Race Review: Rome Marathon 2016!

Rome Marathon 2016 Race Review

Sooo I ran another marathon – SURPRISE! 😀 I managed to accidentally book it for the weekend of our 7th anniversary, too. (Ooopsie).

Rome Marathon Start Area

Happy anniversary to us!

Romantic, me? Always! 😉

Luckily, the whole trip was eeepic, and we both loved Rome. So I think James will forgive me 😉

We seriously lucked out with our hotel location. A 15-minute walk brought us right to the Colosseum, where we followed the sea of blue backpacks around the side to the start area. (The mandatory drop bag rucksack was SUCH a brilliant idea!)

I dropped my rucksack at the luggage lorry, gave James a hug and headed off to the start area. Despite my estimated 5-hour finish, the organisers had put me in Wave 1 (with the super speedy 3:00, 3:15 and 3:30 pace groups). In my dreams, mate! Luckily, faster runners are allowed to move back to the later waves, so I snuck into the slowest corral as planned.

The first few miles were pretty crowded, and there were quite a few faster runners passing on both sides (often with a warning pat on the shoulder, which was a new experience for me!) The route took us past loads of Rome’s monuments, and it was hard to absorb everything – the cheering crowds, the sea of runners, the gorgeous views… It all became a bit of a blur at times! And it definitely felt like there were a lot more than 13k runners.

We were told to expect 7km of cobbles, which I was initially a bit concerned about – but it turns out that the cobbles in Rome are fairly smooth and flat, and once the crowds thinned out a little it was easy enough to avoid the bumpy bits. I imagine things could get quite slippery in the rain, but we were lucky enough to have glorious sunshine for the whole day!

Rome Marathon Smile

You can’t help but smile during Rome Marathon!

Within a few miles it had started to get quite warm, but there was plenty of shade under the trees along the course (who knew Rome was so green!?) and sponge stations had been set up at 5km intervals from about 7.5km. This was the first race where I actually used the sponges, and oh my days, I’ve been missing a trick – they were heaven! (It was also quite surreal to see a sea of multi-coloured sponges lying on the road afterwards)!

James Spectating Rome Marathon

When in Rome… on your anniversary… and your girlfriend has abandoned you to run a marathon… 😉

I started to flag quite early on. To be fair, having run a PB at Barcelona just 4 weeks before, and slacking on my training in between the 2, it wasn’t hugely surprising. I had started to take walking breaks from about 9/10 miles (a few miles earlier than Barcelona) and by about 16 miles the arch of my foot had started to hurt quite badly.

Luckily, the route was fairly flat and the crowds and the sights took my mind off it for the most part. And to make it even better, I got chatting to a lovely lady called Karen just after the 20m mark, who stuck with me to the finish! This made SUCH a difference psychologically, and really kept me going. She’s going to be running 10 marathons in 10 days next month for her local charity – what an inspiration!

Rome Marathon Finishing Straight

Eyes firmly on the finish line!

We walked quite a bit over the last 10km, but when we hit 25 miles we got ourselves properly running again – and pushed all the way to the finish!

I think that’s the first time that I’ve ever run the whole of mile 26 in a marathon. If you’re reading, THANK YOU Karen, you lovely lady!  And good luck for next month!

Rome Marathon Finish Line

SURPRISE ROMAN GLADIATOR AMBUSH!

Rome Marathon is also the first time I’ve ever walked through the finish line arch and into a barricade for a photo! All the LOLs. It was a brilliant touch, though – and the best marathon finish photo I’ve had so far! 😀 Yay, Rome!

I also got interviewed by the commentator (another first), so there’s that. Having a microphone pointed at you seconds after finishing a 26.2 mile run is… an experience!? I don’t remember quite how I responded to their ‘Oooh, English! Did you just travel to Rome for the marathon!? Where are you from!?’ But I think I probably spoke in full sentences? Maybe?… 😉

Grazie, Roma!

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Have you ever run Rome, or is it on your bucket list? I think this is the first race I’ve been tempted to enter again! One day… 😉

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5 things to consider when picking your goal marathon

5 things to consider when picking your goal marathon

If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you’ll know that I’ve been chasing that elusive sub-5 marathon for a wee while now. Whilst I came seriously close in Barcelona this year (and managed to bag myself a shiny 11-minute PB of 5h05!), I’ve learned the hard way that when chasing a time goal, your choice of marathon is almost as important as the training you put in!

