When in Rome: Run the Marathon

For tourists coming to discover Rome, one of the best places to visit in Europe, the must visit list generally includes the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Vatican and the Pantheon, but chances are most tourists don’t consider visiting the Eternal City to take part in the Maratona di Roma , the Rome Marathon, held each March. This year’s 16th edition will be held on Sunday, March 21.

Okay, the serious marathon runners may venture here just for the event, but I’m talking about the casual weekend jogger. You may not know that the Roman marathon also hosts an extremely popular Rome Fun Run. It’s just one-tenth of the distance of the real marathon – an achievable 4.2195 kilometers – and each year this popular Rome event attracts tens of thousands of participants.

In the 2009 Rome Marathon, 15,000 runners took part in the actual Marathon and another 85,000 runners took off from the Colosseum start line a half-hour later to participate in the Fun Run. Those numbers are expected to increase for the 2010 edition.

I drag my kids out with me to take part in this race each year. It’s so much fun to be out running alongside a crowd of 100,000 in a completely car-free Rome. The Fun Run starts at the Colosseum and continues down the Via dei Fori imperiali to Piazza Venezia. Then it’s uphill to Via Nazionale and through the Monti neighborhood where it ends in the panoramic Colle Oppio park. My European travel tip is to come to Rome for the Marathon weekend, join the crowds and take part in this exciting event. It’s sightseeing and exercise all rolled in one!

This year, the Rome Marathon is also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the victory of Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila in the Rome Olympics Marathon of 1960. The event, held at night because of the extremely hot daytime temperatures during Roman summers, witnessed the Marathon route lit by torches. Bikila ran the entire race – over Roman cobblestones and all – barefoot. The Istituto Luce and the History channel provide this excellent footage of Bikala’s dramatic victory on YouTube.

Running amongst crowds like this, you may want to forgo racing barefoot this year. Lace up your trainers and join the race in Rome!

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