If ever you want to experience a stunning, unforgettable race course, head to Rome in mid-March for their marathon. The course winds past more historic sites that you’ll be able to count: from the Vatican City, to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and of course, the Colosseum. It will take your breath away. There might also be other sights you won’t be expecting, like the elite Italian runners I spied one year taking a smoke just before the race. No matter how you look at it, it is the race of a lifetime.
Still, the race is not without its challenges. It is often somewhat disorganized. Typical of a number of race reports was my own story when I ran it years ago: I didn’t hear a starter’s gun or horn, but the crowd surged forward and began running nonetheless in a very unceremonious start. Then, when we hit the 5k mark, we discovered that the first aid station hadn’t yet been set up. Since the Rome Marathon, like most European marathons, supplies aid stations every 5k instead of nearly every mile as we do in the U.S., that meant that there was no aid until the 10K mark. That came back to haunt us on what turned out to be a hot day.
The course itself also presented some challenges. There were plenty of turns, as you might expect in an urban race in an ancient city, but of much greater impact were the cobblestones. I wasn’t concerned about tripping, since their surface was smooth, but my legs were much more tired and sore afterwards than I was expecting, which I attributed to the hours of pounding they endured.
But don’t let these complaints stop you; it’s still a wonderful race. There were no hills of any great significance, at least until the very end, when runners ascended a dramatic rise heading up to the finish by the Colosseum. The finisher’s medal was beautiful, too – not garish or shiny, but artistic, as befits the city its named for.
[The expected 2013 medal]
No matter how you look at it, the Rome Marathon is a race never to be forgotten.
The Rome Marathon will be held this year on March 17. www.maratonadiroma.it