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Published: March 25th 2009
As Rich and I boarded our Ryan Air flight in Stansted, I couldn't help but feel a little bit anxious about the challenge we were about to undertake. Not for the first time, I felt a bit uneasy and pondered if I'd bitten off more than I could chew, as we made our way up the steps and onto the plane, it all seemed a bit too real. Where had the time gone?
We made our way out of Rome Ciampino airport and were instantly greeted by a cold biting wind. Hmm, I'm sure we just left behind a reasonably warm sun in England.....could this be some kind of alternative dimension where what seems normal is reversed? A world where George Bush is knowledgeable, sweetcorn tastes good and Victoria Beckham has some kind of talent?!
Our hotel was on the outskirts of Rome. Far cheaper than in the city centre and more convenient for when we have to drive to the coast in a couple of days. The only downside to this of course meant that we had to get to grip with the local travel, Which is not the easiest of feats. After the confusion of
This looks old....
Well I suppose Rome wasn't built in a day.
getting bus and metro tickets we eventually made in into the city. We opted for a bit of a stroll around town, although we were mindful that I didn't want to walk too much as in a couple of days time I'd need every precious ounce of strength my legs could muster. We wandered to the beautiful Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, before heading into a local diner. Italy, famed for its fresh ingredients and pastas,m surely you can't go wrong. After ordering from a pasta set menu, I was a bit shocked to have to go and order my food from behind a glass cabinet, where it was then plated up and heated in a microwave. 8 Euros....,8 bloody Euros. For what was essentially a Findus meal. Oh well at least it was pasta and potatoes, baring in mind I was loading up on carbohydrates for the run, perhaps it wasn't so bad.
Day two of the trip began in our hotel restaurant, where I discovered that Rich is quite partial to Grapefruit and Carrot juice....must be something you get into once you hit your forties, a bit like malt loaf. If you are under 40 and
its no white hart lane!
you are thinking "Oi!....I like malt loaf, there's nothing wrong with malt loaf!" then I'm sorry but there almost definitely is.
Now as most of you will know, I like to get off the beaten track a bit and not just stick to the usual tourist haunts. As we clambered upon our open top bus, we wondered if we were going to be warm enough. No was the answer. Every single time the wind came sweeping across the top of the bus, I felt really thankful that I'd elected to wear my fairly loose knitted cardigan. (To the malt loaf brigade, yes I realise I have just given you revenge ammunition. I suppose it's true what they say 'people in loose knitted cardigans shouldn't throw er...stitches ?')
We enjoyed a quick hop on and off route that allowed us to see the Colosseum, St Peter's Basilica and the Pantheon all in record time. Then it was off to the airport again, no I hadn't got cold feet, it was time to pick up the final member of our team, Ben. After a woeful piece of organisation, once again we were left flapping about trying to get to the
St Peters Basilica
and Saint Ricardo Roberto
airport. A metro, train and taxi ride later and we just about made it in time. Once the greetings were out the way we collected our hire car for the next 10 days. The shiny silver chariot that will carry us across several countries has since been named Massimo. All this rushing around had left me feeling a spot of pain in my right foot that I started to feel a little concerned about.
After registering for the marathon and collecting our race numbers we headed back to the metro station so that we could go and have a proper look around the Coloseum. This gave Ben an excellent opportunity to practise his Italian. As we headed down the steps, some fella shouted down to him something that he thought translated as derelict. So we wandered back up the steps, only to discover that he was asking for directions so that he could also register. These northerners should stick to trying to learn English first me thinks.
On arrival at the Coloseum, as we were short on time we joined a tour. I have to admit, we were very happy with that decision. In a way our tour
guide was the most entertaining guide I think I have ever heard. If not a little facist, racist and well a bit sexist. In reference to our run tomorrow "you will do well, no actually I am joking you are not black!" according to Roman history "Kill all the women". The Americans which made up most of the group must have been overjoyed when he described Obama as "blah blah blah!"