If you’re looking for a goal marathon race, here are a few things that you might want to consider before you sign up:

1 What time of year will it be?

Do you like running in warmer weather, or does the heat sap your energy? Work out your personal preference, and plan accordingly. Personally, I find running in the heat quite hard; so whilst a late spring marathon allows me to train through the cooler winter months (which I find much easier!), race day is almost guaranteed to be hotter than what I’ve prepared for.

2 Where will you run?

Whilst a marathon-slash-holiday to Thailand or China or another equally exotic destination might sound like a fab idea, can you replicate the conditions in training? Consider the weather and the climate for the time of year you’ll be running. You don’t want to get caught out in monsoon season, high humidity, gale-force winds or blizzards! 😉 (Some of those may be less likely than others 😀 ).

3 What’s the course profile like?

The main question is generally ‘how hilly is it’? And whilst that’s a pretty important point, there are other things to look at, too. For example, are there any sharp turns that might cause bottlenecks? What’s the terrain like? (I’m not just talking tarmac vs. off-road here. Even road races can have unexpected obstacles – like the cobbles in Rome, for example!)

4 How busy is the race expected to be?

I’ve always opted for bigger events, as I’m on the slower end of the spectrum and prefer to have some company in the latter stages! But it has to be said, large-scale events have their good and bad points. The atmosphere is definitely better with more runners, as there tends to be more crowd support; but more runners can mean a lot of crowding, especially in the earlier miles and around the aid stations. 26.2 (or more) miles of dodging and weaving isn’t ideal when you’ve got a time limit in mind!

5 What’s the race start time?

As a general rule, European races have a pretty standard start time of around 8h30/9h00, whilst American races and those in hot countries (UAE, Thailand, etc.) can start quite a bit earlier; but there are plenty of exceptions. In Paris last year, I was quite surprised to find that my wave wasn’t due to cross the start line until well after 10am! More extreme examples are events like the Midnight Sun Marathon (Tromso, Norway) and Bilbao Night Marathon (Spain), which both have pretty unusual start times! Always check the event website carefully before you register.

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Which events are on your list? What do you consider when picking them?

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 2: Marathon Day!

Barcelona Marathon and City Guide Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my Barcelona Marathon and City Guide! If you missed part 1, go and check it out here for tips and tricks on getting around the city, navigating the expo, and a few fun things to do the day before (without nackering your legs!).

– Pre-Race Breakfast

Barcelona Marathon Expo Goodies

I tend to have toast and a banana before a marathon, so it was lucky that one of the stands at the Expo was handing out free loaves! 😉

If you don’t manage to score a free loaf of bread (LOL), Barcelona has lots of little ‘markets’ or ‘mercados’ dotted about (i.e., newsagent-like shops that have fruit and veg outside and tons of random odds and ends inside!) where you can stock up on things like bottled water, bananas, bread, Nutella (a European staple which can be found in most EU countries and doesn’t need any translating!), crackers, honey, etc. for breakfast.

One thing I couldn’t find was peanut butter – so you might want to bring some along if this is your sort of thing! Also, if you like porridge before a big race I would recommend bringing the little ‘just add water’ pots in your suitcase, and filling them up with your hotel kettle. For some reason, porridge oats can prove elusive in Europe!

I made good use of the free bread and a big dollop of Nutella, and took a banana along to the start area. Job done!

– The Start Area (Loos and Bag Drop)

Barcelona Marathon was one of the most straight-forward events I’ve been to. The best thing about it was that the Expo, start and finish were all in the same place: Plaça d’Espanya. This means that you can familiarise yourself with the area before race day, which takes some of the stress away.

Barcelona Marathon Bag Drop

The whole process – from stepping off the metro, to the bag drop, to the loos, to the corrals, was well sign posted and easy to follow – and took almost no time at all!

