saw a fellow Marathon Globetrotter just after the start. I had not met Dayo in person but she and I recognized each other; it helped that we were wearing our bright orange shirts. Also in the first half of the race I met a fellow MarathonManiac and soon-to-be Globetrotter, Diane. She was also going to be running Paris the following weekend. We did not run together continuously, but our paths intersected at various points on the course. Later, I saw Wendell and Sheila. There were other people I knew who were running, but I never found them (sorry, Jamila).
|Fellow Marathon Globetrotter Dayo from Nigeria|
|With Diane, Sheila and Wendell|
The course was a nice tour of Rome, including some of the non-touristy areas. But one of the most exciting things was running up to the Vatican City and having a photo op with St. Peter’s in the background. There were runners from all over the world, but mostly Europe. Everyone’s bib had their name and country flag so you could see where they were from. I enjoyed listening to all the languages spoken on the course, and sharing the experience with these folks even if we didn’t speak the same language.
|Piazza San Pietro|
|Piazza Navona in the rain|
Later in the race I met Andrea, who lives in New York. We ran together for a little bit, and then I saw her again after the finish. Also toward the end of the race we ran through some very exciting points along the course. There were a lot of cobblestones in the last few miles, but there was also the Piazza Navona and the Piazza del Popolo, and all the spectators and tourists there. These last few miles I was motivated to pick up the pace but I had to be careful because it started pouring again. I’m not very steady on dry cobblestones, let alone wet ones. When we had short spurts on asphalt, I had the energy and confidence to run faster. After enduring a killer uphill in a tunnel, the last kilometer was pretty much downhill and I felt great. Still, I had to be careful on those last cobblestones before crossing the finish with the Colosseum in the distance.
|Running into the finish looking seriously ready to be done|
In the finish chute, there were a couple men dressed as Roman soldiers. I wanted to stop for a photo, but I just couldn’t. I wish they’d been on the other side of the finish line for a photo. I was so happy to be done! I was soaking wet, chafed, and with sore feet, quads and knees (I blame the cobblestones). I got my medal and my goodie bag of food, which contained two bottles of water, a bottle of Powerade, a chocolate milk and a couple snacks. There could have been more substantial food, but at least there was a bag to carry the bottles so I didn’t need to juggle them. I retrieved my backpack, but there wasn’t much in it except for a dry t-shirt. I hadn’t brought any clothes for warming up because I thought I’d have the opportunity to buy a jacket. At least I could swap out the thoroughly soaked shirt for the walk back to the hotel, and the backpack was perfect for carrying everything.
|Looking back at the finish line after crossing it|
|Walking away from the finish toward the Coliseum and bag check|
|With Andrea at the finish|
There was no after party to speak of. Everyone pretty much dispersed after picking up their bags. I absolutely needed to sit for a few minutes to rest my feet, but there wasn’t a good place to do this, and I was still in the fenced-in runners only area. I found a spot and stopped for a few minutes, but it was still wet and I was cold. I needed to get back to the hotel and get warm and dry. Unfortunately, I had to walk completely out of my way again. I passed a pizza carry-out on the way and stopped for some pizza and a beer to go. I got a look for the cashier when I paid with a soaking wet 10 euro note, but what could I do? They understood that I had just finished the marathon as I was in my running clothes and medal.
For those who are interested in running this race, here are some things you may want to know:
- There are about 20,000 participants, probably fewer.
- Anyone can register as it is not hard to get in. There is no lottery or time qualification.
- The swag was good: tech participant shirt, nice backpack, and custom medal each year.
- Aid stations are about every 5 kilometers (this is common for many Euopean marathons) and contain cups or bottles of water, Powerade, and some had fruit. You can take a bottle from each aid station and hang onto it until you need another one. I mixed my electrolyte powder in a bottle and ran with it, taking cups of water from some of the aid stations.
- There were several sponge stations, which might have been nice on a dry day, but I found sponges to be unnecessary with the rain.
- There were several bands/DJs on the course for entertainment.
- Some parts of the course had few spectators, but others (the tourist areas) had great spectators.
- One of the registration requirements is to have a medical certificate signed and stamped by your doctor. A way to get around this for Americans is to join USATF for $30 and provide proof of membership in lieu of the medical certificate. This is silly since USATF doesn’t verify your medical fitness, but it’s an option. They are serious about the medical certificate and it (or the USATF documentation) must be uploaded to your registration account prior to the race).