When In Rome…

by Paul Josephson


Page 1 of 5 in the Running Around the World Section


I‰Ûªm running a few European marathons this year to check out
crowds and organization, to sightsee, press the body to its limits, and to
experience the joys of carbo-loading under the influence of local
culture.  The Rome Marathon on March 20 was perfect for all things, and a
delightful training run past ruins, through squares, along the Tiber River to
the Coliseum where I was not eaten by the last hill.


The Rome Marathon has produced some fast times in its 17
years, this year with Kenya‰Ûªs Dickson Chumba Kiptolo (2:08:45), who yanked his
shoes off before the finish in honor of Abebe Bikila who won the Rome Olympic
Marathon barefoot in 1960. Firehiwot Dado Tufa of Ethiopia won the women‰Ûªs
race, for the third year in a row, in 2:24:13. Nearly 13,000 runners finished
in perfect conditions‰ÛÓpartly sunny, temps in the 50s. I noticed that women
made up less than a fifth of the racers versus two-fifths at Boston, or over
one-third at NYC.


The marathon offers magnificent views: a start and
finish at the Coliseum, a tour of Circus Maximus where chariots raced, and past
the Basilica at St. Peter‰Ûªs Square, although the Pope failed to greet or bless
us. My favorite spot was Piazza Navona at 34 km, a pedestrian mall with
three Baroque Fountains, one designed by Bernini. For some runners, the
water stops at every 5 km are inadequate, and others will have trouble with
narrow cobblestone streets.

Bernini designed Baroque Fountain at Piazza Navona by the 34-kilometer mark of
the Rome Marathon.)


When considering bib pick-up it‰Ûªs useful to remember that
the Italians have had over 60 governments since 1945. They gave us the
Renaissance, and Puccini and Verdi. But they cannot manage
bureaucracy. Rome organizers have done all they can to maximize the lines,
with those for pre-registered runners 45 minutes longer than that for those
whose registration has been ‰ÛÏsuspended‰Û for failing to include their
attestation from a doctor. (Rather than provide a medical form, I prefer
to sign a race waiver as is the case everywhere else, but for international
races I do carry insurance for repatriation of the remains.) And the
marathon expo is a trap. Once inside, with bib and lovely backpack in
hand, there is no escape; you must walk by each and every display booth,
snaking your way through for another 20 minutes.


Carboloading: From the point of view of cuisine, God was
Italian. Roman cooking is simple, flavorful, and they know how to serve
pasta al dente. I avoided the beans to focus on artichokes, but especially
on pastas, served in olive oil as the foundation of a simple sauce. Beside
the familiar carbonara, I turned several times to cacao e pepe‰ÛÓcopious quantities of coarsely ground pepper and
Pecorino Romano cheese. I also tried pasta
al gricia
with cured pork, sautéed in olive oil and served with Romano
cheese, a delight even for vegetarians. And what of potato gnocchi adorned with
wild mushrooms? The tuna, the sword fish, the shrimp‰Û_I violated every rule
about the need to protect biodiversity.


Advice to me: carbo loading is not enough. Try to
arrive earlier in Europe to adapt to time change. I bonked at three hours
(12 noon Rome time, 6 am Maine time) because my stomach demanded my oatmeal and
two bananas.


Photo by Paul Josephson


Check Also

Boston Marathon Expands Para Athletics Divisions, Increases Prize Purse (Athletes Quotes)

B.A.A. Announces Expanded Para Athletics Divisions & Enhanced Prize Money Awards for 2024 Events   Boston …

Leave a Reply

NE Runner