Running the City

by Danilo Brunetti

A city can be observed and experienced from many different perspectives, from the comfortable interior of a car or atop a speeding motorcycle, by foot or from a bicycle seat—or, for a thrilling, all-encompassing view, from an airplane or even a helicopter. But running through a city is a thoroughly unique sensation, especially when running in a marathon, and even more so when that marathon is taking place along the streets and avenues of a magnificent city like Rome. But that will be the perspective for thousands of brave runners on Sunday the 19th of March.

Running in a large group is a bit like priming the mechanism of a flywheel so that it accumulates an enormous quantity of energy, only to let loose during the 42 kilometer (or, more precisely, 42,195 meter) run. The number of meters in a marathon corresponds exactly to the distance run by Philippides when he brought the news of the victory over the Persians from the city of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. It goes without saying that the term “marathon” derives from this historic event.

To the runners sprinting down its historic streets, through its ancient piazzas, and past its 2000-year-old monuments, Rome offers a beauty and spectacle that can alleviate a bit of the effort, sweat, and suffering. Running elbow to elbow with others, hearing the shuffle of hundreds of sneakers on the pavement and the unanimous breath of a multicultural throng, creates a single unifying drive and aim in a thrilling and competitive atmosphere that only the language of sports can offer. Rome’s marathon, now in its 28th edition, passes by many splendid spots in the city. The starting bell sounds at 8:30am at the Colosseum, and the race continues towards the Baths of Caracalla, past the Circus Maximus and St Paul’s Outside the Walls, along the Tiber River to Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Basilica, all the way to the Stadio Olimpico and the Auditorium Parco della Musica, finally turning back toward the center, passing Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps to end where it started on Via dei Fori Imperiali, the same circuit it has every year since the very first Rome marathon in 1982. That year, the race was both a traditional marathon and a non-competitive race, with the participation of about 25,000 runners, an average matched nearly every year since.

Alongside the Olympic race, less competitive runners can take part in the Run4Rome, a solidarity relay race full of social and ethical significance, or, even more accessible, the Stracittadina 5k Fun Race. These events bring together culture, history, art, sport, and solidarity: in short, an encounter between some of the most important of human values. For more information visit