Europe

Europe

Race: Rome Marathon
Date: March 18th, 2012
Finish time: 4:35

Europe orthographic Caucasus Urals boundary.svg




Area: 10,180,000 km2 (3,930,000 mi2)
Population: 739,165,030
Countries: 50


I lived in Italy for a year in college and remain obsessed with all things Italian, so I knew my European marathon had to be in Italy. I mean beautiful buildings, sculpture, and art; a fun language; and amazing food. I spent the 4 days in Rome before the race trying not to walk too much in cute (and bad for feet) shoes and trying not to eat myself into a stupor. I failed on both accounts, but it was totally worth it.



I ventured to the marathon expo early Saturday morning, except oops, it didn't open until 10. So I sat in a cafe and drank too much coffee while I waited.



Inside the expo I headed straight for big pick-up. I walked past tables and tables of male numbers before I finally came to the 2 little female tables. Apparently women don't run in Italy. My bib and race information was all inside a nice Rome Marathon back back. Next stop was t-shirt pick-up. I'd shelled out extra for the technical t-shirt. It turned out to be the right size for a Barbie doll, and no trading allowed. Boo. So I ended up paying $15 for the cotton t-shirt I could have gotten for free. But hey, you gotta have a race t-shirt for bragging rights. The expo was pretty lame. There was hardly anyone there and no free stuff. We did a quick walk through, but we out of there in less than half an hour.

On Sunday the race didn't start until 9, as nothing in Italy starts early (see expo example above). But I couldn't sleep, so I got up at 6:30, changed into my race clothes, and headed up to breakfast. I usually have nut butter toast before a long run, and I had come prepared with my own almond butter, but I didn't think to bring my own toast. Since there was no toast, I had my Justin's almond butter on digestive biscuits. It was amazing! And although i was dying for a cappucino, I didn't think the dairy would be kind to my stomach so I stuck with plain espresso.

Then we headed down the hill to the Colosseum for the race start. To save my feet we took the metro, which actually didn't save my feet at all because it was a lot of walking just to get to the train and then I had to stand on the absolutely packed train. The start line was insane. This was the biggest race I've ever done by far, there were 13,000 marathoners and 13,000 doing the 4k that started at the same time. I was totally intimidated.







The organization was pretty terrible. It was hard to tell where to go and we were forced to walk a long, long way through miles of crowded fenced in paths to get to the corrals. There also was no official start, at least not that I could hear. All of a sudden we were just running.

Amazingly my cousin managed to find me in the crowd and get a picture that I'm kind of visible in. Can you spot me?

The narrow city streets were packed and the footing on the old cobblestones was very uneven. I realized pretty quickly that it was not going to be a quick race. So I just settled in, stuck to my planned 3:1 run walk ratio, and plugged along. Here are my observations from the race:



-The first time you hear "That's Amore" while looking at the Colosseum looming over you, you will get totally choked up. By the time it's played 10 times in a row, it loses emotional power and it just annoying.


-When the "scenic course" description is followed by warning about cobblestones and rough roads, it means you'll be too busy looking at your feet to see most of the scenic course.


-Having oranges and bananas at aid stations instead of gels means that the 1/4 miles after the station will be a slippery mess of orange and banana peels.


-Sponge stations are awesome. Every 5k or so there were big tubs of water filled with sponges. I am grossly sweaty and salty when I run so it was nice to wipe off the salt cakes so I looked a little more human. It also felt really cooling. However, don't use the sponge to moisten your mouth. The water is soapy and your mouth will taste nasty for the next 5k.


-"Forza", "vai", and "brava" sound way cooler than plain old "Go."


-Way more men than women run in Europe. The race was only 17% women. Which means the porta potties are nasty and have no toilet paper. It also means there is pee all over the ground by the start. This is a problem when the start is also the finish and you want to sit down after the race.


-European men like to wear little tiny spandex shorts. They also like to adjust themselves and touch themselves a lot while running.


-The Italian idea of spectating is to stand on the side of the course smoking and looking at anyone who is sweating like they are disgusting.


-Sitting at a patio cafe in an Italian square and eating awesome food is great, if you are one of the people sitting at eating. When you're at mile 23 of a marathon and hungry and tired, you really hate those people.


-St. Peters and the Vatican is breath taking on an ordinary day. At mile 18 when it's shining in the sun at the end of a long open avenue and you're getting a little loopy, it will make you cry.




-Running a race marked in kilometers is strange. It's nice because each one is shorter, but there are just so many more of them.

I don't know if it was the slower pace, or that I was well trained, but I felt good. I saw the mile 20 sign and literally did a little kick, to kick down the wall. I never hit it.

My host fam got a shot of me around mile 13
My legs never totally locked up. Sure I was tired, my feet hurt, my hip was a little sore, but I always had the feeling that I was okay, that I could finish. And then I was climbing the last little hill past the Circus Maximus where my cousin and Dutch host family were waiting. They were the push I needed to get up and over. I coasted down the small hill to the Colosseum and then I was across the finish line. My finish time was 4:35 which is 20 minutes slower than my PR. I was a little disappointed, but one thing I learned from the people on my Antarctica trip last year is that doing the 7 continents isn't about being fast. It's about enjoying the experiences and being good to your body.



I collected my medal, which I love. It's a bronze abstract model of the Colosseum.


I got my blanket and fought the crowd to get my food bag (a lousy apple and bottle of water.) I stumbled my way over a grassy area and laid down with my feet in the air. I thought that was pretty good, but then a cute Italian guy offered to rub my feet. Um okay. I didn't even care that I was smelly and sweaty. After we rubbed my feet, he rubbed my legs and back too. Thank you cute Italian stallion!


The finish area was a complete zoo and since I was phoneless I gave up on finding my cousin and host family and was just going to walk back to the hotel alone, since that was our back-up plan. But then I walked around a corner and there they were!

The hugged me even though I was icky
 It's just so nice to have people cheering for you during a race and waiting at the end. Luckily I was feeling good because I had no other way to get back to the hotel other than to walk the 1.5 miles back up the hill. I did use the microscopic elevator at the hotel though- 5 flights of stairs weren't happening!

After a shower and some stretching I didn't want to waste my last night in Italy lying on bed so we headed back out. First, a wonderful cold glass of bubbly prosecco at an outdoor cafe by Santa Maria Maggiore. Then a huge lovely bowl of fresh pasta with truffles. Paradise.


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