Much like Rome, a marathon isn’t built in one day. It is built upon hundreds of days, hundreds of miles. Yet, while it might not be built in one day it sure can be tested in one day.
My training began in January and it has consisted of a few months of slowly building my fitness back up to where it was before my injury last year. I had focussed more on my half marathon pace but still felt as though I had done a decent level of training despite injuring my ankle about three weeks ago. However, there was something I hadn’t trained for; rain, lots of rain.
Every time it was chucking it down with rain during my training I would simple opt for some training that didn’t involve venturing into the outdoors, if it was going to rain I would be unprepared. I hoped vainly as I walked to the start in the shadow of the colosseum that the weather would hold. As soon as I got across the start line it started to rain. Lightly at first, a few pleasant spots of rain cooling my apprehensive skin. Then, as I approached the first kilometre a huge crack of thunder split my optimism and the rain fell. Rain the like I hadn’t seen outside of monsoon season in India. Luckily I had a support crew of one who had handed me a poncho before the start and I slipped it on. Sadly by then the rain had taken it’s toll on my brand new headphones and they slowly began to decrease in volume and one ear died completely. Music the thing I depend so heavily on when the road gets long was literally fading out. The rain also made avoiding puddles an impossibility as the streets turned into their own tributaries of the Tiber. Water seeped into my trainers and I knew that taking them off after the race was not going to be a pretty sight.
Still my pace for a 4:30 race remained spot on. In the build up to the race I had only run up to 16 miles so I knew that my body was going to struggle. The rain began to ease at about 12 miles, however, and with the romance of Rome I found myself lost in it. The miles slipped by and with Italy being the land of carbs I felt my energy levels were still very high from eating all the pizza and pasta I could get my hands on in the lead up to the race. I had the fitness to keep going and despite the weather I felt Rome willing me on but I knew it wouldn’t last.
The inevitable point at which my precarious plan came apart was as the rain began to hurl down heavily upon my weary limbs once more. Mile 17 to be exact. The lack of long distance training took it’s toll and my feet and knees needed to rest. That combined with the beautiful cobbled stones of Rome’s streets turning into ice rinks when wet meant I had to slow to a walk at points.
Still I trudged on through the rain of Rome and at around mile 23 we rounded back into the centre of Rome and past many of its iconic sights: I readjusted a wedgie round Piazza du Popolo, snot-rocketed past the Spanish Steps and had an emergency wee behind a Fiat 500, you know the traditional things. Enjoyment picked up my pace and the smile returned to my face.
As I rounded the final bend to be greeted by the sight of the finish I had to admit that despite now being more rain water than man, I didn’t want the race to end. The thunderstorms had simply added to the epic air that Rome blows through it’s cobbled piazzas and I was high on it.
As I walked, dazed, from the finish line to my Airbnb I rounded the Colessium as I had done at the start. The arena where men’s true grit were weighed and measured through blood, sweat and tears. While I was clad in a plastic poncho and a foil blanket rather than a gladiatorial suit of armour (and knowing full well I’d last a few seconds in a real battle) I felt that Rome had tested me and I was still smiling. Five marathons in under a year done but with five more still to go this year and with London only two weeks away, I know I have only just begun to be weighed and measured.
Highlights: History, so much history! A constant string of sites in a great well planned route. Aid stations were amazing and despite the awful rain the support was fantastic. The course is wonderfully open with hardly any loop backs meaning you get to see a lot of Rome. Have to say as a course it should be up there with the best for a major city marathon. The most beautiful medal EVER. Goes in second place behind my all time favourite marathon; London.
Lowlights: Lack of photographers. A bit of a mission to get back out after the finish. Thats it. A whisper away from 5 cups!