Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Malta marathon 2017

From a running point of view I’ve had a pretty cruddy 6 months, back in August I wrenched my back and like most good distance runners decided that ignoring it; trying to run off my injury and not seeking medical help was the best plan. I limped (literally) through the Nice marathon in November and crashed out of Marcothon, not helped by a 2 week dose of the lurgy.
In January I finally conceded that I could not go on. The harder I ran the slower I got and the more awkward and painful not only my running but everyday life was becoming too. So I bit the bullet and visited a physio, within 10 minutes of poking and prodding I had a diagnosis of a misaligned pelvis! This was causing me to run lopsided, which in turn was stretching my right glute (a source of almost constant pain) and over stretch the muscles on the left of my spine. After a mere 50 minutes of testing and manipulation and a stringent instruction not to run for 48 hours, I was on the road to recovery.

To cut to the chase, I had a further physio session just to be sure, stepped out for a 22 mile long run 3 weeks ago, and ran the freest and fastest run I’ve had since last summer. Jump to last weekend and I’m on the start line for the 2017 Malta Marathon feeling pretty good about my running. Not quite in the PB shape I was in when I ran here 2 years ago (3:16:16) but confident enough to give it my best shot.

Sitting like a hobo before the start
The marathon and half marathon both start in Mdina, only about 10 miles from the finish, with loops around the disused airfield at Ta’Qali and various bays near Valletta to make up the distances. The marathon starts at 7:30am and the buses which took us to the start drop you off with over an hour to wait in a rather chilly and windy carpark, by the time a nearby hotel deigned to open its doors for business and rooked me 3 euros for a coffee, I was somewhat chilled.
There are around 900 runners for the full marathon and about 3000 for the half so the start for the marathon was not congested as you pass through the first mile of narrow streets in Mdina, unlike the half marathon where runners slowed to a walk. Once you clear the streets of Mdina it’s a solid 2 miles of down hill running before you start a series of gyrations all broadly round Ta'Qali. 

Even having ran it, I'd struggle to work out which way I was going? 

What had started as a chilly morning was warming up and while 22C isn't exactly a heat wave it makes for a tough shift!
The field of 900 spread out fairly quickly and I guessed there were about 120 people ahead of me and after the first 10K I was doing more passing than being passed. But on joining up with the half marathoners at the 25Km mark, it felt like joining the rush hour. The 1:35 HM pacer passed me and I had that depressing feeling of going backwards as a steady stream of half marathoners passed me pretty much up to the 35km mark.
Up until about mile 14 I was keeping my pace well below 7:30 minute miles, I'd have needed for a PB, but the heat and the uphill slopes took a toll with miles 15 through 20 closer to 8 minute miles.
A PB was off the cards,  but a sub 3:20 was still a possibility, or rather would have been had miles 20 through 24 not all been well North of 8 minute miles. Oh well never mind, the last two miles are pan flat so I took a "suck it up" pill and squeezed a 7:57 25th mile and 7:34 26th mile, I wasn't passed by anyone on this section and crossed the line in 3:20:27. Happy with that, not a PB, not a Good for Age but still my 2nd fastest ever marathon.
Soaking up the sun after the event

Clubmate Gerry, who had been planning to run but was injured, was there to look after me at the end. The finish area would be my only criticism of this race, it was a ruddy melee, very congested and quite a few runners collapsed flat on the deck; a very congested exit area, not what you want after 26.2 miles.

Gillian was running the half marathon and I made it out the finish area just in time to see her finish and sneak in under her target 2 hours, pretty good going given her injury and lurgy compromised training.

A quick pit-stop at Gerry's apartment and then back to our hotel for a proper clean up and by 2pm we were sitting in the sun at a beachfront cafe enjoying some pink fizz.


The medal is a quality heavyweight piece of race bling, the race fee at 33 Euros including bus to the start is very reasonable. You get a simple cotton t-shirt included too which looks and feels OK. We flew Ryanair from Liverpool and got a 4 star hotel, both at a very reasonable price as it's still off season.

The profile is overall downhill, if not quite as downhill as I remembered it from 2015. It's not too busy and weather wise it's hot without being stupidly so. Its definitely a race with PB potential.
Happy runners, about to head to the bar


  1. Hi Keith. I've sent you a FB message; I would appreciate contact details for your physio. Thanks.