All you need to know about the Rome Marathon. A runner’s experience.
Signing up for any race can be a mix of emotions, from excitement to nervousness. A marathon is the epitome of this, especially in a different country. As if the 26.2 miles (42.1 km) isn’t a challenge enough, you must also figure out a whole new territory. That’s why we’re here to show you the ins and outs of the Rome marathon from this year (2023) to have better insight for the future.
Signing up and what to know before you even get to Rome
Signing up for the Rome marathon is simpler than other popular races. Unlike the New York City marathon, where you either have to get drawn from a lottery by meeting a time standard or by raising at least 3,000 dollars for a charity, the entry fee for Rome is under 200 dollars varying on how early you signed up. I registered at the end of November and only had to pay 89 dollars.
As a non-competitive athlete (what most tourists do), paying the fee was all that was needed. However, if you would like to run competitively, there are more guidelines to follow, which can be found here. The marathon also has a charity/relay run option and can be registered through the official page here.
Another thing to consider about this course is that the time limit that must be hit is 6 hours and 30 minutes, a much friendlier pace compared to the Zurich marathon, which is a whole hour faster. To help break this down, that time requires an average pace of 14:52 per mile or 9:14 per km. There are checks to see who does not pass at (and will be noticed by the judges to stop):
– km 21.097 within 11:15 am
– km 25 within 11:50 am
– km 30 within 12.35 pm
– km 35 within 1:20 pm
That being said, the course is very flat, giving a lot of runners a chance at a personal best. The only real slowing factor is when going over cobblestones.
Since the start and finish for everyone (except for some of the relay legs) are right at the Colosseum and Imperial Forum, I recommend looking for places to stay around this area or near a metro station so you can take line B to Circus Maximus, only a short walk away (the Colosseum stop is closed the day of the race).
(The Rome Marathon route)
Pre-race in Rome
Five days before the race, three separate emails came through. The first is a letter of confirmation to print out and sign, the next is a waiver to print out and sign, and finally, one with an attachment of all the instructions and information about race day. The two printouts are needed for your bib packet collection (someone else can also collect your items with your signed approval), open from 9 am to 8 pm both days before the race.
The pick-up occurred at Expo Village – Palazzo dei Congressi, Piazza John Kennedy, a bit out of the city center but accessible via public transport. They have food trucks outside the building and different queues to enter based on your already assigned number from the moment you signed up for this race. There will be staff around to easily ask which line you should be in to enter the building. Once in, you will go to a counter and present your two printed forms.
They will hand you a packet and point you toward your free shirt and bag pickup. This is quite a snake around as you pass through other advertised races, promos, running gear, sponsorships, etc. They will have spots along the way to take photos with your bib and look for your name on the participation wall. Finally, you will pick up your included gear and can personalize it with your name or exit the building. Back in the exterior, you can hang out near the food trucks with music playing or return to the center and rest your legs before the big day!
Other offers to athletes before the race is the Mass of the Marathon runner, free admission for marathon runners, and one companion to 17 museums throughout Rome. The Mass of the Marathon runner takes place on Saturday, 18 March, at 6 p.m. at the Church of the Artists in Piazza del Popolo, blessing the athletes with a particular prayer for peace through sporting experience. This takes place in Italian, but still, a beautiful display acknowledging the accomplishment of this sporting event even for those who may not understand every word being said. As for the museums, this access is valid a few days before the race and usually the day after (if you can make your legs work again). To enter, simply show your race bib or letter confirming your enrollment.
The actual race
The start of the race this year was at 8:00 am, with bag drop stopping around 7:00 am. With this in mind, the metro starts running at 5:30, giving you plenty of opportunity to get to the start area. All belongings you are not running with go into the clear bag provided at bib pick up and get dropped at the spot indicated on your bib. Super easy and organized. Once in the corral, however, you cannot leave, so make sure you have filled water because despite the fountains flowing throughout Rome, there are none found in the runner area. You will find, however, plenty of bathrooms.
As the countdown begins for a start, the Italian national anthem will be sung in between other music playing to get the athletes’ adrenaline going. With the Colosseum in the backdrop and the rest of Rome stretching ahead, the Frecce Tricolori tops it off by soaring above you. Once they make their passes, “GOOOO” rings across the official start line, and the athletes begin.
There are starting waves to help organize the beginning of the race. They were organized as follows:
– 7:55 am: start of wheelchairs
– 8.00 am 1st marathon wave start: top start area + A start area
– 8.04 am 2nd marathon wave start: B start area + C start area
– 8.09 am 3rd marathon wave start: D.
However, your actual time won’t start until the chip on your bib crosses the start, so no need to worry if you are stuck in a crowd.
As you start your race, pace assistants will be right there with you making it easier to achieve a time goal. They were all different colors with a giant balloon floating above them with the time and also had it on the front and back of their bibs. Pretty hard to miss.
Now that the race has begun hydrating and fueling are key. The Rome marathon has 16 refreshment stations at km: 5 – 7.3 – 9.2 – 13.4 – 15 – 17.7 – 20.3 – 21.2 – 22.3 – 25 – 28.6 – 30 – 32.3 – 35 – 37.3 – 40.2 and finish line (km 42.195). Water will be present at all refreshment stations. Mineral salts at km 5 – 9.2 – 15 – 20.3 – 25 – 30 – 35 – 40.2. Solid foods at km 15 – 20.3 – 25 – 30 – 35 – 40.2. And the final refreshment (km 42.195) with a pack containing water, mineral salts, and solid foods. On top of this there will also be 12 sponge stations km: 7.5 – 13 – 17.5 – 21.4 – 22.1 – 25.2 – 28.7 – 31.9 – 32.5 – 35.2 – 37.6 – 40.5. I find it helpful to know the distance between stations to reflect it in your training.
As stated before, the race is very flat, and you avoid cobblestones for much of the race until near the end. As you pass some of Rome’s most notable Piazzas and monuments, you finish with cobblestone underfoot. I did have to focus more on this part, in fear that I might trip, especially with an exhausted body. However, seeing all these sites closer to the end and having crowds of people cheering around them is hands down what pushed me to the finish.
Once you have passed the finish line, you will be given your well-deserved medal, and you even get a text congratulating you on your overall time (official results are also posted later on the Acea Run Rome The Marathon website). A first aid station is also positioned there for any recovery need. Continuing after the finish, the following services will also be provided: refreshment packs, a medical station, a massage service area, bathrooms, and the women’s and men’s changing rooms.
As you regroup along the way, collecting your bag and officially exiting the area, you are now in the land of the best post-race meals you could imagine. With carbohydrates and sodium high on the list to replenish, pizza and pasta will gladly assist you.
The fun isn’t over yet, though. Starting at 18:00 (6:00 pm), a marathon party will commence. Six affiliated places welcome runners and companions with special promotions on the account that you present your medal or bib. This year the places were: Bar del Fico, Mons, Don’s- Meats & Spirits, Drink Art Gallery, L’Angolo del Fico, and Caffè Parione. All conveniently next to each other to finally give the legs a break. Although it may seem tiring, I still recommend chatting and having fun with the other athletes celebrating your amazing accomplishment.
Learning from these chats, the race was actually 60% foreign participants this year (2023). Seeing how many people traveled to run through this eternal city was astounding. Most all in agreement nothing can beat the experience of the Rome marathon, and many would even sign up again next year. With that being said, the next edition is taking place on March 17th, 2024– I hope to see you all there!
By Garbiella Viggiano