This was my first marathon and it was a super experience!
Registration was fairly easy for me, as I am a member of an affiliated club. This meant I did not need to undergo the medical tests or get a medical certificate. I simply had to upload a photo of my England Athletics card. Once registered, I received a few emails in the lead up to the race with various offers and reminders and then the pre-race briefing in the week before the race.
Collecting your number was easy enough. The expo is on the metro line and you can't really miss it. You collect your number and then have to wander through the stalls before getting your goodies - no skipping them as there's only one way to go! It was all new to me, so I didn't mind! The backpack and t-shirt are great, although having some samples to try for size would be helpful, as there was no swapping. I guessed correctly thankfully! The backpack is needed for luggage on the day - nothing else accepted. You will see plenty of people carrying them around in the days after the marathon.
On the morning of the race, everything was smooth. You're guided naturally into the runners' area, past toilets and baggage busses, and to the start. The start is well organised and goes off in three waves. Each got their own countdown, which I thought was a nice touch.
The route itself is great. Okay, so some bits are a bit more suburban or industrial, but that didn't matter to me. The sights more than make up for it. Running up towards St Peter's was overwhelming and something I won't ever forget. The last few miles twist and turn through the piazzas and past various monuments, meaning lots of support to keep you going. The cobbles at various points are hard work and sap your energy a bit, but it's the price for such a historic route. The majority of the route is not on cobbles, so it is manageable. The worst bit is when they reappear for the last few miles!
It was hot this year and it was the first time in a few years that it didn't rain, which meant lots of runners were affected by the heat. The water stations were every 5km. Water and Powerade in cups on both sides of the road and the later stations also had fruit. Some runners felt they should have been more regular, but the distance between the stations was advised well in advance so I was prepared for it. In between drinks stations were sponging stations to help keep cool; never has ice cold water been so magical! I saw lots of marshalls and first aid around the route, which was reassuring!
Then only negative experience during the run was a round 22/23 miles when an ambulance had parked across a narrow side street, meaning runners had to squeeze in single file between the ambulance and a wall to get past. I appreciate someone needed help and that is a priority, but parking 5 metres further up in the square would have caused far fewer issues, especially as some runners became very aggressive and were pushing other runners out of the way. This was a bit dangerous at such a late stage in the race. I got pushed and landed funny on my foot causing cramp which I had to stop and work out. Luckily I was able to get going again.
Mile 25 brings an incline (groan), but it is through a tunnel which brings welcome shade. It is then downhill to the wonderful finish at the Colosseum. Absolutely breathtaking and you forget about the 26.2 miles as you take it in. You are given water, a foil blanket and the all important medal - and it's a good one! The goody bag contains more water, Powerade, fruit and biscuits. Massage and medal engraving were also available. Keeping spectators out of the finish area is a good move, as it allows runners to move around more freely without fear of being pushed by excited friends and family. Getting your bag back was quick and efficient.
I would definitely recommend the Rome Marathon. It's probably not a PB course, unless it's your first one, like me, but definitely a great experience. After all, how many marathons can boast a route that contains parts that have been standing for over 2000 years?!