When I used to hear people say things like: “I am going to San Francisco to see my sister run the marathon,” I used to think those people were CRAZY! Not my friend taking the trip, but her sis running the marathon.🙂 Still, it always seemed like the coolest thing to do because it seemed impossible to do.
Somehow I got it in my mind I wanted to do it too, but never felt it was an option because the farthest I had ever run was three miles, and for me three miles was long. I was always proud of my three miles in fact. Then for a long period of time I had some major knee problems and did not run for years. Then I got that fixed and one day went past three miles. I was so excited that day as I thought it was not physically an option for me to go past those three miles. Anyway, many injuries and years later, I finally did the marathon myself! In Rome – because for me there could be no better place. Who does not want to run past St. Peters, Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps?
So for anyone who might one day think about doing the marathon in Rome, here are my observations:
Marathon Expo: This is where you pick up your bib and booths are set up to promote other marathons and sell sports gear, energy bars and other items. Look! They even had a “gladiator” there! Ha, ha, ha.
In fact, this marathon was full of gladiators, here was one running the marathon:
But back to the expo, my husband decided to buy some energy bars. We got some helpful info from the nice woman representing the sports bar company – then we got some “extra” info from her coworker. In his effort to ensure a sale, this man assured me that not only would their energy bars give hubby the extra push he would need to complete the marathon, but that they would even provide him with extra energy for “AFTER” the race! Ha, ha, ha, ha! I could not believe the political incorrectness of this conversation! I think ONLY IN ITALY are these types of sales tactics being had! Apart from that embarrassing moment, the expo was well-organized and fun.
Theme: The theme for the marathon was: “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”). Of course we all know the English version of this famous phrase used by Caesar after a war victory. But how many of us knew the Latin version? Well apparently my father does. In fact, when I first started this blog, he thought I was being so crafty to name my blog in such a way as to emulate that phrase. Poor guy – he was so disappointed to find out that was NOT the case, but even worse – that I had no idea what “Veni, Vedi, Vici” meant. Anyway, when I saw this sign, I knew that it was my destiny to be at that marathon.
Numbers: There were 14,874 participants in the Rome marathon, of these, only 20% women. Relative to the United States this is a low percentage. Based on a few marathons I looked at, it seems in the States the number of women is about 40%. So I have to admit, I was feeling very macho!
Weather: Windy and rainy. Need I say anymore?
Refreshments: I honestly cannot remember where the water and sports drinks started, but food started at 15KM and I only remember because I was starving and seriously thinking about stopping at a cafe’ for an espresso and croissant. They provided apples, oranges, bananas and cookies. There was always enough for everyone. These pit stops were stationed at 5KM intervals until the finish. I was a little spoiled by what I experienced at the Verona half marathon last year. Those guys also had fruit, but in addition they had all kinds of biscotti and even crostate! (A crostata is like a jam filled tart – YUM). Still, the food stations were good in Rome.
Encouragement: My only frame of reference for cheering crowds was that of Verona. I had read from previous runners that they were disappointed in the level of cheers coming from the street relative to other cities. I felt the spectators were supportive. I must admit the tourists were especially enthusiastic. However, I heard plenty of: FORZA! FORZA! (means literally: strength, power, but figuratively: “Come on! You can do it!”) and BRAVA!!! BRAVISSIMA! shouted in my direction. At one of the refreshment stops, an older volunteer handing out water, told me exactly that: “FORZA, ” and I told him as I was jogging: “SONO STANCA!” (“I AM TIRED!”) When one of the other volunteer heard that, he started running with me! With his hand on my back, trying to help me by giving me a push! Ha, ha, ha….how sweet with that man? He was older as well. So, from my perspective, yes! Lots of encouragement!
Cobblestone Streets: There were only about 5 miles of cobblestone streets. Running (ok…jogging and eeeehhmmm some walking) on the cobblestone streets did not SEEM to impact me. I mean, I had to really pay attention to the street because I was afraid to fall, but I felt I was handling the ancient streets well. However, around mile 21, my knees completely gave out on me. Having already jogged 20 miles and 22 miles before the race with no knee problems led me to believe it was due to the cobblestone.
Hills: Rome was built on seven hills, so everyone said there for sure would be hills, however, previous Rome marathon reviewers said there were few hills. But I am girl from Houston, where a driveway is considered a mountain. Any slight incline for me is a killer. There were some slight, long inclines and one giant, long hill that felt like Mount Everest. At at mile 25.5, there was some horrible straight up incline in a tunnel. I believe the course was changed this year relative to years past. But I am here to warn you: there are some hills.
Route Overall: As I mentioned, cobblestone streets and some hills. Anyway, the route was ok, but they saved most of the best for last such as Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo and The Spanish Steps. The problem with that was by the time I got to those places, I was in so much pain, I could not enjoy the scenery! And worse?? They have you run right passed all of the cute little outdoor cafes in Piazza Navona! People were sitting there drinking their wine while am at mile 23! I just wanted to pull over and stop for an aperitivo! I am not joking – I gave that some consideration.
Then, after I made it passed the temptation of a wine? What happens? Via del Corso! The largest shopping street in Rome, and I had it all to myself! No cars, no tourists, no shoppers – just me, some uninterested male runners and all of those shops! GGGGRRRRR…this was even worse than the wine! I just wanted to pull out my emergency credit card I had tucked in my running bra and go shopping! Ha, ha, ha – can you see me pulling up at the finish line with all of my shopping bags!!???
FINISH: I was so happy to finish this race. And I have to say I was laughing a lot at the finish line. Because when I turned around as hubby was wrapping me in my space blanket, and I saw the runners coming in – and well – they all looked like zombies! Seriously! And, ok, I use the word zombie a lot to describe a mental state of living (referring to people who live on autopilot, you know, going through their day without giving much thought to anything in their lives, just going through the motions with no excitement about anything.) But in this case, these people actually LOOKED like zombies. But not bloody, scary zombies of today’s movies, but like 1950’s zombies, in that they all had the blank stares and were walking that zombie walk, with the limp! It was so funny! And me too! I felt like a zombie as well! (apart from the fact that I was laughing).
So that is my overview. I want to thank everyone who made this happen for me. My friends who kept telling me: “YOU CAN DO IT!” My sisters who had to listen to me complain non-stop about my long runs. My mother who as always encourages us. My father who always provided me with the “out” clause reminding me that it would be no big deal if I didn’t do it, which oddly enough gave me peace of mind. That lack of pressure that always makes any task seem easier. My poor, poor husband who on more than one occasion was on the receiving end of these kinds of phone calls: “I CANNOT DO THIS STUPID MARATHON! I CAN’T DO IT! I CANNOT EVEN RUN 5 MILES TODAY! I HATE RUNNING. I AM QUITING! FORGET IT!” The man is a saint: patient and wonderful. And most of all to my kids. After one of those scary phone calls to my husband, when I got home, my 11-year-old looked so sad and disappointed – not IN me, but FOR me. “But Mamma, you are not going to do your marathon? But what about all of your hard work?” That was the turning point for me, and I never looked back. 🙂
Ha, ha, ha….I feel like I am accepting an Academy Award! Anyway, here is a short video that is actually the live TV coverage of the event. You can see me waving and jumping around at second 16. The quality is not great, and there is no sound…but still, it was fun to see this on TV!