The flight home race report and photos by Eoin O’Brien

The one great thing about running is that, more often then not, you get back what you put in.

The 2018 Rome marathon was to mark the 10th anniversary of my first ever marathon in Rome back in 2007. Don’t ask.

Between work, the big snow and a realisation that I’m not really into really long distance runs anymore, I managed to get all my training done in the week of the 25th to 31st of March.

Boarding the plane I only then told my equally unprepared buddy that I got the years mixed up and that this actually wasn’t any special anniversary race for me. Disembarking the plane with a dead leg for my honesty we dropped the bags off and headed to get the numbers.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail as the mantra goes. I discovered failed to pack my gels, my sunglasses and my sun cream.

The marathon expo is a bit out of town but easily accessible on the metro. Arriving Friday morning meant the place was empty so picking up the numbers etc was painless. It was a great looking tshirt too which you’d expect from the Italians. Here a screen shot because I just put mine in the wash:

It was my 4th time in Rome and I’m still not bored with it. It’s a ridiculous place. There are no if and buts, it all went down here 2000 years ago. From the sheer size of the Colosseum, the architectural wonder of the Pantheon, the beauty of Trajans Column to the popes gaf, people have been visiting this stuff for millennia for good reason.

Thanks a million for all the words and encouragement leading up to the race. Special mention to Michael Cunningham for sending me this nugget the night before:

Race day was Sunday and with temperatures expected to reach 23-24 degrees I had no notions other then to try and finish this thing within 4 hours and get out without getting injured. My mate was starting in a different wave 5min behind me and announced at dinner the night before he was going to catch me. I’d never hear the end of this. Its amazing what motivates ones self.

The start and finish was on the road from the Colosseum to the Altare della Patria which is quite the backdrop. The race is well organised, no stress putting bags in or getting into the wave. Plenty of jacks too.

The marathon is pretty much flat all the way. People ask about the cobbled streets, there are plenty but I didn’t find them an issue although I wasn’t in racing flats and it was dry. Very, very dry. They aren’t like cobblestones in Temple Bar. They are flat topped with tarmac in between. If it was like Temple Bar someone would have put washing powder in the Trevi Fountain by now.

The 8.40am start took us away from the colosseum, around circus maximus and south of the city into the boonies. I’ve run Berlin, Munch and Barcelona and all these races take you out to their equivalent of Castleknock, Crumlin and Clonskeagh to get the miles in.

Do you know the way when you are fit and running well the kilometres just fly by and you tick them off. Well that didn’t happen.

First 10k was rough, I felt much better in the 2nd 10k as we headed north along the leafy and shaded banks of the Tiber River to pass castle d’angelo and St Peters square at 18k; where mass with the pope was kicking off at 10.30 am. I was too early to catch a glimpse of himself but the crowds gathered where singing some motivational hymns to keep us going.

Leaving Vatican City behind we continued north along the river. The trees seemed to be receding and the second half of the race seemed to be more exposed to the sun. Lucky I had a good base tan from the Irish Spring.

Passing the Olyplmic stadium north of the city, where we saw Roma beaten 2-0 by Florentina the night before (a bad omen), we turned around and headed south.

I was working hard but actually felt reasonably comfortable and was only 90sec out of hitting my target of 20 miles in 3 hours which I thought would get me home sub 4. That was about as good as the day got.

The course was well serviced with refuelling stations every 5k and sponge stations every 2.5k in between them.

The sun was ramping up the pressure though and the poor old lad who handed me sponges at 32.5k  got more then he bargained for when I stopped and gave myself a full body run down beside him.

Clean as whistle off I went again. Past the Spanish steps the streets where thronged with tourists. The course has a cruel twist of faith (and streets) as it runs you close to the finish line only to turn you away to do a final 4K loop in shadeless streets with the sun blazing down at his highest point.

I finished 4.01, a last sprint couldn’t save me and get me under 4 but I was a VERY happy man to see the finish line at the Altare della Patria and get in the shade of the Colosseum. I take some solace in holding the Sportsworld record for the fastest time at the 2018 Rome marathon.

My mate dived for the finish line and ran 3.59. And yes he caught me.

I’d recommend everyone should visit Rome. It’s a glorious place. Whether you want to run a marathon is up to you. It is a flat course but I felt without the tourists there wouldn’t be much support. That being said racing abroad is great criac and something everyone should experience and enjoy.

Weather can be a bit unpredictable as we had torrential rain all day Monday. And I mean torrential and all day.

All in all it was a tough day at the office but it’s done and apart from an outrageous farmers tan I’m no worse off.

It’s a super base fitness to have which I plan on taking into a summer of 5ks and 10ks. I got a great buzz after the BHAA K-club 10k last month so I’m sticking with shorter stuff now and looking forward to enjoying a summer of training, road and adventure races ahead.

Well done to Emmet and Adeile in the Paris marathon and also Andrea and Margaret who smashed the Madrid half all last Sunday too! Best of luck to Damien and Tom heading over to London soon. I’m looking forward to Toms report. Big Kudos to Shay Brady who is working his way across the Sahara Desert as we speak. I’ll stop giving out about my hot race now.

Never say never I suppose. I might go back to Rome and run the 20th anniversary of my first marathon in 2029.