The slowest bit was the bag drop, as they wouldn’t let runners in until they were ready to race; so lots of people were stripping off layers and sorting themselves out right outside the tent, resulting in a slight bottle neck. Whilst this didn’t add more than a couple of minutes to the whole process, I would recommend sorting your kit out and zipping up your drop bag before you get to the tent – just out of courtesy if nothing else!

– The Corrals

Once through the bag drop, the corrals were clearly signed as part of a simple one-way system round the side of the tent (left or right, depending on which corral you’re in).

Barcelona Marathon Start and Finish Area Maps

There were a few lines of portaloos, which are all cearly indicated on the start/finish area maps (photo above – you’ll see these at the expo) and I didn’t have to queue for more than a few minutes. After that, it was just a 2-minute stroll over to the corral!

The corrals themselves were nice and wide and not too crowded, and thanks to the colour-coded race tops (which plenty of people chose to wear), you can just follow the sea of runners in your group colour. Easy peasy! However, there are NO loos in the corrals, so make sure you go beforehand!

– The Marathon Course

The marathon itself was one of my favourite races, ever.

As far as the start goes, I was in the last corral and it took about 15-20 minutes to get over the start line. Each corral was showered in a cloud of confetti, and sent off with a huge cheer, which was EPIC!

Barcelona Marathon Arc de Triomf

There are a few things to consider with regards to the marathon course:

    • The course is extremely flat, but there are a few very gradual inclines and downhills, especially in the first few miles. Pace yourself, and don’t shoot off with the masses.
    • Aid stations are every 5k, and as with most European marathons they offered bottles of water, fruit slices (orange and banana) and nuts. Later in the race they also provided bottles of Powerade – however I would check the race info ahead of time to confirm the exact sponsor and therefore the exact drinks/gels on offer. This year, it was Gu gels.
    • This race was extremely spectator-friendly, and the course map lists the best metro stops for various points along the route. The best spots are where the course doubles back on itself – this year, it was at km 4/10, km 18/22, and km 26/31. My boyfriend managed to spot me about 5 or 6 times, which is a new record! There were also minimal barriers on the course, and spectators could cross the road at lots of points, which made things easier.
    • The roads in Barcelona are wide, straight, and long. This means that you need to zig-zag a bit to reach the aid stations, so I would inch towards the side of the road shortly before you reach them to avoid hindering runners around you. As with other races, they’re located slightly after the 5k markers, so don’t expect to see them straight away. Having said that, they were well stocked and not too crowded! 🙂
    • As the roads are quite wide and straight, there isn’t a whole lot of shade on the course – almost none in the second half, especially on the stretch along the coast. Make sure you wear plenty of suncream, and hydrate well if it’s warm. They did have a sprinkler set up around km 30/31, which was looovely!
    • Get ready for high fives! The crowds in Barcelona are magic, and will shout, whoop and cheer you round the entire way. There are also tons of drummers and singers and dancers. Make the most of it, and have fun!
– The Finish

The finish area is the same as the start, so it’s nice and simple to find your way around. After the finish line they give you water/Powerade, your medal, and then you’re funnelled back into the bag drop tent. I had my bits and was off towards the meeting point in less than 10 minutes!

The designated meeting area is back on the Plaça d’Espanya, which is a nice wide open space and right next to the metro! I wouldn’t meet your friends and family any closer to the finish area, as the space around the bag drop tent gets pretty crowded.

– Refuelling, Barcelona-Style

Barcelona Food Market on La Rambla

The food market on La Rambla was my happy place. Dozens of fresh fruit juices for a euro each, take-away fruit salads, sweets, meat, olives… The selection was endless!

For a post-marathon meal in Barcelona, it has to be paella, paella, paella! And Tapas. Most restaurants in Barcelona offer a fairly standard menu, at a reasonable cost. We headed down to Barceloneta, which is on the same line as Plaça d’Espanya (so it’s easy to get to). There are tons of little food places towards the beach, which offer set menus of tapas, paella and sangria – all the good stuff!

Alternatively, there are plenty of places to eat near La Rambla. You’re pretty spoilt for choice! But I highly recommend that you make the most of the huge variety of tapas on offer, and try the seafood paella – it’s delish! Plus, sangria. No brainer, right? 😉

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Are you running Barcelona next year? Is there anything else you’d like to know, that I might have missed? Add a comment below, come find me on Twitter, or ping me an email at envierose@gmail.com 🙂

Handy tips for goal-setting and staying motivated!

