International Marathon #1
Rome Marathon #1
The BQ hunt continues. I thought I would get that out of the way at the start. I got a whole lot closer though. That comes later. (This might be a long one with few pictures because the official pics won’t be up until tomorrow.)
To start, there were a couple things working against me. One, I did not get great sleep on Thursday and Friday night. (Saturday’s was great, thankfully.) Two, it was raining. There’s something about international races and rain for me. (Remember the 10k in Warwick back in 2011?) I was not happy about the rain prospects as Dad can attest to.
I came prepared though. With a plastic baggie around my phone, a trash bag over my head (with self-made holes for my head and arms) and an umbrella I was “ready” to head out. (Side note: a British guy in the hotel lobby saw my trash bag and asked the receptionist if they had something like that in the kitchen maybe.)
We left a little earlier than we could have but I didn’t mind that much. Having the Colosseum as a backdrop while waiting to start the race was too cool.
Dad and I parted with about 40ish minutes to go before the start. I hated having to give him my umbrella but since I need that after this trip it was then or never.
Getting through the small opening in the gate was ridiculous. Everyone was all smushed up against each other, literally, and quite comfortable with pushing and shoving each other. At one point I said “Oh. My. Word.” The lady in front of me turned around and nodded in agreement. She said something in English back which I can’t remember, just the fact that I happened to be right behind an English speaker.
After another trip to the portopoties I made it up to corral B, the one just behind the elite and sub-seeded start. On the long-ish walk up to the start a whole bunch of guys were almost sprinting to get up there. It made me wonder just how close to the start it was. Thankfully I had about 8 minutes.
I ditched the trash bag around 3 minutes later and waited for the start. It’s an odd feeling standing there listening to the announcements but understanding not a word of them.
At 8:50 on the dot we were off and less than a minute later we crossed the start line. I started my playlist a few seconds before and once we were out of the starting area I could hear the song I had chose to start this off. It’s pretty heady to run past these amazing buildings in the heart of Rome listening to “I owned every second that this world could give. Saw so many places. The things that I did.” Yeah, I knew it would be a great way to start.
Going into this race I considered all that I had put on my plate and wondered if it was such a wise idea to have an ambitious goal in a place like this, if it would keep me from enjoying the sights. I think I made the right decision though. I’m not ready to run a marathon without an ambitious goal yet.
The first water stop was a near nightmare. This marathon stationed the water stops every 5k. If one planned well, this is just plenty. (The lack of more water stations is a frequent complaint on its marathonguide page.) I read one review that mentioned that these water stops offered bottles of water. I decided against my hand held and decided to take water at every stop and try out the water bottle. This was such a great decision. The bottle had an indentation at just the right point that made it feel almost like I was holding my hand held. The nightmare part came when I realized that they also had cups out and I had passed the bottles. I doubled back a few steps to grab one and got slammed into by a guy who so graciously helped himself to the bottle I was reaching for. Thankfully there was no lasting damage.
I’ve run big races before but have never had any collisions. In this race alone I had the above plus a guy hitting my arm with his own arm on the downswing, at least two people stepping on my feet/shoes and other guy putting his hand on my waist in a gentle motion that felt way too intimate. (He was just letting me know that he was next to me so that I wouldn’t run into him but still…)
Post water stop collision, my mind was not in a good place. My body felt great but I was struggling deeply mentally. As I am now several hours separated from that place I’m not really sure of what I was thinking but I do know that it had me seriously considering abandoning the fast pace and just jogging it in.
Instead of giving in to that voice I told myself to make it to the half-marathon point while still chasing an 8:10 pace before re-evaluating. I wasn’t too much of a fan of that idea but I’m glad I kept pushing.
Around 12km or 13 we entered the Vatican. Amazing. I knew it was something important from the sheer grandeur of the buildings but it wasn’t until I read the words on one of the buildings that mentioned “Pontifex” that I realized where we were. I felt a bit giddy realizing that I was running through the courtyard where people gather to see the Pope.
Once I got to the halfway point I actually felt pretty good and very thankful that I hadn’t given in to the negative thoughts earlier. It was about this point where a guy got my attention and while pointing to his hand said “Agua? Water?” I could not figure out what he wanted with the bottle I had just gotten at the last refreshment station so I just handed it to him. He took it, poured some in his hand and then threw it onto his face before handing the bottle back to me. After a quick “grazi!” he was off. Okay then.
I felt great through the next section even through mile 20. (I’m not sure what miles these were exactly because I was purposefully avoiding looking at the total distance on the Garmin and all I had to look at where the kilometer markings. I loved these by the way. It’s a much more manageable distance than a mile.)
When I took my last gel at mile 18 (I took them every six miles) I knew that would be my last one. It took way too long to get down and I knew it would take even longer at mile 24 if I tried.
At 32k, aka with 10k remaining, I decided that I would put the hammer down just a bit. I don’t think my pace improved that much but I might been riding a bit of a high because barely 2k later I hit the wall, hard.
My legs started hurting, really hurting. As soon as that started I flipped the Garmin screen to clock and ran to finish as strong as I could. I had already come to the realization that a BQ was probably out of the picture, not by much but by just enough that continuing to chase it would have been futile. I’d also already established a ranking of goals. From easiest to hardest: PR with a qualifying time for Chicago (sub 3:45), break the 3:40 barrier, qualify for Boston (sub 3:35) and the reach goal of 3:33.
I kept telling myself that I did not come to this race to do less than my best no matter how hard it felt or how much my legs hurt.
I also tried to keep counting down the kilometers. Soon, but not soon enough, we were at 7k to go. (I skipped the last water stop.) I never saw the 36km (6k to go) marker. I kept hoping to see it so I could stop telling myself less than 7k to go. It was such a relief to see 37km. Only 5km left. I can do this. I never saw the 39km marker either so was overjoyed to see 40km. Only 2 km to go!
Then came 41km. We turned onto a street that I recognized from last night’s dinner. We were so close! I looked at the time then and saw 3:38:xx and wondered if I had enough left to get under that finish line before the clock turned over to 3:40:xx.
Just like that I was done! Also, I was amazed at just how quickly (first step) it became incredibly difficult to move forward in any manner.
Since this post is already incredibly long I won’t go into details about the incredibly long walk back to the exit. I will mention the incredibly large and delicious Gatorade we received as well as a full goodie bag. Also, European men do not have the same sense of modesty as many other places. As we passed the left luggage trucks I happened to see several men that felt that out in public was the perfect place to strip down to their underwear and change. #wheninrome
When I made it to the exit I was thankful for two things. One, Dad was right there. Two, he’s fairly tall. I’m so glad I didn’t have to go looking for him.