Wednesday, March 21, 2007

For Whom the Bells Toll

I found myself in the eternal city a fifth time where I was to tackle their marathon a second time. Having a decent base (30 mpw) but only three medium-long runs (two 15s and one 16) suggested a sub-3:30 time. Of course, having averaged 3:21 in three marathons last year, I wanted to run sub 3:25. Good thing I have experience in these journeys and I settled for the more conservative goal.

The race starts promptly at 9 and it takes me a tad over a minute to cross the starting line. I am running quite easily, almost TOO easily. Again, my experience dictated I keep this easy pace, but I am being passed by tons of people including the 3:30 pacers. I let them go and decide to reel them in slowly but surely. First klip is run in 5:52… ooops, that is too darn slow. The 3:30s (they have blue balloons) have gained about 200 meters and I know I have to pick up my snail pace. I seem to keep them within sight and slowly reel them in. My pace seems more labored than the sub-five minute klips and I worry a bit since it is way too early to feel that way.

The chip is wrapped around my ankle with a Velcro strap and the fact that I tightened it too much causes it to chafe my ankle. I ponder where I should stop and remove it. I do it right after the 5KM mat (25:31). I also take care of business. I lose about 35 seconds; no worries. I place the chip in my shorts’ pocket. I do wonder if the chip will transmit to the receiver as I cross the following mats.

I seem to start getting into a rhythm BUT I can’t seem to gain much ground on the blue balloons and I really question the sanity of trying to achieve my modest goal. This portion of the course happens to be rather boring, but it becomes somewhat interesting right after the 16Km where we pass by the Vatican.

European races give water and electrolyte solutions every 5 kms, and the tables get quite crowded. The cups the organizers used were made of plastic, which made it quite difficult to fold and drink without making a mess. The volunteers were few and runners had to reach into the tables to grab the fluids which made it seem more chaotic. In between water stations, they provide sponge stations, which IMO is great, particularly during warm days.

I reach the halfway mark in 1:44:59, barely on schedule. Will I have enough ‘enjundia’ [energy] to run negative splits. Not the way I am feeling. I am hopeful though. I plod on. I concentrate on my gait for it has turned into the marathon shuffle. It seems to help. The course remains boring until we hit the 32 Km marker. 10 klips to go, or roughly an hour left. I can do this, I know I can. My secondary goal was not to walk and so far so good. Next I hear tolling bells and I wonder for whom are they ringing. The 5 minute klips are harder to sustain. I know it will be very close to run the sub 3:30 and quickly I am losing hope. I convince myself that anything in the low 3:30s will not be so bad.

We are now through the most scenic section of the course where I will run pass the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Novona, and head back to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It seems a lot harder to run on cobblestones.

Finally, I reach the 40Km marker and I know that at the very least I will complete this race without walking. My watch reads 3:19:29 and my foggy brain manages to do the math and I pick up the pace so that I can make up 30 seconds in the last stretch. I just hope I will not cramp up. I am passing several runners. I realize that my chip is still in my shorts and that I may not have an official time if the receivers have not picked it up so I take it out. I round the Colosseum and I am but 192 meters away. I will break 3:30 chip time, now I gun to break 3:31 ‘real time.’ My legs feel strong and as I cross the finish line I lower the hand that is carrying the chip so that I will have an official time. My watch is stopped with the chronometer reading 3:29:47, or 8:00.54 mpm. I barely achieved a negative split of eleven seconds but I will gladly take it.

The next day found me sightseeing without any muscle soreness whatsoever. A good sign; a good sign indeed. This time the bells did not toll for me.


Uptown Girl said...

Congrats! I had a couple of friends that ran the Rome Marathon as well:) Enjoy your recovery!

Quinto Sol said...

Thanks Uptown Girl - I had a blast and the recovery is going well. So well that I will be running a satellite version of Boston, here, in the middle of nowhere :-) And let me tell you, this course is a lot tougher; so much more that I KNOW I will be walking.

Your friends must be from Canada as I saw quite a few of them.