I was enjoying a nice winter break last week (early-February 2008) in Malta with my long-suffering wife and children and had promised faithfully not to do any running during the holiday.

Thanks to a secret pocket in my Adidas training bag, I had concealed my favourite runners along with a pair of shorts and one running vest. After a very comfortable and unbelievably cheap flight (God bless Michael O’Leary) we arrived in Malta on a lovely sunny Tuesday morning. I had visions of Malta being very flat, as it is so small, but I soon discovered how wrong I was, in the Taxi from the airport that struggled to climb the hills almost as much as I do!

We settled into our apartment and I even cooked dinner, which received a score of 1/10 but Trish saved the day with pancakes as it was Shrove Tuesday. It was also the last time the cooker was used for the week as Malta is incredibly cheap and the food is very tempting. I woke early the next morning and almost made it out into the early morning sunshine, carrying my runners, until I was spotted and threatened with severe punishment. I decided to risk it anyway and for the next few days I ran every morning up and down some extreme hills which did me no harm in my preparation for “the big one” in Connemara this April.

The rest of the week was spent sight-seeing and travelling around on Malta’s amazing bus service, which includes buses 50 to 60 years old. On Saturday night I walked to the local shop with the kids for the usual Coke and Crisps and also a BIG bottle of red wine. I almost bought an English paper until I realised it was Friday’s edition and decided instead to buy the Malta Times. I opened the wine before the newspaper and halfway through my first glass I was reading the sports section and spotted an article about the Malta Marathon which I knew was taking place on 24th February. The Marathon is sold out for the first time and I am sure some Irish runners will be taking part? At the end of the article was a small footnote informing readers of a 10k race in Attard the very next day Sunday 10th February at 9am. I immediately stopped drinking the wine and after consulting a map, headed straight to bed at 10pm and set the alarm on my phone for 6am. My daughter Nicola had volunteered to accompany me the next day and after a good night’s sleep and early breakfast we were at the bus stop at 7am.

Attard is a small town in the middle of Malta and we arrived shortly after 8am and paid the €10 entry fee before warming up in glorious sunshine. I had no race plan as I certainly didn’t believe I would be running a race in Malta but I was secretly hoping to break 41 minutes as my previous best 10k was 41:09 in Claregalway in 2006. After that I became obsessed with breaking 40 minutes for 10k and the obsession became almost as bad as my rather unhealthy obsession of trying to beat James Lundon! The only consolation with that obsession is the fact that I am not alone, in fact there are at least 3 members of Tuam AC suffering the same fate. It is hard to explain why James is the target of so many runners as he is one of the soundest men you could ever meet. He is also a very tough runner and just when you think he is within reach he somehow finds another gear and disappears into the distance. Anyway back to Malta and when the gun went at 9am, I took off like a scalded cat, as I usually do and ran uphill for the first km and passed the first k mark in 3:56. We carried on uphill and the 2nd k was passed in 8:05. The course had levelled out now and the scenery was so good I missed the 3rd and 4th k marks as we were running towards the walled city of Medina, which looked stunning in the morning Sun. I only just spotted the halfway mark out of the corner of my eye. A quick check of the watch showed 20:20 for the half. I then took a bottle of water and drank one sip before throwing the rest over my head, much to the amusement of the locals who thought it was very cold as they are used to training in the summer where it regularly reaches 40-45 Centigrade!!!!!

Passing the 6k mark, I realised I had slowed down considerably as it had taken 4:27 for that k. I was very annoyed with myself and gave myself a good talking to. I also stopped looking at the watch and decided I was going to break 41 minutes! As I passed the 7 and 8 k marks, I started to feel better and was really enjoying myself and at 9k, I couldn’t resist a quick time check and 37:05 gave me 3:55 to cover the last k. I also remembered that the first k was uphill, so I put the boot down as hard as I could and managed 3:48 for the last k and finished in 40:53.

Overall I was 23rd out of a field of about 100 and 2nd M40. I will be 45 in a few months and the first M45 received a trophy almost as big as Sam Maguire, I congratulated him and asked him his time. 41.35. Aaaaaarrrrrgh! That trophy was so big I could just see myself coming down the steps of the plane in Dublin Airport and filling it with the big bottle of wine I had abandoned earlier.

I might go back again next year, but knowing my luck James Lundon will be on the starting line too!


16 years 3 months ago

...I'll target you in the Summer, as well as James of course ;-)


16 years 3 months ago

Well done Brendan ,great run and great read!


16 years 3 months ago

Well done Brendan hopefully Ill catch you on the track this years county champs