Saturday, February 23, 2013

Running Rome

Rome from the top of St. Peter's
It’s hard to believe I’ve been working/living in Rome for three months. It seems like just a few weeks ago that I arrived for an anticipated year-long stay with a large Gregory duffle, a boxed bike, and an Italian phrase book from Christian - “you might need this” were his parting words.

In short, I’m having a ball. Work is both challenging and interesting. We live in a super cool neighborhood (Trastevere) in an apartment above a pizzeria and a bookstore. The building built in 1784 is on a narrow cobbled street with myriad restaurants, bars and little shops within close proximity. I enjoy not having a car and either running, biking or using public transportation to get around. And the change in environs, pace and lifestyle have been refreshing and fun for my daughter Zoe who has been visiting the last month and Adrienne who just arrived last week. All in all, it’s proving to be a most excellent adventure.

As for the running, it’s been fun and different. Let me share with a few of my favorites.

Tour of Rome – this 15K route through the city always surprises and delights me. I’ve been able to link together some of the best sights while minimizing traffic obstructions (AKA traffic lights & streets that are so busy they are hard to cross). In less than 90 minutes I get to pass the Roman Forum, run around the Coliseum, pass through Trajan’s Market, touch Trevi Fountain, climb the Spanish Steps, run up Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter’s, and then back home – all of time mostly on cobbled streets. The light, the traffic, the people, the smells are always different making this a run I always look forward to.

Appia Attica
Appia Attica (Apian Way) – Let’s just say I still can’t get my head around the fact that I’m running on the original basalt stones of road that was built more than 2000 years ago. From the apartment this run passes Circus Maximus, the Roman Baths and then out to Villa dei Quintili – 40K round trip.

River Tiber – When I rented the apartment I was stoked that it was just one street off the River Tiber and the “bike path” that Google Maps showed running along the river.  Since my office is also along the river I was excited about the prospect of biking or running to/from work.  My excitement turned to disappointment the first morning I ran to work. I had anticipated a scenic and bucolic path along the river where I could go to that other place in my head and run without thought or effort. The path abruptly stops 4K from the apartment and turns into a route amalgamated from roads, footpaths, parking lots and fields.  In some sense it’s a 20K “adventure race.” The banks of the river are covered in trash and the trees along the river are full of a flotsam of plastic shopping bags from when the river recently flooded. The “path” travels through several Roma camps where I’m always a bit uneasy and guarded. It’s an otherworld in the morning darkness watching silhouettes fanning out from the camps pushing shopping carts in the dark to collect recyclables, smelling the acrid smoke from campfires burning rubbish heavy with chemicals, and listening to conversations in a language I do not understand.  And, for giggles and absurdity, I have to climb over a rabbit fence before entering the office complex where the World Food Programme is located.  Given the poor design and disrepair of the fence, I’m sure the rabbits also find it absurd and amusing. What could be a great feature for the city (the river) is a shame. None-the less, I run to work most every morning and several times a week run home feeling lucky that I get to commute to work by foot.

Trail Running - Rome Style
Rome running seems to be serving me well in that I’m on the mend from the nasty piriformis I experienced the later half of 2102. My legs are feeling better and I can run again without pain and numbness! Fingers crossed I can continue to heal and get my strength back in time to run a good race at the Umstead 100 in April. My secret hope is that jumping over a rabbit fence 5 days a week will give me a competitive advantage that no other entrants will have. 

Ciao da Roma!


Coy Martinez said...

I just stumbled upon your blog via Fast Cory. Glad I did. I use to live in England, Ireland and France for a bit but always regret never getting to Rome. Now I get to read vicariously through you :)

Chuck said...

Thanks for sharing. Makes me want to watch Ben Hur again and run a few laps around the track. I also seem to remember running along the river and having disjointed sections from downtown to the Olympic Stadiums. I made sure not to leave without a map.

James Bonnett said...

Thanks for the good read life sounds good!