What is maraFUN? What rivers appear every year in Rome? Where you may meet 10000 grandmas and whom you want to give a hit at the finish line?

The first impression of Rome – this is our Moldova in the future. In a far one. Perhaps, we are alike. You walk around the city and you notice here and there the remains of Moldova – pharmacies are the same, papers around the trashcans, lots of people smoking and crookedly parked cars. You do not feel that you are abroad; you get that absolute comfort and understanding. That’s why, probably, many Moldovans feel so well in Italy.

Yet, unlike Chisinau, Rome is an extremely popular city among tourists. Every year, about millions of tourists come to look at all sorts of debris that, I should say, are striking not only in size but also in quantity. And some not greedy people said that during a day these very tourists throw about 3,000 euro in the largest fountain “Trevi”. :) So, you may even refund your trip.

In general, you may talk a lot about Rome, starting from the style in every detail and vintage cars in the streets, to pasta and the Vatican. But I have come here to run, so let’s talk about the marathon.

Rome Marathon is 22 years old. This traditional competition is being held in late March. In 2016, the race fell on 10 April.  About 15,000 people are running the Marathon; the start and finish line is at the Roman Forum. The track is very beautiful; it lies along the main city attractions: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vittoriano monument, the Coliseum and many others. Such a sightseeing city tour on the run.

Meeting with the Ambassador

The next day after the arrival, I managed to meet with the Ambassador of Moldova in Italy – Stela Styngach.

We discussed our new project – “Run
home”. This project includes the possibility of providing free tickets for
the Moldovan citizens, living (in this case) in Italy and in other countries, to
participate in Chisinau Marathon. There is still a lot to do in its
implementation, but it makes me feel really happy that I keep meeting very
friendly and helpful ambassadors on the way.

Registration and the EXPO

The Expo greeted us with a long queue. Not like 10-15 people, but a real queueeeeee. 100 people in the street in the corridor of the fences.

Oops, unexpected. We understand what’s going on, when we managed to get inside. Firstly, there is a huge crowd to a single computer, to confirm the medical certificate.

I had great difficulty to send it via the website, but I did manage doing it, and Yulik did not manage to get there in time. And now he, poor fellow, is standing on his tiptoes and looking with his sad eyes as dozens of heads are swaying in front of him, wanting to get a confirmation. But the saddest thing of all is that the queue doesn’t seem t be moving at all…

But even with the confirmation of the medical certificate I had to wait another 10 minutes until they find my bib-number in some boxes. Somehow all this doesn’t really look like a serious marathon.

The Expo itself is rather big, located on two floors, and to get your backpack, you have to go all the way through it. Here,
again a real pandemonium, garbage, people are pulling their hands over the heads, something falls, someone is trying to figure something out. Thrusting my backpack from the crowds, I cleaned it out to inspect the trophies.

So, for 90 euros I got: a T-shirt, a backpack, a drink and a kilo of pasta for some reason. Well, why thank you, we will find the use for pasta tonight. And here comes Yulik, happy, with his Bib, wife. Ahoy to watch the expo!

Lots of different sneakers, especially New Balance rules the market recently, although the shoes are so-so. We bought
tones of different stuff, wrote our names on the wall, pranked on the gladiators, took some photos with the numbers and went to a restaurant to indulge in food debauchery.

Prelaunch classic with Moldovan candies:

The Race

The morning was beautiful – the sun sang us piccolo amore, we stretched ourselves, eaten all the buns with jam and went to the start line.

We were four runners – myself, who was going to bliss out during the race, Andrei Cibotaru, who decided to run his first 4 km in life in the Fun Run, Yulian Berku, who was planning to set a personal record, and Sasha Zemtsovskaya who was going to run her first marathon … without the registration and number (it was a spontaneous decision, so did not manage to register in time).

2.5 kilometers passed quickly. And here, forty minutes before the start, we see the starting arch, from which we are separated by a fence.

But we were not allowed to climb above it. With cute smiles, the police removed two Moldovans from the fence and
have pointed towards the slow flowing river of the marathon runners, flowing round about the old town. Oh well, if you want us to bypass, we will.

We left Andryusha at the start of the Fun Run. They hold it in a separate place, and what struck me the most is that the 4 km race is run by no more, no less, 80 000 participants!!! It is an incomprehensible crowd to my mind…

We pass by the world famous .. this … how is it called… Well, you know it. Impressive…

Half an hour later we were still going, or rather almost running to the start line at a distance of 2 km away from it. The crowd was getting denser and denser, and finally froze. Five minutes are left before the start, and we are somewhere at the end of the crowd of 20 000 people, stretched along a kilometer.

