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Joe Quinn January 2006

I went to Rome, the Eternal City, to run a marathon even though people kept referring to the Seven Hills of Rome as if mere hills should be in any way daunting to a native of Co. Down. Others speculated that running 26.2 miles on foot was the cheapskates way of seeing the sights but at 40 Euros to enter it wasn’t the most economic option. Frankly I went because I had always wanted to go to Rome and do whatever it is that the Romans do and the 10th City Marathon was really just an excuse to realize that ambition. I had been training for an Ultra Marathon (40 miles) in Connemara scheduled for the same weekend so when the option came along to travel to Rome instead and run 14 miles less, after a lot of thought I finally plumped for Rome! I also decided to raise some money for the Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association to add a bit more meaning to my Spring madness.
Anyway, Rome was busy and noisy and most of all BIG – they don’t do small there whether it be churches, monuments, fountains (and prices). Another thing I quickly discovered was that when they grew tired of throwing Christians to the Lions (before they went off to form a Rugby Team) they replaced it with a modern version which they call “Crossing the Road”. Even the guide books recommend doing so by adopting a determined look and going for it as pedestrian crossings are not so much guaranteed safe passages, more like memorials to the fallen. But enough of that – in an attempt to win back some measure of control the City authorities close all the roads to traffic for the duration of the marathon – and so it was that on Sunday 28th March at 8.45am I felt quite safe sitting in the sunshine in the middle of one of Rome’s busiest (normally) thoroughfares, right beside the Colosseum, surrounded by over 9,000 runners from across the world, waiting for the start at 9.20 and thinking how many different shapes (and smell) of feet there are.

The race itself was a great event, taking in all of Rome’s best known landmarks including the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (looking cool and inviting on that warm, sunny day) and passing along the bottom of St Peter’s Square with the Basilica and Colonnade simply breathtaking as we emerged from a side street. But it wasn’t all about sightseeing – running the marathon distance requires a fair amount of concentration at the best of times but add to that the fact that Rome’s street are entirely cobbled, and some not very evenly at that, and you will realize it wasn’t really a “fun” run. In London they put carpet over the cobbles – all quarter mile of them – but I don’t think they could afford 26 miles of the stuff just to please a few creaky jointed runners.

Nevertheless it was a great experience and 3 hours 32 minutes after I set off I crossed the finish line where a very impressive medal and T-shirt , as well as some very welcome lemon tea were presented. Over the next few days we did all the sights, properly this time, and hope our wishes about returning again come true.

My thanks to all who contributed to my fundraising efforts which realized £730, with a special word to Dick Shannon and his family who provided sterling support the previous Sunday afternoon when Safeway Supermarket kindly permitted me to collect at the entrance to their store.