A large marathon that really makes the most of a European city full of historic and impressive landmarks. The support is a bit patchy but the organisation is good and the scenery is up there with some of the best city running going.
When: March (since 1982)
Size: Around 19,000 runners
Official website here.
- Make sure you grab water as often as possible as the stations are relatively far apart for a city marathon this size
- Take it easy on the cobblestones which can be dangerous for sprained ankles
- Train for a fairly flat but undulating course
- Make sure you look up to enjoy the sights and sounds of an amazing city
- Go and visit as many sights as you can in the days before the race because you don’t want to miss out on them because your legs ache too much the next morning!
Good video of the race here…
What’s the organisation and set up like?
Organisation in the lead up to the race starts with an excellent, and very generous expo. You turn up a day before to register and pick up your bib number and you also get free running t-shirts, backpacks, pasta, isotonic drinks and more.
The pasta party is also very well organised and generous offering runners as much Fusilli as they can eat for 5 Euros.
Getting to the expo isn’t especially well signposted or explained to runners. Out on the course there aren’t usually many aid stations but there are lots and lots of stations where you can get a wet sponge.
Every 5 km or so you can get sports drinks – Gatorade and water which means you can go quite far without a drink if you happen to miss a station. This can be a problem if it is especially hot which it can sometimes be.
What’s the course like?
The course is so wonderfully scenic. Every corner you turn you’re jogging past some of the historic city’s famous monuments and buildings. The race starts and finishes outside the coliseum which is a perfect back-drop for your before and after photos.
You start at the Colosseum, run along the Tiber (over multiple bridges), and past some pretty impressive sights. There are a few spots where it’s not as glamorous, but really that’s true of all big city races.
The ending in particular is really impressive as you run through the piazzas and narrow roads hemmed in with people.
It is one of the tougher courses with a large proportion of the track on cobbled streets which can be uncomfortable and there are a lot of inclines as you might expect from a city that is apparently built on seven hills.
Overall, it’s pretty flat – there’s one big hill around the 18 mile mark and another steady slope at mile 25 through a tunnel.
The weather can be hot but it can also be wet which might make it harder depending on your preference!
What’s the atmosphere like?
For the most part there are large crowds and certainly to begin with plenty of big bands, cheerleaders and other performers keeping morale high. However at some points in the course there isn’t much crowd support at all as the supporters thin out at points.
There is a nice build up of people at the end which does help through the last few miles.
What is there to do Apres Race?
There isn’t much specifically organised as part of the event but there are loads of cultural places of interest to visit that are only a short walk or tube journey from the finish line.
The vatican and the sistine chapel are well worth the 20 Euros for a guided tour. Also the colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. And the night before the race there is no shortage of great restaurants to fill you up with carbs the night before.
My Race Diary
Race number: 5th Marathon
I had a great time. It was my fifth marathon and I achieved my third best time of 04:10:37. I find it hard to appreciate my surroundings when I’m running long distances like this because my mind is often on other things like when are my legs next going to cramp up.
At one point after pushing myself too hard for a 5k stretch up to the 25k mark I had to stop for a bit of a heave over the side of a bridge but immediately felt better for it and was able to continue and be a bit more mindful of the excellent statues and buildings.