How the Rome Marathon Works

By: Kevin P. Allen
Competitors take off at the start of the 15th Rome Marathon 'Maratona di Roma' at the Colosseum on March 22, 2009 in Rome, Italy.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Tourists typically spend a lot of time on their feet as they take in the sights and sounds of a foreign land. Marathoners -- who, naturally, spend a lot of time on their feet -- know that beautiful sight and sounds can provide much-needed inspiration when the going gets tough. The Rome Marathon is made for the tourist and the marathoner alike. If you happen to be a mix of both people, all the better.

While the Rome Marathon was only created in 1982, it has a historic feel to it. How could you not feel like you were being transported back in time in such a location? Rome, after all, is known as the "Eternal City" and many landmarks dating back thousands of years are still standing -- and part of the race course!


But it's not just what you might see that makes the Rome Marathon a unique experience; it's also who you might see. In the year 2000, the race start was temporarily relocated to St. Peter's Square where Pope John Paul II blessed the runners before they set out on their 26.2-mile journey [source: Adventure-marathon].

One of the most memorable marathons in history was run in Rome during the 1960 Olympic Games. It was then that a barefoot Ethiopian named Abebe Bikila strode away from the pack on the way to the first of his two gold medals at the marathon distance -- Bikila also won gold in Tokyo in 1964 wearing Asics running shoes [source: ALFA Athletic Club].

Athletes ranging from elites to the elderly have taken part in the Rome Marathon. Some are interested in fast times, and others simply revel in the scenery. And still others think more about romance than the race itself. Runner's World Chief Running Officer, Bart Yasso, who has completed more than 125 marathons, once dubbed Rome "The most romantic marathon." Yasso ran the race the day after he married his wife. "I'm proud to say it was the slowest marathon either of us has ever done," he said [source: Yasso].

So how do you get into this memorable event? Trot on over to the next page to find out.


Rome Marathon Entry

Looking for a little divine inspiration during a marathon? How about a run past St. Peter's Basilica?
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Unlike the prestigious Boston Marathon, the Rome Marathon has no time qualifying standard. Race organizers allot a generous eight hours for marathoners to complete the 26.2-mile course. Approximately 15,000 people take part in the annual event.

The entry fee ranges from 35 euros (about $43.55) to 65 euros ($86.45) depending on when the runner registers. The fee includes a race T-shirt, finisher's medal and access to nine aid stations along the course which offer water, electrolyte replacement drinks, fruit and even sugar [source: Amazing Running Tours]. Your registration fee also covers a sightseeing tour of sorts -- many runners discard any notions of running a personal best because they want to give themselves time to stop and photograph the various landmarks along the route. Travel agencies -- including some that specialize in running-related vacations -- can offer complete packages that include hotel, air fare and guaranteed entry into the race.


The Rome Marathon is held in early spring each year. The mid to late March scheduling of the event ensures that temperatures are typically cool and the tourist season hasn't yet reached its peak. Runners can expect a temperature of 9 degrees Celsius (about 48.2 degrees Fahrenheit) for the 9 a.m. start and 19 degrees Celsius (66.2 degrees Fahrenheit) at the finish, depending on how long they are on the course.

Race organizers also offer a 4 kilometer "fun run" which begins 15 minutes after the marathon start. The Stracittidina Fun Run draws far more participants each year than the 26.2-mile distance. As many as 80,000 children and adults take part in the low-key event [source: Adventure Marathons].

What can you look forward to seeing on the course? You'll likely be in awe before you even cross the starting line.


Rome Marathon Route

Benjamin Kiptoo Kolum of Kenya set a course record in 2009.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

A marathon is a battle. So, what better place to begin the momentous struggle than outside the Roman Colosseum itself? The massive structure has remained standing for nearly 2,000 years -- a reassuring fact while you ponder whether you can stay upright for 26.2 miles.

