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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

Italy Vacation - The Trip There & The Rome Marathon - Part 2

Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco (“Not all doughnuts come out with a hole”).

– Author Unknown

Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco is an Italian saying that may seem goofy on the surface, but also has a hidden, deeper meaning. According to FluentU Italian, it is a saying that indicates things don’t always turn out as they’re planned. With the past few weeks going the way they have for us since we returned from vacation, and (separately) with the Donot Stop race Buzz and I completed today with some great running friends, I felt the saying was way too fitting not to include.

(Definitely not a picture of Italy – Donot Stop Run)

It was just over a year ago that we got our fostering license in the mail. We have certainly had our fair share of ups and downs with a few children in and out of the house since then, but things not going according to plan is probably the most whole (no pun intended, back to the donut thing), simple way to sum up what a year of fostering has looked like in our home.

Before I get into the travel part (I promise you – it’s coming later), I have been thinking a lot about everything since our one-year fostering anniversary has just come and gone. One of the things that really hit me hard was Friday, which was Mom’s birthday. I remember when I was little, I used to tell her, “I’m never going to have my own kids. I’m going to help kids out there who need it instead.” Most of the people in my life know that she and I certainly had our disagreements, but thinking about what she would say to me or think about what we’ve accomplished over the last year still made me tear up a bit. I wish I could hear what she thinks about the fact that my childhood stubbornness transferred into adulthood, and I actually am helping the kids out there who need it. I also wish that, despite our differences, I could hear her tell me that she is proud of what we are doing and to continue to trust my gut with anything and everything.


Alright, now I will be moving right along into travel just as promised. In case you missed it, I gave a recap of the majority of our Italy trip already (here). What I didn’t share, though, was an in-depth recap on the trip to Italy, the Rome Marathon, or the details about our Path of the Gods hike. Today, I’ll be delving into the trip to Italy and the Rome Marathon.

The Trip to Italy

On the 17th, I was working until about 2:00. I had everything packed up and ready to go, and all I had to do was wait for Zac to get home so we could go to the airport. It was right around when I was getting ready to log off of work for the day, though, that I got a message from Zac and our friends we were traveling with that said our flight had been canceled out of Des Moines. This change of flight would put us in Rome no sooner than 6:30AM the day of the marathon (just two hours before I was supposed to toe the start line).

We were panicked, to say the least. My heart dropped immediately out of my chest. All I could think was, I’m not going to make it to the race. I’ve trained for months for this, and am not even going to get to put my training to use. Even if we were going to get there in time for the race, the packet pick up was the night prior to the event, and I would not have been able to get my packet nor participate.

At this point, we went into absolute scramble mode. We were on chats with Delta and doing everything we could to re-route ourselves out of Des Moines so we could make it to Rome in time for the packet pick up and the race. After literally hours, we were able to get what I believe were probably the two last seats on a flight out of Des Moines to Minneapolis, which sent us then to Amsterdam, and actually connected us to the same final flight from Amsterdam to Rome that we had initially planned.

There was just one issue about the new flight out of Des Moines – it was about an hour earlier than our initial flight, so Zac was well over an hour away from home and the airport when we got the news, and we had that much less time to get him home to get us on our plane. Although he hightailed it home, that whole time, we were still panicking whether we would even make it to the airport in time.

I loaded everything up in the truck and picked his clothes out for him so the second he got home, he could change and we could head out. We got to the airport less than 30 minutes before our gate opened, and just prayed to ourselves that TSA wouldn’t be backed up as we zoomed along with our rolling luggage through the airport.

Somehow, despite everything, luck was on our side in the airport and we were in and through TSA in minutes. We had made it through the first hurdle – getting ready for our first flight. Next, we just had to make it through our quick layovers to our next flights. We also had some concerns about whether we would even get on those next flights. With all of the last-minute changes for our flights, some of our connecting flights’ tickets didn’t even show details. Let me just say – when someone is on a time crunch, it is beyond stressful to be worried about whether they are even going to have a place on their planes or not.

We made it over the next hurdles and our flights came and went without any issues. We got our terrible airplane sleep, we had some classic airplane meals, and drank as much water as we could without having to get up a thousand times to go to the restrooms. Before we knew it, we were in Rome and ready to get our rental car.

Cue hurdle three – We rolled up to the in-airport car rental kiosk we had reserved our car through. Immediately after we provided our names, they stated they had no reservations on file. Then, they said that Zac had accidentally reserved a car from their downtown Rome location, many miles away. By this time, we were butting up to the end of the packet pickup, and the panic quickly set in again for the both of us. We were both thinking, we got all the way here, but now we are going to be stopped by a simple mistake like choosing the wrong rental car location? We were worried there was no way that we would be able to get an Uber or taxi there, get the car, then get back to packet pick up in time.

We were able to cross hurdle three as well, though. Thankfully, the workers at the kiosk took some pity on us, called the other location, and worked out a plan. We had to upgrade to a bigger vehicle (the only one they had available on the lot we were in) for a small additional price, but they were able to move our reservation over so we could drive straight out of the airport ourselves.

Finally, we were off! We were on our way through Rome to pick up my race packet. We had made it. The only additional hurdle I had was whether or not they would accept my doctor’s note that said I was fit to run (for anyone running a race in Italy, please be sure to review the need for a RUNCARD and a doctor’s note). I could not ever open the form that they requested was filled out, so I used a doctor’s note instead. Thankfully, yet again, it worked out and they accepted it.

