Sunday was the Rome Marathon. I hauled myself out of bed early Sunday morning to go cheer on the runners and try to get a few pictures. My sports-photography skills are sadly lacking so the pictures are not fabulous, but I have posted a few.
The race started at the Colosseum then wound around the city passing by some of the iconic Roman monuments: the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain among them. While it has to be one of the most scenic marathons, from what I saw, it was probably a pretty grueling run because there were many stretches on cobblestone streets. I have tried to run a few times on the cobblestone streets around the city and always end up wincing in pain after a few feet.
Earlier in the week, there were signs that marathon preparation was in full swing, teams of workers were erecting six foot wire fences around the Colosseum (don’t want those spectators to get too close) and I had noticed a different tourist crowd descending on the city. I kept passing small, thin people in jeans and running shoes – not old, beaten down running shoes, but brand-new high tech expensive shoes. Even American tourists don’t wear these shoes walking around Rome.
Then, one morning, I was on a bus on my way to the library. The bus was packed so I was pressed up against a window. We stopped at a traffic light and out the window, I saw a man and woman who who were probably in their thirties and had to be American as he was dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and flip-flops and she was wearing a sweat shirt and sweat pants with some college name written in enormous letters down the leg. They looked like they had just rolled out of bed, thrown on some clothes, and walked out of their hotel in search of their morning caffeine, and they were passing our bus wandering into a coffee bar.
While Italians have probably come to expect this kind of dress from American college students studying in Rome, it seemed to come as something of a shock to see a couple who looked like young professionals walking around in public in such a state of disarray. I say this because I found I wasn’t the only person watching the couple walk into the coffee bar, as the light turned green and the bus was driving away, I noticed at least three of my fellow passengers staring out the window at the couple and craning their necks to get a better view as we drove away. You would have thought from the expressions on their faces that the couple was walking down the street naked.
When I was a kid and traveled to Italy in the 70s, you would never see an Italian wearing jeans. And, if someone was wearing jeans, they were immediately pegged as an American. While that has certainly changed and I have seen Italians of all ages in jeans, I have never seen any Italians, even teenagers, walking around dressed in the American Saturday-morning-errand-running-outfit: sweats and flip-flops.
But, to return to the marathon, a huge crowd of spectators turned out to cheer on the runners. I have been a spectator at more than a few marathons and other running races and always find I am at a loss as to what to yell out to the passing runners. Clapping and yelling “go runners” seems so unimaginative, but Sunday, I learned a few new words to add to my cheering repertoire: “dai” – which is pronounced like “die” but actually means “go” which should turn a few heads if I start to use at events in the US; then there was “forza” – which, after a lengthy discussion with a friend whose Italian is much better than mine, we decided could mean either “be strong” or “go forward”.
I thought they worked particularly well when used together “Dai! Forza!” So, for those of you running races in Philly this summer, if you hear someone screaming “dai, forza! ” its probably me.