Marathon season in Rome

The 19th Rome City Marathon is being held at 09.00 on Sunday 17 March with the final registration deadline on 6 March. Last year the popular 42-km marathon attracted over 16,000 athletes from 82 nations. The 7,000 non-Italians included 733 British, 456 Americans, 146 Irish, 63 Australians, 59 Canadians and two New Zealanders.

The event begins at the Colosseum and last year the route was changed to incorporate Via Cola di Rienzo and Viale Giulio Cesare in Prati, avoiding Tor di Quinto and the Tangenziale – a section disliked by many runners. It now passes by the Olympic Village and rejoins the old route near the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Piazza G. da Fabriano.

The top 20 fastest runners last year were predominantly Kenyan and Ethiopian, and the race was won by Kenyan-born Qatari resident Nicholas Kemboi at a speed of 2:08:1. The fastest woman was Kenya's Hellen Jemaiyo who crossed the finish line at 2:31:11.

The time limit for crossing the finish line is seven hours, and anyone who fails to reach the halfway mark within three and a half hours will be required to give up. Those who last the distance however will be rewarded with a medal, a goody bag and a foil wrap to stay warm. There is also a 4-km non-competitive fun run which begins straight after the main marathon. For full details in English and Italian, including registration, see the marathon website.

The city marathon will be preceded by the 39th Rome-Ostia half marathon (just over 21 km) for which registration is now closed. This event takes place on Sunday 3 March, a week later than usual due to the upcoming national elections. This year the event received a major boost after being awarded the prestigious Gold Label award from the International Association of Athletics Associations (IAAF). The award is seen as recognition of excellence and in the past has been bestowed on the world's most important marathons, including the Rome marathon in 2011.

Last year's race saw over 11,000 athletes cross the finishing line, including Kenya's Florence Jebet Kiplagat whose record of 1:06:38 record made her the third fastest woman of all time. The race was won by fellow Kenyan Philemon Kimeli Limo, in 59:32.

The sporting event has blossomed over the years, from its humble beginnings in 1974 when it attracted 313 runners to last year when some 13,000 signed up. Some of them, including the mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno, took part in the non-competitive five-km family fun run in EUR.

Organisers say that the route is a fast one with some light up-and-down hill stretches. It begins near Palazzo dello Sport in EUR and continues along Via Cristoforo Colombo in the direction of the seafront at Ostia. Runners will be assisted by "pacemakers", trained athletes who will be on hand to assist participants reach the finish line at whatever pace suits them best.

There are four recipient charities this year: Telethon, Comunità di S. Egidio, Special Olympics and Komen Italia. For more details see the website