Monday, April 03, 2006

Rome Marathon - Vini, Vidi, Vinci

I had hopes of staying in the city center but lo and behold, when I tried to book a hotel recommended by a friend, it was full. So I ended up staying in a B&B about 5K south of the EUR FERMI station and whose owners are really wonderful people.

I signed up for this race back in October but had trouble with my credit card. Back then the fee was only 25 euro, a bargain. The fee went up to 40 in January 1st, and to 50 later on. When I went to retrieve my bib number I wondered which fee they would make me pay. They honored the 25 Euro! I was then given a coupon to pick up my book-bag (rather nice) which contained some goodies and a t-shirt.

Lets fast forward to race day. Maurizio (owner of the B&B) gave me a ride to the Eur Palasport station and I took the metro (Line B) to the circo massimo station. The station happens to be about a K from the start. There were lines for the portas and I ended up taking care of business and using the last of the toilet paper.

The way the organizers seeded runners was in four corrals. Corral A was for elites, B for bibs under 3000, C for bibs 3001-6000 and D for the remainder of the runners. While waiting for the start I realized I had not placed band-aids on my nipples. Ouch. However, some lady had left a case of vaseline and I used it sparingly.

The Plan: Originally, I had devised a first half at 8 mpm and a second half at 7:30 mpm. But then I second-guessed my plan thinking that it would be too tough. So I came up with a second plan, to run sub 3:20. BUT when I saw the rather large group of runners in front of me I discarded it and decided to run for fun.


The 3:45 pacers are to my right. The race starts and it takes me about 1:03 to cross the start. We are right next to the Colosseum on Via Dei Fori Imperiali. The amazing sight makes me feel special. We run around the Campidigio on cobblestones. The pace seems pedestrian. It’s rather warm and I am already sweating. I ‘run’ the first klip in 5:45, way off the sub 3:20 pace but it’s rather enjoyable for I am taking in the sights and sound... and odors... and I am gald I threw away the sub 3:20 goal. I bisect the circo massimo and the foro romano. Then I run along the river. I hit the 5K marker and my watch reads 25:20. I have managed to make some time. I then make my way towards St. Peter’s Basilica and around the Vatican Museum while passing the St. Angelo Castle. 10K in 49:24. The aid station were enough for us middle of the packers but I was afraid not enough for those at the back of the pack. The tables were labeled: aqua, salts and solids. I did not figure the salts out until 15K where I took my first gatorad... that’s right salts=gatorade. But I am getting ahead of myself. From the 10K marker to the 25K marker the course was rather boring and I struggled to keep focused. Right after the 10K I spotted the 3:30 pacers and gave chase. I did not catch them until the 13K marker where I had to run on the sidewalk to pass their wall made of runners. Two Ks later I had to make a dehydration stop and they caught me. But I promptly left them behind. 15K in 1:13:08. I reach the halfway point feeling rather fresh in 1:42:58.

I wonder if picking it up will not hurt my time three weeks later in Boston, especially since my hamstrings feel a bit tight. I decide for a mild pick-up. The 25K mark comes in at 2:01:36. Not bad but it is getting harder to focus. Then around the 27th K the course gets more interesting as I go through the piazza novona and then the torre argentina. But I am struggling, mentally not physically, after all I have had my best training yet out of all my 32 marathons; but the mental strain is quite palpable. The next sight is the piazza del popolo right before 30K (2:25:50). Now, my only objective is to finish. I figure 5 minute Ks will bring me home at a decent time, hopefully sub 3:26 for even simple calculations are not so simple.

During this stretch one italian runner literally zooms by me at sub 6 mpm screaming ‘il presidente’ to which another italian responds by what I imagine is the english equivalent of a four-letter word. It was entertaining nonetheless. I keep on what is now shuffling. Amazingly I am still maintaining sub 5 min Ks as I pass the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the piazza venezia.

Then I reach the colosseum as I run right next to the circo massimo once again. Before this stretch my feet had been hurting but I think the cobblestones massaged my feet making them feel better, or was it psychosomatic? (35K in 2:50:20). Seven Ks remaining and I know I am close to ‘home.’ This part was rough in that it’s and out-and-back section and seeing faster runners on the other side weakens the spirit and the left knee is aching. The mild head wind is not helping either, but I know I will have it on my back when I reach the home stretch. I get to the s. paolo church and it is only four-point-two Ks left and I manage somewhat of a decent gait. I am now running 4:30 Ks. I see the 40K marker (3:14:24). I am feeling stronger by the minute. The colosseo is just in front of me. There is this short but technical incline; I power past it almost without effort. I really pick it up now. An inflated arch is right around the colosseo and I think it is the finish line. The joke is on me. I look at my watch and see that only 7+ minutes have gone by since the 40K mark, I realize I still have over 400 meters to go, ouch. In spite of this I manage to keep a good form. I extend my arms in the form of an airplane. A big smile on my face springs to life. This time the inflated arch I am looking at marks the finish line. I cross it in 3:24:10 by my watch and the chip (which was in my bib number). The official clock reads 3:25:13.

I am happy to have finished a marathon ran on historical grounds of roman proportions :-). I will cherish this medal more than any other medal because it is a work of art. A renowned Italian artist actually designed the medal.

Next in line is the 110th Boston Marathon where I will chase a sub 3:16 goal.

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