We were still chuckling to ourselves as we wandered off to find some food. We settled down to a five course meal, well Rich had one meal and Ben and I ordered two main courses each. A pasta and pizza dish each. Don't try this at home (unless you too are an athlete...or a greedy soul!) As we got the metro home and boys being boys we has a childish conversation about the baguette that I was holding. Ben seemed to find this highly amusing and for the remainder of the journey, could not stop laughing. When he starts laughing like this, the only way you can describe the noise is as though Barry White has swallowed a bassy sounding sub woofer. As the noise echoed down the
The marvellous architecture outside the basilica.
carriage, the other passengers that clearly had no idea what this mad Englishman was laughing at felt compelled to join in. (Well not all of them, I'm sure some of them just though he was your usual token tube riding nutter!) ROME MARATHON
So to the third day of our trip. The first of the the three marathons. 26.2 miles/42.1kms. Our poor organisation and reliance on public transport saw us rushing to get to the start...potentially the challenge could've been over before we had even crossed the start line! Brighter and warmer than the last two days, we said our farewell to Cameraman Rich and headed to the start line. There were enormous cheers as the competitors crossed the start line and when you are running it's difficult not to get carried away with the excitement. We coped with this pretty well though and soon established a rhythm. We were going really well and there were no signs of trouble emanating from my right foot. That is of course until we reached the 25kms sign. I started to feel a twinge of pain in my left knee. which as we ran over the next 5kms I could feel
Lamborghinis new performance car....
was bound to deter the villains in the Eternal City!
getting progressively worse. In training this had been my worst fear. You may recall the 20 mile run I did in Thanet, where half way through I was having real difficulty. I remember thinking as I crossed the line then, that if I'd had another 6 miles I would have struggled big time. Well here we were, at it seemed to be happening all over again. Only this time there would be another 6 miles, in fact we were only just over the halfway point.
We saw Rich a few times as we were running and that helped to lift my spirits. I think he was having his own marathon trying to get between the markers to cheer us on! With 10kms left to go my 'run' had become nothing more than a hobble. I felt like Simon Pegg in Run Fatboy Run. Ben was doing his best to keep us going "C'mon Dick, there's only 10k to go, once we start knocking them down we'll be done in no time!" He was right of course normally 10k would be no bother, but when you have a leg hanging off 10k may as well be another marathon!
The local police were a cross between...
police, firefighters and safari hunters judging by their helmets!
7k left to go, I was focusing so hard on each and every cobble stone I ran over. Trying to block out the pain. My pace had slowed so much that at times Ben had to stop and walk to let me catch up! Every single time my left foot hit the ground all I could feel was a pain shoot up my left leg and resonate around my knee. I had become disinterested in the sickly sweet green and orange energy drinks, that were on offer at the refreshment points, my head no longer interested in anything other than ending this pain. Just over 3k to go and Ben was urging me on. Rich caught up with us again and gave us some words of encouragement....I couldn't even stop wincing to smile for the camera. At this point I had become increasingly angry with myself. From a breathing and tired point of view I felt fine. Disappointment and doubt started to creep in, not so much for this run, but for next weekend and the one after that. With the finish line in sight I felt a euphoric rush, the agony would soon be over. As we crossed the
The Spanish Steps.....
Richs wait for the stannah stairlift to be installed was proving fruitless.
line to rapturous applause, it felt awesome to stop punishing my left knee. It would take some hours before the the anger and disappointment subsided.
Ben thought it would be sensible to visit the medical tent, just to ensure I hadn't done any permanent damage. The doctor applied the old magic spray to my knee and told me to rest for 10 minutes. As I sat there, I noticed the tent was like a medical tent in some kind of conflict. I kid you not, people were getting stretchered in and making all sorts of groans, screams and other painful sounds. Feeling like a bit of a charlatan, I decided that there were clearly others in more need of the seat I was occupying.
So there you go, 1 marathon down. Hopefully not too much damage done. I've had my knee strapped ever since we pretty much finished so fingers crossed. We now begin our journey north to the next marathon in Bratislava, Slovakia. If you haven't already made a donation, it's still not too late....please help a worthy cause.
Tot: 0.451s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 16; qc: 58; dbt: 0.013s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb