Monday, 3 November 2008

Race Report: La Corsa dei Santi

It was kismet. Stepping off the bus outside the Nerditorium, I turned and saw the advert plastered on the side of the departing bus. Seeing the runner's silhouette, I quickly memorized the words on the advert and googled them when I got back to my room. It was indeed a race. I of course signed up for it immediately.

La Corsa dei Santi (the race of the saints) was taking place on All Saints Day (duh!), starting and ending at St. Peter’s. The event was actually composed of two races, a competitive 10.5K and a non-competitive 4K fun run. I was ineligible to sign up for the 10.5K because I'm not a member of an Italian running club, so I signed up for the 4K.

St. Peter's

As with most things in Italy, I should have known things weren’t going to be straightforward. Waking up bright and early on Saturday, I ate a good breakfast and then headed out to catch the tram. I waited nervously for fifteen minutes at the stop, but then the tram came and I was on my way. Well, I thought I was until five minutes later when the conductor stopped on the Via Flaminia and told us all to get out. He spoke too quickly for me to understand, but I found out later why the tram wasn’t completing its usual route—I would soon be running through part of its regular course. Stupid me for not thinking of this earlier.

There was still twenty minutes before the competitive race started, so I made my way on foot. Halfway there, I realized I needed to pick up the pace, so I started running, soon almost flat out in fear of not making it to the starting line on time. I stopped briefly in front of Castel Sant’Angelo to pin my bib on and then ran towards one of the guarded barriers leading up to St Peter’s. Weaving my way through the crowds, I pointed animatedly to my bib and said 'per favore' (please) to security who kindly let me through. Then I had to book it down the street and around a block before I reached the start area.

By now I had to pee like crazy. Luckily there were four port-a-loos available with absolutely no queue. Yes, you read that right. No queue. Maybe this comes of having a race in Vatican City. I don’t really care about the why, I’m just glad I didn’t have to wait.

Queue-less port-a-loos

I was in, out and at the start line before the competitive race started. Once those runners were well clear of the start line, my group shuffled forward and awaited our start.

Waiting for the gun to go off

It was quite funny being in a race situation but having everyone speaking Italian. It gave me a little taste of what the marathon will be like. I was surrounded by men, women, teenagers, and youngins. There were a couple hundred of us and I was somewhere in the middle when we took off, so I was slowed down a lot in the beginning. Apparently it’s a universal that all walkers, regardless of nationality, will start at the front of the pack when they should be in the back.

The race felt like it took forever but then in a blink of an eye we were running back towards St. Peter’s. For most of the race I had kept a woman in my sights, hoping to pass her near the end, but right when I caught up to her in the home stretch she pulled out her finishing kick and left me in the dust. Eh, I tried.

I did end up passing another woman who reminded me very much of my sister. When we were about 50 meters away from the finish, we got passed by the winner of the competitive race. She said something to me then and although I didn’t catch the exact words I understood her meaning and laughed along with her. We both felt extraordinarily slow right then.

I didn't achieve my race goal of a sub-25 minute time. My final time (thank you, trusty wristwatch) was 25:20 (10:08 pace). I blame the walkers, my pre-race sprinting and my 7 mile tempo run on the previous day for my slower than desired time. Yeah, that sounds good. It doesn't really matter anyway since it's automatically a PR. Yay for running a new race distance!

I must say, I adore the Italians because they don't totally screw me over on race swag like the English do. For the measly €5 ($7) entrance fee I got a t-shirt, LiveStrong bracelet, a bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, a chocolate snack cake and my bib. Post-race, the wonderful volunteers handed me two bottles of water and three pre-packaged pastries.

Race goodie bag and contents

In England, I usually lay down £20 (the equivalent of $35+) and get a bottle of water and either a wrist band or, if I’m truly lucky, a race medal. I guess the race was so well supplied by the race sponsors they were handing out stuff to everybody after the race, even non-racers.

In this photo, you can see two little old ladies on the right who are obviously NOT racers being handed some goodies. It made me smile.

In non-racing news, I didn’t get in my 16 miler this weekend. There's still a chance I can squeeze it in today, but I’ve been feeling a bit blah (not sick, just not feeling up to much lately) and am also under deadline, so not sure if it’s going to happen.

To get at least some fresh air yesterday, I went to the park and rented a bike. I haven’t ridden a bike in years (spin class doesn't count). It was a nice blast from the past. It would have been better had it not been the weekend though as the place was crawling with tourists and families all enjoying the fine weather and blocking the paths as they are want to do. The children were the worst. The situation was aggravating enough that I once again contemplated getting my tubes tied. Eventually I calmed down and just wondered why more people didn’t use a more effective contraceptive method than pulling out.

On that strange note, I hope you all had fantastic weekends. I’ll catch up with you later.


MizFit said...

uh WOW.
Living in the LAND OF LANCE I had so many thoughts and then lost em when I saw that you got a LIVE STRONG bracelet?

lance is everywhere.

joyRuN said...

Nice impromptu race! I can't believe the entry fee either - you can't beat that :)

NO ONE had to use the portapots before the race? Do they have bigger bladders than us? Less hydrated? Weirdness.

Congrats on you PR!!

Marcy said...

Are you serious?!? What in tha?!? From the start pic it looks like a lot of peeps and NO ONE was in line?

GREAT JOB CHICA!! And CONGRATS on the PR! You're getting speedier and speedier ;-) Those Italians know how to do a race. $7! Dang. The cheapest I've come across so far is $15.

Melanie said...

great job on the PR! :) Race kit is pretty sweet too for the price, and no line ups! WOW :D

Brooke said...

great job! how fun...amazing that you had to rush there (I wouldn't think even races in Italy start on time :) what great experiences you're having getting to do races in other countries. I'm jealous :(

MissAllycat said...

I'm still in shock that there was no line for the bathrooms!!

Merry said...

Looks like a fun race :)

I did a 100k bike ride once, and stopped to use the public restroom at a park. 20 guys in line for the Mens room, and I walked right in to the Ladies, no waiting. Made a nice change.

MCM Mama said...

Good job on the race and yay for great swag! That's almost as much as I got for the marathon and I paid a whole lot more!

Lily on the Road said...

Nice race! Proud of you...

as for children, you ARE living in the land of Catholic's....come on, think about this....LOL...

Viper said...

Are you saying that pulling out is not a sound exit strategy?

Great race! Congrats on the shirt. I know how you covet those.

tfh said...

That was a dramatic pre-race rush. Great job and omigosh I HAVE TO ACCUMULATE non-U.S. race t-shirts. That is so cool. Your kind feelings toward old ladies as opposed to little people are also noted. Aren't Italians supposed to have a low birth rate? Actually, I've noticed there seems to be a direct correlation between number of children and good behavior-- the fewer children people have, the less they feel obligated to make them behave. Kind of like people with big dogs vs. people with small dogs. But I digress. GREAT RACE!

Jamie said...

Nice job on the impromptu race! And how inexpensive!!! I think $20 is a deal :)

Marci said...

Wow great price. I'm so envious that you get to an impromtu race in such a place. What an experience. Congrats on your run!

chia said...

Wow that's cheap! What a great experience, I'm glad you worked out the "what it's going to be like" feelings, it will probably soothe the soul a bit for the italian marathon!

He asked me out for tonight ;-)

P.O.M. said...

How fun and good practice for the marathon italian edition:)

Viv said...

Great fly off the seat of your pants race. You do get a lot of bang for your buck. Does the Livestrong bracelet say..vivie' forte? My best attempt at Italian..

Nitmos said...

I'm glad you are finally getting some swag in return for your race entry fees. Great job!

Meg said...

Great report! I love the pictures. I guess the Italians don't know the don't wear your race shirt to the race rule, huh?