Being new to the club I thought it would be good to do a quick intro to myself….after playing rugby for 25 years I decided that I should gracefully ‘retire’ and started to look for my next physical challenge…so I turned to triathlon! I recently spent three years living in Australia where I really got stuck into my tri’s mainly doing sprint and olympic distance races – in some amazing (and hot!) places….and now the return to Blightly to continue my journey….
Since I have been home I have started upping my game and have entered a few 1/2 Ironman events (Mallorca & Zell am See), and this year I am going for the big one…a full Ironman in Copenhagen!
Not being your traditional triathlete build and still carrying some (!) weight from my rugby days, I have undertaken a tough IM training plan to get my seventeen stone frame around the course in Denmark – in one piece. Part of this plan was to enter a marathon so that I could lock it away in my physical and mental bank to prove to myself that I can actually run 26.2 miles after swimming 2.4 miles and then biking 112 miles…so I entered the Rome marathon. Here is my story…
Training – I found a good online training guide that started way back in November, and I started to follow this (as best I could with work, social life etc.) and very soon I was running 13+ miles and feeling pretty good. Then the mileage started to ramp up with 15, 17 and 19 mile runs all completed ok (varying degrees of ok!). I developed a hip flexor injury which stopped me running more than 19 miles so as the start date loomed on the horizon I started to get the ‘fear’…but mentally I knew I could tough it out! I mixed up my running with some good runs on the Somerset levels and then for some hill work did some great runs on the Mendips….onto the race !
Race Registration – Being an Italian event, the admin was pretty intense and complex! The team based in Rome were very good and helpful but the website and registration process is very complex. While there is no ballot as such, you need to be on your game regarding the registration process. Basically you need either (1) be a member of an England Athletics affiliated running club…which is one of the reasons why I joined CRC [thanks again Izzy and Andy for all your help] or (2) have a medical certificate signed by your doctor. The issue here is that the form is so vague all the doctors I spoke to said they didn’t know what they were signing for….so if you’re interested in the Rome marathon – go down route 1 and join a running club!! So eventually all the forms were completed and registration fee was paid. You get an email confirmation that you need to print off and take to the Expo in return for your race number, a good techie t-shirt and a cool backpack….but the Expo is miles out of the centre of Rome and we had to get a taxi there…not ideal the day before the race and when 5,000 other people had the same idea! The crazy thing is that after you queued for 1.5 hours to get into the registration desk area, there was no queue inside…strange! You have to love Italy!
The Race – So training hadn’t gone to plan as such with my longest run being 19 miles and longest time running was 3:30 hours…I knew I had a tough day ahead. The forecast was for 19°c and cloudy weather…but when we awoke at 06:00 it was already 17°c and sunny! The weather at the start was 20°c and peaked at 26°c…so if you like running in the sun then Rome is for you! By the way, last year it rained and was 14°c!! The course is just simply amazing and Rome is often quoted as ‘if you only run one marathon…run Rome’. You start and finish next to the Colosseum, and on the course you run past Piazza Navona, the Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, the Vatican, Trevi Fountain, St Peter’s Basilica and so on. It was great and actually takes your mind off the running as the sites get better as you progress around the course. Below is a link to the route map of the course and you will see that it is very spectator friendly…my wife managed to see me (in differing stages of fatigue) three times around the course which was great for moral support!
There are a few hills (Rome after all is built on seven hills) and according to my GPS I climbed 835m on the run. The worst hill is the gradual incline from 40km to the finish! Also another key watch-out is the amount of cobbles you have to run on! They are pretty tough going and there is approx 10km of them so you have to watch your feet as most of them are uneven.
In terms of water/food stops all was good, with water and isotonic drinks (called Salts in Italy) every 5km and food every 5km after you reach 15km. They also have sponging stations every 7.5km – which was most welcome in that heat. The support was pretty good around the course but being a tourist hot spot…beware of random people walking out in front of you on segways (!) or with their luggage!
Post-Race – Great medal and plenty of space to relax and recover as you are segregated from the tourist hordes with the Colosseum as a great backdrop! Pretty slick baggage retrieval and the Italians seemed to be more organised at the end of the race than at the start!
Summary – To be honest as my first marathon I didn’t know what to expect, apart from that it was going to be tough and the hardest event I have done so far…what with my hip injury, the heat, cobbles, inclines and ok-ish training (excuses, excuses I know!) I was happy that (a) I finished and (b) I ran it in 5:26:02. I thought that if I do only run one marathon then Rome was a great place to do it! It was great prep both physically and mentally for my Ironman later in the year and I am not saying that I wouldn’t run another marathon but I would need some convincing! Saying that I have just been on the NYC marathon website!