This weekend was a bit of a special one, as Dad laced up his running shoes and joined me for his first run since his heart operation last year. We headed out into the cold and the drizzle (standard Devon) on Sunday afternoon, and managed a whole mile – up a couple of nasty hills, too! And all after a hilly 3.5-mile country walk the day before. What a legend! We’re already planning some autumn races, and Dad’s got some ambitious time goals – which my brother (bit of a fitness guru!) will be helping him to train for.

My parents have always inspired me to dream big and push myself, and seeing how far my Dad has come in the past few months really shows just how much you can achieve if you’re determined enough.

Devon Walk and Run with Dad

My lovely Dad – and a successful mile 1! Onwards and upwards from here!

It brought to mind a motivational talk I attended last month, which was all about goal setting and motivational techniques. Pretty fitting for a marathon runner, eh? 😉

The speaker – Marcus Child – raised some very interesting points, so I thought I’d share a couple with you. If you’ve got a goal or an aspiration in mind, or want a little inspiration, read on!

When you’re working towards something for weeks, months, even years on end, it’s easy to lose sight of where you’re going. For me, it’s marathon training – months of solo runs in the cold and the dark, and constant thoughts of ‘why are you doing this to yourself again!?’

To keep yourself on track over a long period of time, it’s important to keep your goal in the front of your mind. To remember why you’re doing what you’re doing – what you want to achieve, and why you want to achieve it. And the best way to do that is to visualise it.

In order to achieve big, scary goals, you need to convince yourself that you CAN. This is where visualisation comes in. But what does that really mean?

We were advised to do more than just picture ourselves achieving our goals. We were told to see it, hear it, and feel it, as if it’s already happened. To tap in to all of those senses and paint a vivid picture in our mind.

Take a marathon, for example. See the finish line, the crowds, the smiling faces of your supporters, the timing mat. Hear them cheering you to the finish, hear the commentator over the loudspeakers, and think about how it’ll feel when that medal is slipped over your head. Feel the satisfying ache in your legs, your heart pounding, the salt on your face. And if you’ve got a time goal in mind, what will that clock display as you cross the line? How will you feel when you stop your watch and catch your breath, and know that you’ve DONE it?

Remind yourself of that goal before you go to sleep. Wake up to that image each morning. Put a picture on your wall, write your goal on a post-it note and stick it above your bed, or on your fridge – wherever you’ll see it. Tell yourself you CAN, and imagine that you already have. Secure that image in your mind, and replay it over and over, as if it’s a memory.

Maintaining that purpose, that vision, that mental image over time is crucial. And whilst it can be difficult, a very simple piece of advice we were given is this:

Sleep on it.

How many times have you heard that little nugget of wisdom over the years?

But there’s a definite theory behind it, and it’s based on your ‘left’ and ‘right’ brain. As the speaker put it, your left brain asks the questions, and your right brain finds the answers.

How many times have you tried to work out a solution to a problem, only for the answer to come to you as you’re drifting off or waking up? When do you feel most inspired? For most, it’s when you’re not actively thinking about something. Drifting off to sleep, standing in the shower, running or cycling or driving or ironing…

And what do all of these situations have in common? Answer: The ‘right’ (subconscious) brain is fired up.

Based on this left/right brain theory, if you set your intention(s) before bed, your brain will then secure that image in your subconscious. By the time race day rolls round (if it’s a race you’re aiming for!), you might still feel a bit nervous, but you’ll also feel a little bit more confident, capable, and excited. (Hopefully!)

We all live under our capacity, which means we never know what we’re capable of until we push ourselves. Dare to dream big.

In the words of Nelson Mandela:

It always seems impossible until it’s done

So go do it.

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My big scary goal is to run a marathon in every country in Europe. (Gulp!)

What’s yours?

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Do you have any big goals on the horizon? How are you keeping yourself motivated?

If you like the ideas in this post, be sure to check out Marcus Child’s website – and download some of his MP3s! He presents it all far better than I do, and will have you fired up in no time!