Stay in my hotel room until 8.00am – a marathon morning luxury. Also means avoiding portaloos. Meet Jim in the foyer then out into the glorious sunshine to cover the 100 metres to the Colosseum.
There’s only one way to the start – left round the Colosseum then through Constantine’s arch with all the other runners. You imagine being part of an Emperor’s triumph with all the crowds cheering you down to the forum and centre of Rome.
Busy as usual in the starting area – but plenty of room because they’ve shut off the whole of the centre of Rome and we’re on the huge main boulevard flanked by the Forum and Trajan’s markets. People jogging and jigging up and down – burning nervous energy, but nevertheless burning energy they’ll wish they still had in 30 kilometres’ time. Jim & I, old hands (and just old) stand there like the veteran legionaries we are – awaiting the call to charge.
Cinque – Quattro – Tre – Due – Uno – and we’re off! Up to speed quickly, feeling okay, moving freely. Careful to keep looking at the road – all black cobbles, quite hard, some uneven bits and gaps. Soon the balloons of the 4:30 pacers come into view and I’m past them. They seem slow – which means I’m going well. Not feeling at my best, coughing and wheezing a bit, and with no training for 2 weeks I’d have been happy with 4:30 so it looks like I’m going to beat that.
Run through the 5k water station – at last the “ks” are beginning to click. The marathon runners’ internal conflict rages – this seems to be taking forever so run too fast early doors. Versus patience and discipline. Soon the 4:15 pacer balloons come into view – 4:15 would be a great result, should I stay with them? But I’m running faster than that … although I know my training will only take me to about 30k. Okay – decision made. Keep going at current pace – get enough in hand hopefully so they don’t catch me again before the end. Dangerous – planning for the wheels to fall off!
10k – nicely under the hour. Bit too fast. Stop to drink – it’s getting hot. So go for “Salti” – salts, or sport drink as we know it. Gel on board as well. Start going again – keep running in shade where I can. Must be hot if I’m seeking out shade at this stage.
Around 18k crowds are even louder – and then round the corner in glorious sunlight is the Basilica di San Pietro and we seem funnelled in by cheering crowds and the colonnades of the Vatican. So sensational I actually exclaim out loud – “Wow”. Not eloquent but a “wow” more than I’ve ever uttered in a marathon.
The next serious feed is at 20k – slow down, walk, make sure to drink and eat properly in this weather. Loose a bit of time but still through 21k (half way) in 2:01. Too fast, too fast!
Head down time for the next 10k – literally head down, looking at the cobbles and tarmac as they flow under my feet. And looking at my shadow to gauge cadence and evenness of stride. Having to work harder now, legs not as fluid as they were, bits of ache creeping in. Change gait for periods to take shorter steps, just relieve the pressure on my legs and hips for a bit. Speed still good.
Quite a climb at around 30k – but that suits me and I go past the first significant number of walkers. I knew I’d never see the 4:00 pacers – but as I lift my head for the 30k feeding station they go past me! I must have eased past them, head down and not noticed. Proof I was going far too fast – and that I’m now slowing. Drink, gel, banana – and a real effort to keep going now. 35k and I’ve had it. I’d love to walk but fight fight fight that urge and somehow drag my feet through. Painful, slow, stiff, close to cramping.
Have seen the first few casualties as we sweep past the Pantheon and through the main city streets. Collapsed and attended by medics – they won’t make it. But wow what a race – the only city run I’ve ever done where they shut the heart and centre and run you through all its magnificence.
Opening up into the huge start finish straight – there’s someone down against the barrier by the very white and very colossal Altare della Patria. 150 meters to go and he’s semi-conscious, ambulance attending. 42k 195m – those last metres so cruel and he didn’t make it. Last push for me – over the line. 4:10. Very happy with that. My reputation for consistency intact – I did 4:10 last time out in Amsterdam!
Collect medal, walk towards Colosseum. So hot no need for the thermal blanket or warm clothes. Glorious. Simply glorious. Legs tired over last 7k as expected, but otherwise intact. Feel fine and recovered after 10 minutes or so. Wait for Jim and Kaz, then beers, wine, pizzas, evening stroll, much merriment – and this wonderful, beautiful, eternal city ….. It was only meant to be a training run pre-London. It’s turned out to be the most spectacular city marathon I’ve ever ever done. I may run faster, I may run with loads of fun and friends on the way – but a city road route will never beat this.