Sunday 16th March 2008
In truth I loved running this race but if I tell you my target was 3:30 not 3:45 and I was well on to do this with 10k to go you'll understand I had a torrid finish! In my year of running I've never once been reduced to run-walk but this time I was bit bad and it hurt!
In retrospect I have advice for other first-timers. I believe I did everything according to book. Training, tapering, goal-setting, race-day preparation. Even conditions were good. Some sun, but lots of cloud and a light breeze. I carbo-loaded and took all the water, gatorade and sponges on offer.
So what went wrong? First marathon, no history, so nothing down on the entry form. I should have realised that these big city events will categorise runners and pen them at the start accordingly. So my bib number was 11591 out of 14000 or so and I was coralled into the back pen D. I tried to make my escape but to no avail. The blue balloon 3:30 pace markers I had planned to run with were up ahead in pen B and I was starting off with the 4:30 ballons. There were probably about 8000+ runners in-between!
What to do? My mistake was, typically for me, too ambitious. Take it steady, so I thought, I could catch up with the blue ballons by halfway, then if I felt good, push on. So that was the made-up on the spot race tactic. And I did it too. But working my way through thousands of runners around often narrow cobbled streets was not easy. I must have expended a lot of effort (and extra yardage) in doing so, not to mention the quicker pacing I was having to do. Remember, after the first 2k or so of a packed start, I'd slipped back much further in terms of distance.
I did catch up to the 3:30 pack pretty much spot on 21k and foolishly moved on ahead. If I had dug in there and then I might have hung on, but truth be told, I doubt it even then. The damage was already done. In hindsight the right tactic would have been to work up to that group by the *end* not halfway by which time the field would have thinned out more and the extra effort less. The real effect on me getting to target pace earlier was that I ran too hard, too soon and burnt more energy than I had available to me.
So now I know what it's like to suffer in the last 6 miles. To hit the wall. It's just like the books say. Horrible!
So I have a return match in mind. Rome, you haven't seen the last of me!
But that's all bygones. I had a great time overall and it was a wonderful experience. Bloody emotional too at the end! Never having run a city marathon before (or any for that matter) I can't compare with others. But I thought this one was just fantastic. Start and finish at the Colosseum. Ran past or through all the sites of Rome you could think to name. Enthusiastic crowds. Organisation superb. Plenty of water and glucose drinks. Sponges, toilets, first aid. Fruit and biscuits! Pre-race expo was fine, nice goodie bag. Big medal! Pre-race arrivals and kit storage no probs, plenty of support afterwards and easy kit retrieval. I couldn't fault it. And what a city to run round! Bella bella! And a city made for pasta carbo-loading!