From the Colosseum, runners continue on to notable landmarks like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Vatican. While the course is relatively flat, it's not without challenges. Many of the city streets are narrow, which can cause congestion for mid-pack to back-of-the-pack marathoners. And unlike some of the newer roads in the United States, many of the streets in Rome are cobblestone, creating an uneven running surface. But it wasn't the bumps that created problems in the early years of the Rome Marathon; it was the course measurement. In 1982, 1990 and 1995 the route turned out to be short of the standard 26.2 miles by 120 meters, 67 meters and 700 meters respectively [source: Association of Road Racing Statisticians].


To keep fueled on this race route, there is no shortage of caffeine available. There are "more cappuccino stands per mile than any other marathon," says Runner's World's Yasso. "I know -- I stopped at most of them [source: Yasso]."

If you depend on large, adoring crowds to keep your energy high, this may not be the best marathon for you. Cheering spectators are in short supply, at least in comparison to some of the bigger international marathons available to runners. The city's residents are more concerned with going about their daily activities than with cheering on marathoners. Inspiration will have to come from centuries-old landmarks, your fellow competitors and from within [source: Marathon Guide].


Rome Marathon Results

Double amputee athlete Richard Whitehead (R) of Great Britain prepares for the 15th Rome Marathon 'Maratona di Roma' at the Colosseum on March 22, 2009 in Rome, Italy.
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The Rome Marathon has played host to some of the biggest names in the world of marathon racing, but no man has won the race twice, and only one woman has accomplished the feat. Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia was crowned the women's champion in 2009 with a time of 2:27:08 and in 2010 with a time of 2:25:27 [source: Nazret, Association of Road Racing Statisticians].

Many Italians have won their home country's race, but perhaps none more famous than Stefano Baldini, who set a then-course record of 2:09:33 in 1998. He would go on to win the European Marathon Championship and earn the gold medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens [source: Asics].


Ethiopia's Tegla Loroupe who twice held the world record in the marathon, won the Rome Marathon in 2000 in 2:32:04. Loroupe has gone on to make a name for herself outside the running community with her Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation [source: Association of Road Racing Statisticians, Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation].

Benjamin Kiptoo Kolum of Kenya, who won the race in 2009, holds the course record of 2:07:17 while Russia's Galina Bogomolova ran a women's best of 2:22:53 in 2008 [source: Association of Road Racing Statisticians].

But it's not just the race winners who have made headlines on the historic course. Great Britain's Richard Whitehead set the marathon world record for a double-amputee by completing the course on prosthetic limbs in two hours and 56 minutes in 2009 [source: Marathon Guide]. In 2001, 88-year-old women's runner Fenya Crown completed the course in less than seven-and-a-half hours. [source: Marathon Guide].

In 2010 Rome Marathon organizers commemorated the 50th anniversary of Abebe Bikila's Olympic win in their city. With victory secured, men's winner Siraj Gena of Ethiopia removed his shoes and ran barefoot for the final quarter-mile in honor of the late Bikila [source: Marathon Guide].


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • "Rome Eternal City." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • Adventure Marathons. "Maratona di Roma, Rome Marathon 2010/2011." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • ALFA Athletic Club. "Abebe Bikila." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • Association of Road Racing Statisticians. "Città di Roma Marathon." March 24, 2010. (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • ALFA Athletic Club. "Abebe Bikila." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • Amazing Running Tours. "Rome Marathon." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • Asics. "Stefano Baldini." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • IAAF. "Ethiopian double as Rome celebrates Bikila -- Rome Marathon report." March 21, 2010. (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • Marathon Tours and Travel. "Featured Races. Rome Marathon." (Sept. 23, 2010)
  • "Roma (Rome) Marathon & 4K Fun Run." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • "88-year-old American runs Rome Marathon." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • "Notts man smashes marathon world record." March 23, 2009. (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • Maratona di Roma. "Storia." (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • "Ethiopia - Siraj Gena wins Rome Marathon barefoot; Pays homage to Abebe Bikila." March 21, 2010. (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • Tegla Laroupe Peace Foundation. (Sept. 23, 2010.)
  • Yasso, Bart. Personal Correspondence. (Sept. 23, 2010.)