After 16 weeks of training, I finally did it! I completed my first full marathon yesterday and it still feels so unreal to me that I actually did 42 km at the 20th edition of the Maratona Di Roma.
The entire week leading to it, I was carbo-loading with food like pasta, risotto, pizza and sushi. I had such a ravenous appetite that even Cart was worried that I was eating too much. On a normal day, I think it would be unhealthy, but after doing my 32 km training, I understand that my body needs plenty of fuel for long distance running.
(Delicious pizza with tuna, onions and balsamic vinegar)
On Sunday morning, I woke up at 5 am feeling butterflies in my tummy. Despite all my trainings, I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t feel the same excitement I felt when I did the half marathon last year, and the thought of doing 42 km was so daunting to the point that I was actually thinking of not going.
But I tried to quell all those negative thoughts by doing my pre-long run routine.
(I look like I’m going camping)
I was contemplating on bringing my water bottle, but then I realised that it would be an additional weight as the organizers will be providing us with water, energy drinks and solid food. Moreover there are an abundance of water fountains all over Rome.
Cart drove me to the nearest metro station and while waiting for the subway to arrive, I did some dynamic stretching. When I finally got on a coach, there were already a lot of people inside wearing red for the 5 km fun run and with all the excitement, I actually started to feel quite charged.
I dropped off at the Circo Massimo stop where I saw a number of athletes walking towards the Arco di Costantino. It was around 8 am, and the air was extremely crowded and chaotic with over 14 thousand other athletes. I had a hard time trying to find the lorry to deposit my bag and in the end, I found that it was the last one, a distance away. I wished there were more signs so that I could avoid the human crush.
By the time I deposited my bag, the clouds were starting to get dark. The weather forecast said that it would rain the entire day but I was in denial, hoping for a sunny day. Unfortunately, while we were queuing up at the corral, it started to rain quite hard. While normally the rain would be a demoralizing experience, this time round, it wasn’t so bad with all the other people around me giving each other motivation. Moreover I’ve been in worse conditions during my training.
The race was supposed to start at 8.50 am but due to the amount of participants, we were only able to inch forward bit by bit. I only managed to step on the start line around 10 minutes later. But once I got to that point, things got real for me. That I am actually going to run a marathon!
We started running towards Via dei Fori Imperiali and I saw a lot of people going really fast. I wasn’t disheartened and kept my pace slow and steady so that I didn’t exhaust myself, but mostly not to risk injuring myself. That’s the hazard of running too fast – In fact, I saw a number of athletes limping quite early on – at less than 10 km in.
As we went though the different locations and monuments in Rome, I felt a sense of happiness going through the places that I was familiar with. With the roads barricaded for us, jogging through these area on foot gives me a new visual perspective on my adopted home. And there were even some paths that I haven’t discovered before.
At every corner, there were so many supporters clapping and cheering for us, giving us motivation which was really nice. It was heartening to see so many.
As much as I enjoyed the sights, after a while everything seemed like a blur to me and it was difficult for me to remember what I passed by. Mostly it was because I was more actively looking for the distance indicator banner, telling you how much you’ve run. I felt really good and felt so motivated each time I went past each mark and I mentally high five’ed myself at each one.
- 10 km done, you can do another 10!
- 20 km done, lets do another 10!
- 30 km done, don’t give up now. You can do it!
When I reached towards the 32 km mark, it was the start of my longest distance to date. I anticipated the same feeling as I did when I did 32 km, but interestingly I didn’t feel overly tired because we were given plentiful of fresh fruits and energy drinks along the way. I munched on a slice of apple or banana and sipped on some water, and did a quick stretch at each stop. It was enough fuel to top my glycogen reserves, so I didn’t feel hungry and I’m amazed that I didn’t hit the wall this time.
While my energy level was great, my feet were pulsating and it got more challenging to run with my minimalist shoes on the cobblestones when we reached the city centre. I had to tread carefully to ensure that I didn’t trip. I doubt that Abebe Bikila himself would appreciate running on these if he was still alive.
After jogging for about 4 hours or so, I felt the need to pee but opening a portable latrine door near the Auditorium refreshment stop, I saw something so nasty that I was immediately turned off.
By the time I reached 33 km, my Garmin was already starting to run out of juice, so I couldn’t tell how my pacing was and just went as best as I could.
Eventually I reached the 40 km mark near Piazza di Spagna and I felt so relieved that I gave out a whoop. Just 2 more kilometres to go! And as I returned back to Via dei Fori Imperiali, there were so many people clapping and cheering. The end is near! I saw the finishing gate and spotted out a line of Roman Gladiators towards it.
It was such a rush of emotion for me when I went past the line. I raised my arms, so grateful that it was over, feeling a sense of personal achievement that I’ve overcome this fear. It wasn’t an easy run, but I managed to do it!
I am now a legit marathoner
My timings may not be anything to shout about. 10.35 min/km for the first 5 km? Yikes. I’m probably one of the last few to complete the race. Nevertheless, I’m quite happy that I managed to stay on a constant speed throughout the marathon. Plus I was slightly faster than my expected time of 6 hrs 59 minutes and 59 seconds
It was only when I went past the stop point, stopped jogging and started to slow down was when I felt my legs and feet pulsating badly. Every step felt like I had weights on my legs and my feet felt as if they were on fire. It was so painful and the ironic part was, that the bag deposit lorry was located really far away. I don’t think even the little mermaid felt like I felt when she first got her legs.
As festive as the air was all around me, by this time, I really wasn’t in the mood for taking pictures. All I wanted to do was to get back home, shower, rest and be in clean, warm clothes.
I could only manage to walk slowly as each step was excruciating. Luckily Cart was waiting for me at the Constantine Arch ready to drive me home. I was close to tears, being so profoundly grateful as I just couldn’t bear the thought of having to walk all the way to the metro, with the crowd of people. I sat in the car and pulled off my wet socks and shoes and gave a quick massage. My feet were all wrinkled from all the rain.
I’ve heard horror stories about long distance running and I’m grateful that I didn’t get black toenails, had very minimal chafing and got just a little bit of sunburn on my neck due to the rain washing away my sunblock.
When we reached home and when I tried to leave the car, my back ached and I had to take a full minute just to stand straight. I imagine that this is probably how I’ll be walking like when I turn 80 years old. I did my best to do my after run stretches, had a quick shower and then concussed on the sofa. Interestingly, I didn’t feel that hungry. Probably due from all the food I consumed during the run.
In the evening, my legs were pulsating very badly. I think this was probably due to my adrenaline levels crashing down. No matter how much I changed position to make myself comfortable, I was in so much pain that I was in tears. Foam rolling, muscle cream and ibuprofen helped, but just a little bit.
Thankfully, I managed to sleep soundly and I’m feeling a lot better now. Although I think that my immune system is not great at the moment, so I’m going to take it easy for the next few days to avoid catching a fever.
Now that the marathon is over, my routine is probably going to be quite different now that my 16 weeks are done. Looking back though the 4 months, all the training, the fear, the sweat and tears, it was all worth it and the marathon was a satisfying conclusion.
I think that I could probably do better, but at this point of time, I don’t think I want to do another marathon any time soon. At the same time though, it would be a waste to lose this level of fitness that I’ve already achieved so far.
To end this post, I would like to give thanks to everyone who has ever given me love, support and advice, to those who liked my #rinazdoes42km posts and for all who were with me in my marathon journey these past 4 months