It’s been two weeks since the race. (What?) I figured I should get this review up before I forget the details. It’s also important to clarify that this is a review of the race itself and all its components, not a recap of my performance. I already did that.
Registering for and participating in an international marathon in a country that speaks an unfamiliar (to me) language can be intimidating, especially to a novice. I would not recommend this marathon to a first time marathoner. (Everyone should do it though and obviously run more than one marathon.)
As I started this journey about a year ago I tried to make note of things that would be helpful to share in a review, things I learned, mistakes I made and etc.
This review will be a combination of general tips and a review of the specific marathon put on on March 22, 2015.
This was the most confusing part for me. Most international marathons require additional paperwork from foreign participants. (American marathons may do the same but I have yet to encounter anything.) The Rome Marathon required either a running club membership card or a completed health form with physician’s signature and stamp. I went the route of the health form. Even though I am a member of the Greenville Track Club, I do not have a membership card. Running clubs in Europe are also structured differently than many American clubs. Since I do not understand them I won’t try to explain. Regarding the health form, I believe that many doctors in Europe must have an official stamp, like that of a notary public. In my case, my doctor used a stamp that had the name and address of the entire practice.
This form must be submitted and verified before one’s registration is complete. This is where I got nervous. Navigating the website, especially the registration portion, was a bit of a nightmare. The organization’s lack of timeliness in responding to inquiries during this time was unsatisfactory. I got two emails indicating that the mailbox for the official email was full and that the message could not be delivered. It wasn’t until I took to their Facebook page and inquired about my registration status that I received confirmation that my registration was complete.
Do not discard the health form. I had to present it at the expo to withdraw my bib and race packet.
Travel to country:
Be sure to arrive at least two days before race day. It was a bit of a logistical hurdle at work but worth it. One never knows when an airline strike (including air traffic controllers) will leave one stranded in Frankfurt because no flights are entering the entire country of Italy, all day.
True story. I found out eight hours before my light left Charlotte about the cancellation. This led to a mad scramble resulting in train tickets taking us from Frankfurt to Rome including a night train.
While this was far from ideal, I had enough of a cushion that I was still able to attend the Expo. The Marathon did allow for some race day pick up because in addition to an Alitalia strike there was a Lufthansa strike. That’s a point in their favor.
For foreign competitors unable to use their phones without outrageous charges, designate a place to meet your family member before you enter the participants’ entry line. I did not do this and ended up making an anxious call to my dad when I realized that he had my ID on him. I also could not find him when it came time to enter the vender portion of the expo.
Since I did not print my confirmation letter ahead of time, oops, they printed it for me. This was a fairly painless process and did not take long at all. Shirt and bib retrieval went really well also, very organized.
I’ll briefly mention the swag I received. In total I received a New Balance shirt with “All Roads Lead to Rome” on the back, a logo backpack to use for bag drop, plenty of samples and a full bag of tried pasta. I had to laugh at that one.
I tried to find my dad at this point but when I couldn’t, tried to find the exit. This took far too long. Perhaps if I had been able to find him it would have been more enjoyable. That being said, I am not a fan of the expo organization that herds participants past all the booths. This particular expo had to be one of the most confusing. I kept turning a corner expecting to see an exit only to be led through another corridor of booths. It definitely did not suffer from lack of size.
It’s hard to beat a warm up area in front of the Colosseum, even in the rain. Speaking of the rain, it’s a good idea to prepare by bringing a trash bag, extra ziplock baggies and a biggie of rice, just in case. Finding all those things in a foreign country could have been difficult.
There were a good number of porto-potties, although bringing your own toilet aper and nose plugs is highly advisable. By the time you make a second trip those things are rank. I watched several ladies in the line next to me walk in and then right back out, not caring about the line.
Corral set up was the best I’ve experienced. The entire bib, not just a portion, were color coded by corral. Before entering the bib is checked. The you walk along a section of pavement separated from the later corrals by fencing that opens up into the specific corral. No line jumpers here.
I can’t speak to the pre-race announcements because I have no idea what he was saying.
This is a fabulous course. I wish it hadn’t been raining and that I had been just a little more aware of my surroundings.
Most of the scenic spots are located in the first and last 10km. (The course is marked in kilometers with the addition of 10, 15, and 20 mile markers.) The cobblestones are a little more taxing that regular pavement but not significantly more so in my opinion. Even when wet with rain they weren’t too much of an issue. Elevation change is also practically non-existent. There is one “hill” around mile 18 and one somewhere between miles 21 and 22.
Water stops/refreshment stations
The race provides water in bottles and cups. For some reason the ratio of bottles to cups increases towards cups as the race progresses. Electrolytes are called “salts.” The stops are well marked with signs. The volunteers are not exceptionally vocal.
The race also has several sponge stations. In the rain, these stations seem pointless. Regardless, watch the ground in these sections to avoid stepping and slipping on a discarded sponge.
I believe there was medical support on the course. However, since I did not make use of it I do not know where it was located or its adequacy or lack thereof.
This makes or breaks some people’s race. Not mine. Unlike what some reviewers mentioned, there were plenty of spectators, mainly in the city center, even on the rainy day. Be on the watch, however, for tourists crossing the path. There are plenty. I had one woman cross directly in front of me making me stutter-step to avoid tripping over her rolling suitcase. I had shouted “No! No! No!” at her as I saw her start to cross but to no avail.
Running through the piazza in front of the capital building towards the Colosseum is awesome. Definitely motivating.
Immediately after finishing I was handed my medal. No ambiguity there. (One review I read mentioned some lack of organization at this point. I did not see it.) I also grabbed a 1.5l bottle of Gatorade with a flip top opening. They really need to see Gatorade bottles like this in the states! I also got a bag with another (smaller) bottle of Gatorade and other goodies.
The walk back to the exit was extremely long, way too long. we had to walk past all of the left luggage trucks where several men took the opportunity right there to strip down and change. I’m pretty sure it took me close to 15 minutes just to exit. It was likely longer due to how slowly I was walking at that point.
The video is not as impressive as I thought it would be, not worth paying for. Searching for photos was rather difficult until I realized that the marathon opens the search before all of the photos have been posted. The finish line photos must be searched for by finish time. They do not sort those according to bib number.
Even with the quirks I would definitely recommend this marathon for American participants. Just plan to do your sightseeing afterwards, slowly.