On 27th March 2022, I ran Rome Marathon. I was so pleased to finally take part in #RunRomeTheMarathon after originally planning to take part in 2020. I was then unable to take part in the rearranged date of 2021. I was always planning to take part in 2022 and am so happy to be welcomed onto the pace team. I will write about the Gladiator pacers later, but after being part of so many fantastic pace teams, I can honestly say I have never been part of a better team. I had a fantastic time.
Rome Marathon 2022 is the first time I have run Rome Marathon. It is my 101st Marathon (or longer) and the first time running as a full member of the 100 Marathon Club. It was also the 94th time I have been an official pacer and the 33rd Marathon I have paced. Pacing is something I enjoy, and although I have my own personal goals, nothing compares to helping others achieve theirs. The Marathon is the pinnacle, where you see the best of people and can truly make a difference. I love the social element of running, so being there during a large Marathon surrounded by runners is just amazing.
We planned a brief trip to Rome to balance school attendance, so we departed at 7am on Saturday, returning on Monday. Travel was straightforward with no need to test if vaccinated. However, we had to get tests for our kids as entry into Italy requires vaccine or test for 6 plus, and our children haven’t been offered vaccination yet. I knew we had to wear masks on the plane, but I had assumed surgical masks were appropriate. We were told whilst boarding that Italy required FFP2 masks, so I joined a queue of other passengers to buy the right masks at the airport.
The train from the airport was quick and straightforward, and my kids loved our hotel so much they didn’t want to leave. Their beds were on their own floor with their own bathroom and TV. We did manage to get them out as I wanted to explore the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain before going to the expo. This was joined by the first of many pizza and pasta dishes and the best ice cream.
I had to be at the expo at 17:20 on Saturday for the Pacer Presentation, so we made our way there for around 16:00. The entry process with covid (Super Green Pass = vaccinated/ NHS covid pass) was simple, and the bib collection was quick. My boy also collected his bib and t-shirt for the Fun Race, a 5k race. There was also a marathon relay event. We were both given the 2020 Rome Marathon medal as registered participants, which was a nice touch.
The expo wasn’t huge, and was very busy so we went through quickly. I picked up my pacers kit before the Presentation. It was all in Italian so was more of a responsibility for me than a benefit, but I was happy to be there. This was the first time seeing the huge team of 137 pacers and so many familiar faces that I have paced with previously around the world.
We stopped at the colosseum on the way home for our evening meal and ate in a wonderful restaurant overlooking the colosseum. After a long day, I was pleased to get to bed ready for an early start. I ended the evening by preparing my kit for the morning and ensuring I was ready for a quick departure.
Rome Marathon 2022
Finally, it was race morning. The pacers met at 6:30, 2 hours before race start, to make sure we were ready. There are so many balloons for 137 pacers, and in my group, one of the biggest groups, we had a team of 6. I am sure I am a little biased, but I had the best pace team. Honestly, I am used to either pacing alone or with one other. I usually take the lead and spread out, so running in a big group of pacers was different from normal, but all my team was amazing. Our team captain, Lisa, had paced Rome Marathon 13 times before, and we were joined by an experienced group of pacers: Nicola, Marco, Marco, and… Marco.
We met as a group for a team photo, and it was certainly a great group of pacers. The Gladiator Pacers, with clear instructions to run as a team, stick together and have fun. It’s exactly as it should be and a perfect group.
In many international events, English is the main language spoken. It was clear that at Rome Marathon, most people spoke Italian, and so I did not understand all the conversations. But there were plenty of runners that also did not speak Italian, so it was a good balance, and I was able to motivate and provide guidance and support to runners around me, alongside my team of Italian pacers. I think we worked well together and together were able to support everyone and answer everyone’s questions.
We started at approximately 08:43 as we crossed the startline. It was a large and busy event with narrow roads at the beginning. It meant the first few km were busy, so we ran slightly slower than the desired pace. We did not worry or try to run faster; we just ran comfortably, and after a couple of km, we were able to get to the correct pace. It was very busy for most of the marathon, but we found more space after about 7 km. At this point, I moved into position with 3 pacers at the front spread out, with 3 pacers behind. We swapped and changed throughout the marathon without any conversation about this. We worked as a perfect team, and each and every pacer on my team was strong and great.
It was lovely working with a great team, and we had a large core group of runners with us. Each refreshment station we worked together to get extra bottles of water. If I was close I picked up 2 or 3 bottles and gave out to other pacers and members of our group. Likewise at a couple of stations I was given a bottle by others. We looked out for each other, and moved around to stay as a tight group.
Each km, we were a few seconds under, running a consistent pace. We ran 5 to 10 seconds quicker per km / mile to allow for all the turns and keep on pace. Towards the end of the run, it was becoming very hot as well, so the frequent water and sponge stations were welcomed. We looked after each other and those in our group, encouraging the use of cold sponges to cool ourselves. There were so many runners who kept with us, which was so pleasing to see. We also paced the 4:30, 4:20, and 4:10 pacers from wave 2, as we started in wave 3. They all looked strong with large groups. In the 4:20 group, one of the pacers was in a wheelchair. I have never seen this before and was incredible to see, so inclusive. Bravo Rome.
In the final 5km, one of our group had stomach troubles, which became apparent. They were exhausted but showed great strength and determination. Marco ran mostly with his hand on her back, encouraging and cooling her with water. She could have stopped; without our group, she would have stopped, but she stayed with us until the finish. With 5km left, we were 8 seconds ahead of target. We naturally sped up towards the end as our group sped up, and we ran with them.
For the final 200 meters we joined as a team and held hands to cross the finish in an official time of 3:59:37, maybe 10 seconds quicker than we wanted, but with a large group, together and with a perfectly consistent pace. We started and finished together, and everyone had such fun. What a perfect way to run Rome Marathon.
Rome Fun Race
Meanwhile my boy was running the 5k Fun Race. I knew he was excited, but just before we started I received a message from my wife saying he didn’t want to run. I think he was tired and also nervous running alone. I said to take him to the start just in case he changed his mind. I spent the first hour thinking about him and hoping he ran, as I knew he would be so sad if he didn’t. I would normally run with him but obviously couldn’t as it started at 09:15. He has never ran more than 2km alone before and this was a huge event for him. I was so happy when I was sent a picture of him finishing, and I cannot believe he ran the 5km in 27:06 all alone. I’m so proud of him.
After the marathon there was no time to rest. I finished at 12:45, and had tickets booked for the colosseum at 14:00. So after the Rome Marathon we had a lot of walking around the colosseum, Roman Forum and Palestine Hill. This was something my boy was looking forward to after learning about Romans at school.
We enjoyed some more great food on our final night and needless to say, we were very tired by the end of the day.
Personally it has been a very difficult time for me. Sometimes, things don’t work out as planned, and some things are not fair. There are a lot of nasty people out there who take pleasure trying to bring others down. I have learned that people can be dishonest for their own benefit. That is not how I’ve lived my life. I believe it is always better to be kind, and I have dedicated my life to helping others who have made mistakes and trying to support everyone to be the best they can be. So when people try to bring others down by sharing hate, bullying, harassing, and generally being unkind, it is disappointing. I do not understand why others get joy out of harming others. I cannot change other people, but we can all decide how we want to live our lives, and I am not prepared to change who I am. My family have had a fantastic holiday, and they deserve it. I am so grateful that I can share these experiences with my family, something that we could not afford when I was young. I am grateful for our special Roman adventure. Rome Marathon is now one of my favourite marathons, and I definitely recommend it as a great option for a spring marathon.