There is no chance to get into your pen-fold. In general, there is no chance to move at all. This is the first time in my life
when I am in such a situation. Why was did they have to give differently colored numbers and ask me how fast I run at the registration point, if everyone is stuffed into one mixed intestine. And now, in front of us we see an unbreakable wall of marathoners that are not in a slightest hurry.

Then I remember that Yulik wanted to run today for his personal record.

– Julius, my brother, do you realize what this cheering crowd in front of you means?

– Certainly, Brutus, these people will run marathon with us!

– Not with us, but in front of us. Man, these people run with the speed of my grandmother, crossing the road. I don’t really care; I have the task to run on the pulse of 140, so I’m in no hurry, but you, as I understand, wanted to go faster? Then you have to push through ten thousand grandmothers within three and a half hours, while developing speed faster than 5 minutes per kilometer and pulse under 180.

Doubtful prospects….

And then I suggested Yulik to try and run with me the MaraFUN. I already have two of these in my experience – Munich in costume of the death (6:01 hours) and Jerusalem (4:08).

How do they usually run a marathon?

You run at full capacity. Pulse maxes out 170 beats. You see nothing other than 2 square meters in front of you. After the 30 km, you keep trying to convince yourself not to fall by the wayside, and restrain from vomiting. Where you were running, you have not a slightest though of this – there is no time or force to think about it. And at the finish you fall into the arms of volunteers, you start to tremble, you put the medal on, and you sit down near a fence, because you are simply incapable of walking. You sit and think – why on Earth am I doing this? I will never again approach a finish
line… After lunch, you only have forces to eat something, and at 6 o’clock you’re already sleeping like a log… And in the nearest future, a long recovery period is waiting for you, which does not allow you to fully train, the decline of the hormonal system, small nasty stuff like herpes and torn muscles, and eventually overtraining and hatred to running for a half-year period. I am telling you this not by firsthand. I have experienced all this the hard way in New York. So I am certainly not recommending anyone to run marathons like this.

And what about the MaraFUN?

MaraFUN is a marathon + fun. And that’s what you need to do to turn a marathon into a marafun:

1. Select the appropriate marathon – not necessarily flat (you may walk into the slides), but it is important that it’s
not too hot or too cold, so that you won’t have to suffer, be sure there are a lot of fans, music, animation and fun.

2. Run at least 40 minutes slower than the planned time. Or better make it an hour slower.

3. Create a great mood – take photos with animators, help the suffering marathoners, sing songs, run with your back to the front, joke with volunteers, finish epically, in short, fool around and behave as if you went for a walk.

4. Eat and drink a lot – before, during and after. And do not eat the nasty gels, but some goodies instead – like bonbons or grandmother’s apple pie.

5. Try to run it with your friends – we all know that two or three morons make up a dream team!

As a result, you get the feeling that you ran through a maximum of 25 kilometers, because you have the feet that are ready to run another marathon, a surge of strength, fantastic mood, tones of photos and video, ephedrine-dopamine ​​cocktail of happiness, a sense of unforgettable holiday, and the main bonus – the desire to run! The recovery is fast, with no negative consequences, you are motivated, healthy and ready for new trainings.

This does not mean that every marathon should be a cakewalk. Of course, everyone has ambitions and wants to show off on Facebook, see I have surpassed 95% of runners. Therefore, I believe that the advanced amateur is capable of running about 4-6 marathons in a year. Two quick, in spring and autumn, with an average heart rate of 160-165, for the personal record. Just the fan, for pleasure, not to forget what we are running for (135-145). And the others in the developing mode at the pulse (145-155), and namely they will give the maximum training effect.

So, this is the end of the sports and lyrical digression. Yulik scratched his head and agreed to try, because run for fun is his thing, after all.

Meanwhile, it becomes more and more tight. Either I was squeezed too hard, or I drank too much water last week, but I feel that I really need to discard a couple of glasses. Damn. There are no toilets around, and the crowd slowly started moving. I look around and realize that I am not the only one experiencing the problem – dozens of runners are pumping the ships right onto the ancient Roman ruins. Well, we are just as deserving as these guys, aren’t we? The harsh marathon reality…

Judging by the number of peeing girls and boys, in just half an hour another small river will appear near the Tiber.

