25th April 2020 AUTHOR: dwhite CATEGORIES: Event Report

Malta Half Marathon

10 miles in the legs starting to wain (in fact I think they had been whinging since around 10k). If only I had just kept my mouth shut 2 months earlier, to give you some context, for some reason I had been missed off an email circulation at work offering the first ten respondents the opportunity to run the half marathon in Malta with accommodation etc. paid for by work. All we had to do was raise £250 for CHIPS charity.

Obviously, this would have been right up my street but I assumed the opportunity had passed or had it. Roll on Christmas work party including free bar…….. I’m sure you can imagine my level of inebriation when I got chatting with the main organiser. And the rest they say is history. I was on the list, with 10 weeks to train and money to raise.

After an off-year in 2019, I had started to up my training with the intention of targeting a spring half marathon, I was, however, expecting a few more weeks to train, thankfully I had started to up my game with a good December in the bag.

Most weeks would consist of a tempo run (preferably with the club), some reps (e.g. 3 x 2 mi plus warm-up and cool down) and a long run supplemented with easy runs totalling somewhere between 45 and 55 miles for the week.

With the race fast approaching I must admit I was pretty nervous about this one. It would be the first time I had flown before a race, this combined with it being part of work and the pressure was on to put in a good performance.

The other concern was the eating schedule. The flight didn’t arrive until 7pm local time and then we would need to get to the hotel before we could even think about food. Ordinarily, I would have grabbed some food around that time before relaxing for the evening. Instead, I’d either been on a plane or travelling back.

There was a group of about 15 of us and rather than do my own thing I stuck with the group, the downside was eating at 10pm (and of course the only person’s meal they forgot was mine!). That meant finally getting to bed at 11.30pm for a fitful nights sleep and 6am alarm.

Breakfast started at 7am with a taxi booked for 7.10am, all I can say its a good job I only have a slice of toast and apple before a race.

The race was a point to point therefore we needed to get the coach to the start, hence the taxi from the hotel to the coaches. Once on the coach, I started to relax a little.

As we were driving to the start, the amount of drop we would get from start to finish was becoming ever more obvious. Every time I thought we had reached the top the coach would round a corner and start climbing again.

The start was just next to Howard Gardens, with an hour to kill, plenty of time to do bag drop off, the necessary toiler stops, warm-up and most importantly grab a coffee. I very rarely if ever race without my coffee therefore I was very pleased to see a barista cafe for a much needed double espresso.

After the warm-up, I managed to catch up with my work colleagues. In total there would be 27 runners made up of head office staff from Birmingham (which includes me), staff from The Palm Beach (one of our high-end casinos in London), staff from the Malta office and some of the executive team. The usual good lucks and group photos out of the way I excused myself and made my way to the start.

The location combined with a surprising number of sub 6-minute milers at the front made this a congested affair. Even after all this time racing it still surprising how many people get close to the front even when there is chip timing. Particularly when the course would drop down 150ft in the first mile.
In fact, the first 6 miles would drop around 450ft. With this in mind, I thought I would try to get as much time in the bank as possible. Always a risky strategy and looking back the miles/kms were slower than I had expected.

Going into the race I planned on checking my pace every 5km (the race markers were in KM) and aim for a sub 80. This would mean going through each 5km in 19minutes as follows:
* 5km – 19mins
* 10km – 38mins
* 15km – 57mins
* 20km – 76mins

The initial part of the race took us past fields and farms not too dis-similar to East Hull, just a tad warmer and dustier. 5km in 18:30, therefore, under target but the effort to time ratio felt a little off.

After that it all becomes a bit of a blur, I lost contact with the group I was running with going through 10km in 38.04. Any time I had in the bank had already gone.

10 to 15km was surprisingly lumpy going over several flyovers with little support. It’s one of the few sections I can remember the view and unfortunately not for the right reasons. To be honest this is probably more of a reflection of my mental state but running on a dual carriageway in a fairly none-descript built-up area is never the most inspiring.

15km in 58:16, any thought of sub 80 was long gone, maybe I could sneak a PB?

At this point, the course hugs the coast of Malta. I would tell you about the stunning view, however, I don’t recall any details. All thoughts were just getting to the end. 78:43 for 20km, the chance of a PB seemed slim as I’d need around under approx. 3:35 for the last 1km’ish.

My official time was 82:26, only a second of my current PB. If I had remembered that my watch was gun time maybe I could have sneaked a PB with a sprint finish but alas it was not meant to be.

On the positive side, I did the club justice finishing first Genting Casino employee, 6th British finisher (out of 472) and 64th out of 2993. All in all a good run just not a great one. That left me chomping at the bit for the next one, which would have been the Doncaster Half alongside Summer League before switching focus on Loch Ness marathon for my 40th. Of course, who knows what the situation will be by September/October. It just a case of training hard and come what may.

Having said all that the most important thing is collectively we raised £31,973.16 for Chips Charity. I believe Enough to buy 6 wheelchairs. I want to thanks anybody that sponsored me.

Darren White

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