I reveled in the sheer size and work they had put into the expo. They had so many companies, other races, sports stores, and more at the expo. I only wish we would’ve gotten there just a bit sooner so I could’ve explored the expo longer. Instead, though, I took it all in quickly, got my packet, and we were ready to head to our Airbnb for the evening.

Fun fact – driving and parking in Rome are absolutely crazy. When we pulled into the neighborhood where our Airbnb was, we found the Airbnb, then had to keep driving. And driving. And driving. We started looping blocks around the Airbnb over and over again to wait for a parking spot to open up. By this point, though, we were starting to see people double parked (I wish I would’ve taken pictures to explain this, but people were parked to the left of other parked cars, completely blocking those cars in). It seemed there was no rhyme or reason to how people parked.

Finally, we found a very sketchy parking spot and decided to go for it (we had no idea if it was actually a parking spot or not). We were tired, hungry, and the clock was ticking with less and less remaining time before my marathon. We grabbed our luggage and made the multi-block trek to our Airbnb on foot from the vehicle. Once there, our next agenda item was to find food. Thankfully for us, there was a pizza place halfway down the block.

We got there, got seated right away, and then got our drinks immediately. However, once we put in our food order, we waited. And waited. And waited. We got there somewhere just before 8PM. By 8:45PM, we still hadn’t gotten our food. As I sat there, getting hangrier and hangrier, all I could think about was the lack of sleep I was going to get and how I felt I was setting myself up for failure for this race I’d worked so hard to get to do.

It was then that I saw our waiter bring the two exact pizzas that we had ordered out only to walk them over to another table that had gotten there after us. I saw nothing but red at this point, and just got up and Zac and I headed back to the Airbnb. When we got back to the Airbnb, Zac could tell that I was defeated and angry. He simply asked, “What can I do to help?” Naturally, despite his incredibly comforting behavior, I grouched back at him, “NOTHING.” I grabbed an oatmeal creme pie I had packed for the plane, and had that for my pre-race dinner before heading off to bed.

The next morning, despite how the evening had gone, I woke up nervous, excited, but mostly just ready to race – no matter how little sleep I had gotten the night before or how small and ridiculous my dinner had been. Zac and I woke up early, got ready, then walked roughly a mile and a half to the start line. I knew as soon as we turned a corner and I caught my first glimpse of the Colosseum that the race was going to be nothing short of incredible.

Zac and I separated ways when I had to head through the metal detectors to walk to the starting line. The “shoot” had runners loop all the way around the Colosseum, then down the street until we got to the starting line. With the Colosseum behind us and the starting line ahead of us, before I knew it, announcements were happening, and fighter jets were flying overhead. Then, along with somewhere around 15,000 other runners, I was off for a journey of 26.2 miles around Rome.

(Can you spot me in the crowd?)

Zac has never loved the idea of being a spectator for my races, especially those that span the course of 4-ish hours. I can admit, standing around and waiting for one glimpse of a runner over the course of four hours does not sound too appealing to me either. For this race, though, he set out in an attempt to spot me at multiple points of the race. He continued to text me throughout to let me know when he’d be on the left and when he’d be on the right.

After the race was over, he told me that he had an absolute blast trying to run around the race course and spot me to cheer. He was so excited about how many steps he got in and how many sights he saw while doing so. I think the Rome Marathon made an official spectator out of him, if I’m being honest. The most hilarious part, though, is that he had that much fun despite the fact that neither one of us ever spotted a glimpse of the other during the race!

By mile 13, I was already hitting the wall. I hadn’t yet spotted Zac, and was worried about how the last 13 miles would go. I was under fueled, under slept, and jetlagged. I kept the pace up until around mile 16, where I then had to start run-walking. It was at this point I texted Zac, telling him my last 10 miles would be slower than the first 16. He texted back words of encouragement as I continued on my journey.

I took in the sights, petted some dogs, enjoyed my music, and just basked in the fact that I was running the Rome Marathon. I’ll admit, there were times where I thought to myself how fast I could get back to the finish if I just walked the rest of the way, but I never succumbed to that. I finished with what I feel is a quite respectable time for everything that was piled up against me. Then, I had to walk the long, long journey back out of the shoot to find Zac and our friends.

After that, I walked my sweaty self into a fancy Italian restaurant for a well-deserved lunch, sporting my finisher medal and race bib still. Although clearly not the preferred attire for the restaurant, there were other runners doing the same. This, my friends, is really right around where my Italy Vacation - Part 1 post starts. As I mentioned there, the pasta I had that day for lunch was probably the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life. I will most likely never know if that was due to the circumstances or if I would’ve thought that any other day. However, I’m convinced a giant plate of pasta will never taste better than it does after just running 26.2 miles.

I have certainly gotten my fair share of people picking on me for going on vacation only to head out and run a marathon the first day. I know of others that have or would do the exact same thing. No matter what end of the spectrum people are on, though, there will never be anything that can quite compare to experiencing so much of a new city all on foot the very first day someone is there.


Now, I’m on a mission to find the next vacation race. I’ve already got some ideas up my sleeve, but haven’t completely committed to anything yet. They say that to avoid runner's depression, runners should always have their next event lined up so they have something to look forward to. The same is pretty much true about vacation, I believe – we should almost always have at least some sort of idea of what our next trip will be. Why not just kill two birds with one stone, and make sure to be excited for a race and a vacation? At least, that's my goal anyway.

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