I was initially going to call this post ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ but, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that was unfair and would indicate that I hadn’t enjoyed the race which simply isn’t true. Sure, there were ups and downs (mentally and physically what with the hills) but hell I was running round ROME!
I arrived in Rome on the Friday night to leave plenty of time to settle and go to the Expo, plus I couldn’t think of a better place in the world to carb up! The Expo was a little out of town – the queue was pretty long and Katherine, James and I found ourselves queuing across a road that cars were still trying to drive on…this was the first organisational fail.
We (or rather James) was amused by the people dressed up as New Balance trainers and he insisted we pose for a photo for the Chasers site (funny innit). Collecting our race packs was petty simple but leaving the Expo was not – you’re forced around numerous stands in little more than single file and you get told off if you try to sneak out! The goody bags were much better than Frankfurt though with a New Balance backpack, technical t-shirt, sports drink and (obviously) some dried pasta!
When we eventually got out we stopped for pizza and I headed back to the hotel for some rest. Travelling, tapering and excitement is all very exhausting! I went out again in the evening to meet my friends Ruth, Nathan and Paul for dinner and then got an early night. We arranged to meet at 8am at the Arch of Constantine for an 8.50 race start. Simple?
Well, not so much… I sprang out of bed when my alarm went off and made myself some porridge with the little kettle in my room and left the hotel at 7.30. We were all staying in different places so I headed off towards to Colosseum on my planned route to meet my friends.
However, the route I was planning on was closed off and we were sent round the houses (or round the ruins should I say…) which was beautiful but I didn’t have a clue where I was and even less idea where the Arch was, there were loads of arches?! Following the crowd I realised I would be starting alone, alone in the rain.
Oh, did I mention it was raining?
Attempting to drop my bag off was the next challenge and next organisational fail. I ended up trying to push my way upsteam in an overly crowded area to the female baggage drop which was, of course, at the very back. Without meaning to offend, I found the Italian men very rude. There was pushing and shoving and elbows in the face, no chivalry here!
It wasn’t a great start, I was stressed. Of course when I finally managed to get rid of my bag I had to fight my way back down again, the clock was ticking and I couldn’t start a marathon without going to the toilet first!
Mr New Balance showed up for race day…
The next fail was the lack of signs and toilets – it looked like there were just 8 portaloos and there was no systematic queuing. I waited for maybe 15 minutes in torrential rain (hail at one point) before coming to the conclusion I would miss the start if I waited any longer and I was no closer to the loo.
So I did what any self respecting athlete would do moments before the gun – I peed in a bush. I met another woman doing the same, she didn’t understand a word of English but we understood each other!
I rushed off to the start area where there was more congestion and no way to get through to my start pen – there were only 4 but I was in Pen C and really didn’t want to be at the back of Pen D. But I was. Eventually we got to some railings that separated the start pens but no one was checking who went where and it was a chaotic free for all. I got into Pen C, relieved, but my relief didn’t last when I realised all the pens merged into one a few metres later and I was no better off than I was before. CHAOS, ARRGHHHHHHH
As soon as I got over the start line I was weaving and weaving in and out of people ‘scusi’, ‘excuse me’, ‘pardon’, ‘MOVE’ . By this point I gave up and just started shoving my way through which was met by some angry shouts in Italian. Don’t have a clue what they were saying but it probably wasn’t pleasant. Whatever.
All my early miles were 20-25 seconds slower than I wanted them to be and by mile 7 I realised I wouldn’t be able to make the time back. I think at that point I mentally gave up. I was delighted to bump into Ruth who was full of positivity, I thought about trying to keep up with her but, mentally I was out of the game and she sped off. I knew she would nail it.
The route was pretty awesome. Starting near the Colosseum the course wound round the city and along the river taking in temples and churches, passing St Peters Square and the Vatican, through Piazza Navona, round Piazza del Popolo, past the Spanish Steps and back towards the Altar of the Fatherland (which is a spectacular if controversial monument) and the Colosseum to take you to the finish line. There’s plenty to look at!
There were cobbles, but I was prepared for that and they weren’t really that noticeable for the most part, even in the wet. There were also some inclines but they were tolerable and the declines were enjoyable.
The water stations were a disaster. There was no water! At least no water readily available, you had to grab a cup and wait for someone to slosh a bit of water in – they weren’t generous with it either, were they rationing water on race day?! I dread to think how much worse it would have been on a warmer day.
There was Gatorade and food stations with oranges, bananas and biscuits as well as some other bits. I didn’t have any food but Paul had a full on picnic…he still beat me by some way!
Through a combination of a chaotic start, slow early miles, lack of organised water stations and generally feeling not quite right (I realised too late this was caffeine withdrawal, my usual 10 cuppas a day had been reduced to none…error!) I finished in a disappointing 4.04.
I got a lift when a group of British people shouted ‘go on the Brits, go on Katherine’, and James shouted at me with his little daughter Jessica at 36k. I’ll also never forget the look on Nathan’s face when he saw me walking at 37k – a combination of pity and errr, what are you doing?! ‘Just 5k, just 5k‘, he said. But 5k seemed so far…
Some thoughts I had whilst I was running:
- Get out of my way
- Italian men are rude
- I’m never running a marathon ever again
- Maybe I’ll give it one last shot in Amsterdam
- Ooooo look at that!
- I’m going to pull out
- No, I really really want that medal
- Oooo look at the pretty big building
- Oh good, it’s raining again
- Why do the Italians think a shot of water will get me through the next 5k?
- I wonder what that building is…
- Why are there twice as many sponges as cups of water?
- I’ve just put my entire foot in a puddle, perfect
- Does the Pope live there?
- I’m embarrassingly uneducated
- I’ve just been overtaken by a man with a distinctive limp
- I’m never running a marathon ever again…
As I rounded the corner from the Altar of the Fatherland I saw what could be the finish. However, my Garmin was well over 26.2 and I didn’t want to get my hopes up, from the experience I’d had so far it could be a decoy! Luckily it wasn’t.
Marathon number 5, and my 3rd international, was completed. Job done, now where’s that medal!!
The post race goody bags, which contained all the drinks, was just as chaotic as everything else. Pushing, shoving, elbowing. Frankfurt may only have had cups of water at the finish but at least there was plenty of it and I didn’t have to fight! I was ready to get out – it was a shame I didn’t see any of my friends at the end, especially as Katherine had run a similar time, if I had known we could have run together.
Anyway, I made it back to the hotel for a shower and a snooze then headed out for dinner and celebrations.
The Rome Marathon is a beautiful course in a beautiful city but it’s not well organised. As long as you go expecting that, and maybe even taking your own water, you should enjoy it. I really do love Rome.
What did I learn from this marathon? The Italians are not good at organising events but they are awesome at making ice cream. I tried 9 different flavours. Well, when in Rome…