Beginning and ending at the “Colleseo”, there is no other marathon in the world than runs through magnificent history like the Rome, Italy Marathon. March 18, 2012 was the 18th running of the Rome Marathon and my international race of the year. It was a race that shattered perceptions and included lots of cobblestones.
This race was not one for a PR, but it was a PF for My Girl. Plagued by knee and hip issues (coming from, we believe, a weak core), training had not gone exactly as planned for her. In fact, there was even some doubt prior to race as to whether or not she would be able to start. Prior to the race, she had never run more than 13.1 miles. Would she finish?
I never had any doubt, but I’m sure she did. Her “taper” was mostly composed of walks and short jogs, as I didn’t want her to continue to aggravate or worsen her knees and hips. Consequently, speed wasn’t going to be the goal. Finishing was.
Besides, this was Rome. A marathon that begins and ends at the Colosseum and pretty much runs through or around just about every important sight within the ancient city of Rome. Who cares about the little things like… the expo?
The Marathon Expo, despite its size, is definitely different from the one’s I’ve visited in the States. This expo had mostly booths from other Marathons, although the major players (Ascis, Brooks, etc) did have a presence. Not many free samples were to be had, and I later wished I had picked up a pair of socks for a reasonable price. There were “Expo” deals for purchase, but unfortunately the exchange rate didn’t make any purchases worthwhile.
But who cares about that? It’s the race that matters. A race on the streets of Rome.
Rome’s streets aren’t exactly wide. They show their ancestry from the days of wooden carts and invading armies. Once outside the downtown Rome area, the streets were wider, but within the most interesting parts (except the “piazza’s”) the streets narrowed into what could be a bottleneck.
Sometimes, as I’ve said before, being slow is an advantage. By the time we reached the narrow streets, the runners were thin. Fortunately, Italy provided a lot of cars and pedestrians to make up for that, as the Sunday tourist crowds got too annoyed by being blocked from the streets and invaded our running path. Despite them knocking over barriers, ignoring runners, tripping runners, and generally being oblivious to a marathon going on, we were still able to find our way along the course. This was the most frustrating part, but you can’t blame the organizers for
rude oblivious people.
However, the Rome Marathon is what a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Las Vegas should have been. Well-organized, efficient start, and despite only one bottleneck shortly after the start, paced so well that a race could be run without obstacles. In fact, it was very well planned.
I just wish I planned our start as well as the Rome Marathon did. We left the hotel early (I always like being early to a race), only to discover that my planned way to the start was blocked by the race itself. Originally, it was supposed to be a 1km walk. Instead, it ended up as almost 5k, since we had to wander all the way around the Colosseum to start.
We hadn’t planned on walking/running an Ultramarathon (50km) distance in Rome, but that’s what happened. It was worth it, though, as we had a rather nice access to various tourist spots with a bit of crowd control.
The course meandered throughout the downtown city, and despite some more boring parts of the run (26.2 miles is a long way to keep yourself entertained) the city provided plenty of eye candy.
The support stations were a bit lacking for someone from the States, however. As always, I encourage anyone running a race to bring their own nutrition and to never rely on anyone but themselves for the nutrition they need during a race.
I brought just enough Gu Gels to get my girl through the race, but because of limited space in our backpacks, I left my gu’s behind. I decided for once I would rely somewhat on the nutrition on the course, and although it wasn’t nonexistent, the apple, orange, occasional banana, and sugar cookies weren’t exactly my top choices for stuff to eat for 6 hours. But, it got me through.
We finished at the back of the pack. In fact, we finished just 17505 out of 17,658, but again, are finish didn’t matter, because we were sight-seeing the entire way. In fact, we spent a lot of time near a video camera, which was filming a movie titled, “Spirit of the Marathon.” When it comes out, we’ll be looking too see if we appeared in the background of the race.
After the finish, we waited about 30 minutes for the engraving on the wicked-cool, kick-ass medal. Then, it was a walk back to the hotel, plus time to get our stuff from the previous hotel.
Prior to arriving in Italy, we had studied a little bit about the culture, and read what to expect. We read that the service people weren’t very friendly, and that few people were willing to speak English simply because they were shy about their accent.
Since neither one of use speak Italian, we were pleasantly surprised to find all of that untrue. We made every effort to learn to say “grazie” and “senore” and hello, goodbye, and other simple words of courtesy in Italian. We spoke English slow and softly, and if they didn’t understand we didn’t repeat our words faster and louder – in fact, we did just the opposite. We asked our hosts how to say additional words in Italian, and used them.
We found ourselves avoiding groups of American’s. Every time encountered large groups of Americans we ourselves got annoyed by their behavior. In essence, we discovered why American’s were voted the worst tourists in the world in a recent poll, and we tried to disassociate ourselves as much as possible from the “typical.” The small groups, like ourselves, were polite, but what it is about a large group of fellow Americans behaving badly I don’t know.
Either way, we found the race massively enjoyable, and even found others from the states to chat with, and ran a fine race.
This is one that is definitely not to be missed!