Saturday, March 24, 2012

Race Report: Maratona di Roma

In front of the Colosseum before the race
All roads lead to Rome, or at least that is what the shirt says. While you may not see all the roads in Rome during this 42,195 m race (or 26.2 mi), you will see many important cultural and historic sites, all while having spectators yell "die, die, die" as you pass. Don't worry, it means something like 'go forth' in Italian.

Aside from the tourist-dream of a race course (what other race can boast sites like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, or Saint Peter's Square?), there are several important things to note about the Rome Marathon. First, the cobblestones. There are only 7k worth, and they really aren't so bad. Second, the narrow roads. Serious and repeated bottlenecks at the start, and some throughout the race as well. Third, and most importantly, the start time. The race starts at 9AM for the wheelchair division and elites. Mortals start closer to 9:10. The late start time, paired with the warm climate of Rome, makes the heat a major drawback. They do provide 'sponging stations' every 5k or so, but the heat gets bad between them on sunny streets when the wind isn't blowing.

This was John's first marathon, and my first marathon outside northern California, so we decided early on in our training to take it easy and enjoy the sights. In late January, John started suffering from a variety of leg ailments, starting with his left foot and culminating in IT band issues. Needless to say, we decided to take this race very easy so that John could finish his first marathon healthy, and we could enjoy our remaining vacation when the race ended.

We started out at the Colosseum, in the midst of nearly 20,000 runners. The initial bottlenecks forced a few complete stops, and had us at a snail's pace for a while. Once we got going, we held a comfortable 3:50 pace, while  we snaked through the city, seeing landmarks like the Pyramid, Castel Sant'Angelo, Saint Peter's Basilica, Piazza Navona, and the Spanish Steps.

The combination of heat, lingering jet lag, and our vacation diet took it's toll by mile 17 or so, and we slowed to about 3:55-3:58 pace. At mile 20, John got the dreaded hamstring cramps, and we stopped to stretch. We threw in a few walk breaks from there to mile 22. At the 22 mark, we were still within reach of a 4:00 finish, if we held around a 9:00 per mile pace. John needed to stretch again, so he (very kindly) encouraged me to try for the 4:00 finish, and he would be close behind.

That 4:00 finish wasn't in the cards for me this time. I just didn't have the strength to power up the unexpected (though admittedly small)  hills in the last two miles. I came in at 4:02:02, with John not far behind in 4:12:27.

All told, we had a great race, together, seeing some beautiful and historic sites along the way. Finishing by circling the Colosseum, and then walking along the road next to some of the most historically significant places I've been to, made the finish all the more meaningful.

John after finishing his first marathon!

Links to our results (with splits at each 5k and video) are at these links: Kendra and John

 My Garmin report, showing the course, is below:

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