We pass by a number of volunteers, covering them from the tenacious gaze at Sasha, who is going without the number plate. Volunteers are obliged to remove her from the distance. But … hurray, we made it through! Sasha, you’re almost a marathoner! There is just one really unimportant thing left – to run 42 km.

We approach the starting arch. People are taking the unnecessary clothes off and throwing onto the fences.

I simply can’t understand why they had to dress up so warm at the start, because it was +12°C. And here the wave brings us back to the start, we yell, turn the clock on and start running.

Here we go!

The music is raging, the people are screaming, the mood is 999% high! And we, smiling from the first signs of serotonin,
started running at a slow waltz pace – approximately 6 minutes per km.

Rome Marathon is probably the toughest in the world, because the mankind has not yet invented a road surface that would be tougher than cobblestone paved road.

And in Rome, the longest part of the route lies namely through the cobblestone paved road. Wear softer sneakers, if you are traveling to Rome. But it is not an obstacle for us – we enjoy the thundering orchestras, chatting with each other, with runners and volunteers, taking a desperate amount of photos. I don’t have these many photos and videos from any other race, because Yulik is also a bit obsessed with taking photos.

Sasha is constantly trying to run forward, but we slow her down, because her experience includes only a half-marathon, and she does not know what is waiting for her after the thirty kilometers mark. I persuaded her to take off the headphones and enjoy the atmosphere – it seems to me that the catch of running is not to depart to another, musical reality, but to use at least an hour to listen to yourself, your body, and your thoughts. For me, running is meditation, and no music should distract you from being here and now.

We ate a lot – I stuffing myself from the 10th kilometer, and kept stuffing myself every 5 km with gels, bars, bananas, oranges, biting it all up with the secretly spared bonbons Romanitsa (my favorite). At the end, I wasn’t really feeling any hunger, but having the experience of hungry races and their consequences, I kept on forcing myself to keep on chewing.

Pulse gradually increased from 135 to 140. I guess, some people sleep with such pulse rate. And we are running, looking at the city. The city is f..cking great! Each square meter is soaked in history, the sense of style is seen in everything – from the Coliseum to trashcans.

Speaking of the trashcans. Rome Marathon can not be called clean – it’s not just about the organizers, the runners themselves are not really worried, when cheerfully throwing banana peels and sponges in all directions. But, damn, they are hot Italian guys after all!

There were very few costumed runners, but we met a group that was carrying a child in a wheelchair and occasionally chanting his name, after which the crowd repeated it, and you could see a happy smile on the boy’s face from ear to ear. It just strikes you to the marrow…

At thirty kilometers Sasha let go of us and then we “ran” with Yulik together, puzzled when looking at the dying colleagues. It was easy, probably only for us – the sun rose, it was hot, and the people began to suffer. After all, we are running in the wave with 4:15-4:30, and these are guys with not a huge experience. Many of these are running the marathon for the first time. Therefore, people, lying on the ground, ambulances, cramps and other delights of the last 10 km were everywhere.

And there we see the finish line on the horizon. Well, at this point we got pretty brazen. Having taken off our sneakers, we under a pleasant discussion about the nuances of the mass races organization, slowly went barefoot to the finish line.

Next to us we see people running past us, panting, stumbling and wagging from side to side the very last hundred meters with horrible sufferings, and there we are, walking and taking damn photos with legionaries before the finish line. Probably, they wanted to smash our faces. But no one has, and we have passed the finish line without interrupting the conversation.

Medals, photos on the background of the Coliseum, the arms of the beloved woman, beer, taxi, shower, love, restaurant,
wine, pasta, cheese, wine, pipe, and… Rome. So quiet and cozy. Such that Moldova may become in 100 years from now.

So, the plan for the race is accomplished – average heart rate of 141, my record. Time is not so good – 4:22, but it does
not matter now. It was important to run a marathon smoothly, calmly, without feeling torn to pieces and inside out.

2 hours later, I was not even sure if I was running the marathon today. This means that the ultramarathon Comrades of 90km is something I may conquer… At least psychologically :)

PS: Sasha ran her first 42km. But not 42km and 195 meters. Just before the finish line, the volunteers politely took her off the track due to the lack of number plate. And they could do this at the very start. Insidiously… Conclusion – if you want to run a marathon for free – at least make for yourself a number plate using Photoshop and print it so that it looks like everyone else’s, and not a single volunteer will say anything to you, instead he will congratulate you and put the unpaid medal on you. Trust me, I know how the volunteers are :)

Now we may lean on the back of the chair and watch the video: