The Rome Marathon weekend is a little ways behind me, here is the recap.
Due to the conclave at Vatican City, and the timing of the marathon coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day, and an Italy-Ireland rugby game, and myriad other events happening that weekend, Rome was a complete madhouse when we were there. It was great! Dave and I stayed in the Trastevere neighborhood, just across the Tiber River (tras = across, and “tevere” is the Tiber) from Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). We had easy access to the start and finish of the race, which are based at the Colosseo (The Colosseum).
We arrived on Friday and dined at one of several cute and well-regarded restaurants in our neighborhood, Taverna Trilussa.
One of my all-time favorite Italian pasta dishes is Bucatini all’Amatriciana, and lucky for me, it is a Roman specialty. Bucatini is the name of the pasta, which is a dried pasta along the lines of a thick spaghetti that is hollow like a straw. The Amatriciana sauce is made of tomatoes, guanciale (a fatty bacon made of cured pork cheek) and pecorino cheese; I prefer versions that also include garlic and onion, which I saw in the three versions I have eaten in Rome. The dish does not need much cheese though, so if you try it and you are usually a cheese-heavy person, I recommend taking several bites before asking your server to add more cheese. Adding some spice with red or black pepper spices is also common and is the best way that I have enjoyed bucatini all’Amatriciana.
On the Saturday before race day, Dave and I traced our path from our Trastevere apartment to the race start, and then joined our friends on the trek to marathon village. We registered and got our swag bag, signed the marathon wall, and carbo loaded.
That night, we met up with other members of Dave’s command for another pasta-rich dinner. We had several experienced marathoners in the group, so we all ate pretty lightly, and enjoyed the camaraderie of sharing our race histories, theories for success, and pre-race jitters.
Race day came quickly enough and we set off without a hitch. About 16,000 runners, walkers, and wheelchair/hand-bikers participated in the race, and you can imagine the porta-potty lines! It was a wonderful atmosphere, and as total amateurs, we were deep in the pack of the final group to launch. We crossed the start line about 10-minutes after the gun start, and with the beeeeeeeeeep of our chips engaging, our Maratona di Roma start was official!
Dave hung in with me for the first 5k and then headed out with a bit more speed. My body was dragging, and I settled into making my goal of running the entire first half. I made it to the halfway point with my wits about me, took several walk breaks to accept that my time was going to be pretty far off my personal best, and then re-engaged with vigor. As I got rolling into the second half, I faced many of the demons that plagued me during races when I was more strongly positioned to perform – panic attacks, sudden surges of emotion, and balancing the pain and anger I felt as the race progressed. Dave coined this stage “painger” and you know when you’ve entered the zone because you transition from thinking “Thanks crowd” to “F**K off, and stop smoking in the street!”
I practiced some coping strategies and though my time was a half hour longer than my Lago di Garda marathon, I feel like I learned lessons that will carry forward into my physical, spiritual and professional life.
We re-connected after the race, showered and scavenged our neighborhood for food. Luckily, we were right by a bread shop/pizzeria La Renella, and we quickly had bellies-ful of freshly made pizza. Our apartment was equipped with entertainment features, so we watched Ghostbusters and settled into our post-race stupors.
As I reflect on my third marathon in six months, I find myself asking more questions than anything else. How did I maintain mental focus? What am I running after? How will I know when I really come to my physical capacity edge? What is next? Some of these musings lead to deeper philosophical questions, like how much more do I have to give? And, from what springs my desire to find my edge?
From among bloggers I follow, I found this article to be an interesting entry into seeing how other exercise enthusiasts are trying to answer these questions in more urban settings: Is this a rave or a race? Intriguing fitness trends.
All in all, the marathon is a wonderful event and Rome definitely puts on a great show. We tracked along the Tiber River for much of the race, and passed so many notable piazzas and historic sites that I cannot begin to mention them all here. Noteworthy to my Roman soul were running through Piazza Navona, around the neighborhood where we stayed with my parents in October, and running past the Trevi fountain and throwing my coin from the race route. Finally, at the end, we received lovely medals, which I wore all night.
Ciao a Roma, and Ciao to you!