Malta Marathon 2015

How do you get from the dark, cold Chiltern Hills around Halton to the warm sunshine of the Maltese Islands in just a few hours? Volunteer for the Malta Marathon, as 10 RAF Halton personnel did just months earlier…

The annual Malta Marathon has attracted what once was hundreds of runners but now, in its 30th year, thousands and counting. Varying in standards and with the option to run the full, the half or join a walkathon, the event is Malta’s main sporting spectacle to raise money for local charities as the valleys and sleepy towns of this tranquil tiny Mediterranean island transform into 26.2 miles of running bliss, well, for some anyway.

All the talk and promise of sunshine and warm winter temperatures were soon dampened when the Captain on board the flight gave Malta’s latest weather, knowing full well his aircraft was loaded with marathon runners. Cold and wet was the order of the day!!!

Our arrival at the hotel was met with a warm greeting from Team Leeming who had been part of our preparations and who had ran the same race last year.

Our team were ready, no injuries, no anxieties; just lots of carb loading meals, FD orientated trips to the historic sights of Valletta and for those really going for it, a mild 10K along the coast line just to get those legs working.

0500 on Sunday morning soon arrived, our time had come. Early to breakfast followed by a short stroll, in the early morning darkness for the coach transfer. Tracing back more than 4000 years and fortified by the Phoenicians around 700BC, the medieval silent city of Mdina was strategically acquisitioned by the Knights of St.John in 1530 but today in all its majestic glory and at Malta’s highest point some 200m high, it is, for one day only, the start line for Malta Marathon 2015.

As start time approached, the weather had settled somewhat into a gentle almost spring like morning with sunshine, light winds and variable temperatures but certainly friendly running weather and, with a final dash to the toilet, bags dropped, good luck gestures passed, the gun went off and we were on our way.

The route was truly amazing with a predominantly down hill start from Mdina into the valleys below, aka the film location for blockbuster movies Gladiator and Troy, onward to small villages with gathering well wishers, banners flying, bands playing and fuel stops plentiful, it wasn’t long before the running flow had set in. Then, onward to the National Stadium and US Embassy before heading east across the heart of Malta to the coastal town of Sliema, through the historic town of Mosta, itself a notable place in history boasting an unexploded 500lb German bomb, testament to the bravery of the Maltese people during WWII and justification of the George Cross awarded to the population as they along with the RAF, fought off the Nazi onslaught, which, had they lost, would have turned the tide of war with unthinkable consequences.

From Mosta it was along the regional and undulating bypass to Malta’s capital city of Valletta. With the gates to the city just ahead it was a steep left turn down a hill to the Pieta harbour, honeymoon town to the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. Running along the marina, following the coastline it was now a mere 3 miles to the roaring crowds gathered on Sliema front. Thoughts of having to run the equivalent of the ‘Wendover Loop’ provided that much needed mental adjustment to finish the gruelling distance in one piece. Only a single heavy rain shower interrupted proceedings along the race as the sun welcomed runners home, to refreshments, medical aid and an impressive if somewhat rather heavy commemorative medal.

Team Halton and Team Leeming had succeeded with impressive timings to include the fastest at 2hrs 57 mins up to around the 5 hr mark, but no injuries and smiles all around as both teams enjoyed a celebratory meal with talk of, no less, the plans for 2016…

This was my third year on this event and Malta delivered once again. With aspirations to have unit representation from across the UK, this marathon promises to be a popular choice for all runners, of all standards. Well done to both Leeming and Halton, see you all again next year.