April 2, 2017, finally came and went. I originally signed up for the Maratona Di Roma (Rome Marathon) in October 2016, a good 6 months before the race date. My main reason for choosing the race was to be a tourist first in the Roman city, as I had never stepped foot there or Italy for that matter. Well, I stepped foot…a lot of them, covering well over the 42.165km throughout my stay. Here’s some insight into my race weekend!
I got to Rome on a 2-hour flight from Luxembourg. There is an express train from FCO to Termini in downtown Rome called the Leonardo Express that gets you there directly in 32 minutes for 14€. From Termini, I took the metro one stop to Cavour and walked 200m to my hotel Casa per Ferie Santa Sofia. This location was so central and amazingly convenient to the Colosseum and Altare Della Patria. It’s an old monastery converted into an affordable hotel. One suggestion is to ask for a room not facing the courtyard. The building is old without soundproof windows and on the weekend nights, the piazza fills with a bunch of drinkers till 3 or 4am…lesson learned a little too late. I met up with my dad who had flown in early that day and we grabbed some pizza next door to the hotel. Oh the food, thank goodness I had a marathon to run!
We woke up around 8am and had breakfast that was included at the hotel. We made our way to the Race Expo located at Palazzo dei Congressi, easily accessible by the metro, which we ended up getting a 72hr pass for 18€.
The Expo was decent sized with hundreds of near and far races advertising. The bag pick up included a dry-wick Tee from New Balance that had the phrase all roads lead to Rome on the back. It’s not the prettiest shirt, but it’s certainly practical. We also all received a legit blue backpack from New Balance with the same phrase on it. It would also be used as our race bag for luggage drop off on race day. Inside we had plenty of samples including full-sized Powerade, fish oil supplements, sports detergent wash, laces, and more marketing material along with the race bib. The expo left little to be desired race gear wise. Only 2-3 stands and no huge discounts. I didn’t end up buying any additional tech ware but was able to buy anti-chaffing cream. Upon leaving you find a wall with all the participants name and I was able to point mine out easily. Here I learned that women only made up 19% population of the race, keep that in mind single ladies 😉. We made our way through in less than 30 minutes and discovered we had beat the rush by getting there for 9am.
After the expo, we made our way over to Vatican City. When we stepped off the metro we purchased skip the line passes for the museum and Sistine Chapel (which one ticket includes entrance to both). It was a higher price than the regular admission (normal 16€, skip the line 29€) but completely worth it as it will save you 1-2 hours waiting outside.
The museum itself is interesting with artifacts from Caesar himself and artwork throughout the time of Catholicism. However there’s only one entrance to the Sistine Chapel and it takes over an hour to get through the museum, being shuffled like cattle with thousands of tourists. This is not the place to be if you don’t like people. But the chapel is worth it, it is massive and the artwork by Michaelangelo will blow you away. You aren’t supposed to take photos once inside, but I “accidentally” had my phone on and it must have gone off by itself.
After we had a light lunch with Caprese and salads, then went to the Fontana di Trevi. Completely crowded but so spectacular!
After having walked over 10km we made it back to the hotel for a short nap. Feeling refreshed I did a quick shakeout 2-mile run and was able to experience the main road blocked off at the marathon start and finish. This got me so pumped up for the next day!
Of course, we finished off the evening with pasta and gelato and I got my race gear ready!
I made a plan for my dad to catch me on the course route at 13.5km and at 37km, had breakfast then I walked over to the start by the Colosseum around 7:30am (only an 8-minute walk). The start was very well organized for bag drop off, with plenty of porta-potties. I got to my corral by 8am with a planned start of 8:51am. So we stood for a while, huddled together with a humid temp of 50 degrees. With predicted rain in the forecast, you could see the dark clouds looming nearby. The wheelchairs started at 8:35am and then the elite followed by additional corrals. As soon as our gun went off, the rain started and would continue for the next hour and a half with lightning and thunder. This resulted in slick cobblestones and I saw a few runners tumble.
The course heads south towards Circus Maximus, Basilica San Paolo, and the pyramid. It comes back north along the River Tiber where I first saw my dad. It then turns left over the river headed towards the Vatican. One of the most memorable views is the street running towards St. Peter’s Basilica. The course was sufficiently supplied with water and salts with fruit and solid foods at every 5km, and hilariously enough were the poor volunteers who had to pass out wet sponges. The irony was the rain let up for a little bit allowing us to enjoy some sounds from bands and DJs along with crowd support which was surprisingly abundant despite the weather.
The course, I found out later, has a total of 77 turns! We made our way more north around some gardens and neighborhood areas. The course is relatively flat except for a couple gradual ascents near the beginning and at miles 18, 21 and 41km. We started to make our way back towards the center of the city around 36km weaving in and out to catch views of the Castle Sant’Angelo, Spanish Steps, and Piazza del Popolo. Here my dad caught sight of me at the second point which is when the skies opened up and caused a torrential rain with gusting winds and dropping temps. The last 5km should have been tightly packed with spectators but unfortunately, the rain scattered them away when we needed it most. My Garmin was slightly off and ahead by almost a half-mile with the remaining checkpoints so I was lost with how much mileage I still had remaining. The last stretch involves going slightly uphill to a water stop under a long covered passageway. While I never hit the wall, this moment I walked because it was dry. And in my cold, wet, dehydrated state I was attempting to calculate how much distance I had left. I decided once I hit the end of the covered bridge I would kick out my fastest part of the race. Luckily for me, it was just one kilometer, that went downhill and brought you back towards Altare Della Patria with the Colosseum insight of the Finish. I had an unofficial time of 4:35ish and close to 27 miles on my Garmin, but the officials clocked me at 4:38:05. Whatever, I’ll take it! It was a gorgeous and happy run despite the weather. My intentions were to be near the 4:30 mark and beat my Paris time last year which I did by 11 minutes!
Luckily for me, it took me 10 minutes by walk to get back to the hotel after receiving my medal, wrap and another goodie bag filled with fruits, biscuits, water, and Powerade. The race was remarkably well organized with a beautiful course that kept me entertained throughout. This should be on everyone’s bucket list.
After a nice hot shower and change into warm clothes, I was able to celebrate with my dad with more pasta, lots of beers, and more gelato!
Woke up a little before nine, feeling the usually post-marathon stiffness and had a last breakfast with my dad. I checked out of the hotel but left our bags so we could get in the last bit of sightseeing. My dad and I walked to the ruins, Pantheon and Castle.
My dad had an earlier flight back to the states so we got him back to the train station to head back to the airport. I wasn’t leaving until 8:30pm that night so I did some more exploring of the sites I passed along the run.
Great City and race. Grazie Roma, Ciao Bella ❤k