I ran the Rome Marathon 2 weeks ago. And whilst I have visited Rome a number of times before, it’s been quite a while since my last visit and I was really looking forward to revisiting one of the most iconic, culturally-rich cities in the world.
As I’m sure I’ve said before, running a marathon through a city is one of the best ways to really get a feel for not just the architectural highlights, but also the spirit of its local residents. It also gives the traveller a unique experience of the city and offers a great reason to sample a lot more of the local cuisine and sweet treats. 🙂
Deciding to take a few days off work, I took my time leaving London on Friday afternoon, choosing to prioritise sleep (for once!), rather than rushing for a super-early morning flight, which would have meant arriving in Rome tired and sleep-deprived. Upon arriving in the city, I made my way to my Airbnb accommodation, located in the heart of the Monti area in central Rome. I really only chose this location as it is located a stone’s throw away from the start of the marathon, by the Colosseum, but it actually turned out to be a great spot – very central, but also with a surprisingly local feel, filled with a good number of excellent restaurants.
Keen to get the carb-loading underway, I dumped my bags and headed out to a pizzeria recommended by my local host. I went with a super simple pizza topped with fresh tomatoes and rocket. Sublimely crispy and tasty, it was basic but really very good. The tiramisu, obviously an Italian classic, was excellent. This was just what I was after – fast food, simple, and made with the freshest of ingredients. I went to bed satisfied and happy that night!
After a leisurely start the following morning, I headed over to the Palazzo dei Congressi, the site of the Rome Marathon expo and where the runners had to pick up their race packs, bib and swag. It’s located a little out of the way, and I doubt it’s really a venue a traveller would visit under normal circumstances, but it was a magnificent looking building and served its purpose well.
This being the last day before the marathon meant long queues of last-minute runners, I guess mostly made up of international runners like myself who’d just arrive in town.
After a 40 minute or so wait, I finally made it inside the exhibition centre, only to join another line to pick up my race number. This one thankfully moved a lot faster and I’m soon free to wander around the stalls who have set up shop in the expo.
This wasn’t the best marathon expo I’ve ever attended, but then I didn’t expect it would be as the Rome Marathon is a fairly small race when compared to the more famous marathons of Paris and Berlin. Having said that, there were Roman guards on parade, a unique sight for sure!
If I thoughts the queues were long when I was waiting to enter, it seemed to be worse as I was leaving…at least the sun was now out though!
Wanting to rest my legs for the race tomorrow, I spent a short time checking out the Trevi Fountain tourist hot-spot, grabbing lunch at the nearby famed spaghetteria L’Archetto, before heading back home to chill, and get my race kit ready for the race the next day.
Later on back home, it was only as I was getting my kit together that I noticed the marathon organisers had included free pasta as part of our race pack! Only in Rome (though it was a very good idea – more marathons should do this!).
Following a good night’s rest, I woke up feeling good the following morning, raring for the race to start. Checking the weather forecast for the day, it was clearly going to be a hot one, my first truly warm start for a marathon. I definitely prefer running in the cold, rather than heat, but as I wasn’t chasing a specific time, it turned out to be perfect weather for seeing what turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous course.
Walking the short route to the starting area, I could feel the excitement build between human and dogs alike.
I think there was room for improvement in terms of signage towards the starting area, bag drop and loos, but if you follow the Colosseum round long enough, you’ll eventually walk past the baggage drop lorries and porta-loos!
Following the streams of runners, I soon joined the masses as we waited for the starting gun. Before I knew it, the race had started, I was running past the start line and on my way!
I’m not great at taking photos whilst running, so here are the few that I took… errr… all 2 of them:
My favourite parts of the marathon were running past the Vatican City and running through the Piazza Navona – both looked stunning in the sunshine. What I didn’t particularly enjoy was the start, which felt a little crowded and narrow in parts and which were covered in cobblestones, a surface I wasn’t used to and needed to be vigilant about (lest I twist my ankle in the first few kilometres!).
After crossing the finish line, there really wasn’t much to see or experience. Roman guards were on patrol again, in the midst of volunteers distributing finishers’ medals, heat blankets and goody bags.
After catching my last glimpse of the Colosseum (for the day!), I walked the short walk back home, picking up a good few slices of pizza along the way for my recovery meal.
All in all, the Rome Marathon was a great race and a superb experience. It probably wouldn’t be one I’d run if I was chasing a personal best time, but the course route was absolutely stunning, and the warm weather made it a pleasant, casual run. The copious amounts of delicious pasta, pizza and gelato around every corner also makes Rome an awesome city to carb-load pre-race and refuel post-run. More to come on that in my next post. 🙂
Final result: 4:09:46