Weighing up the choices of either a half marathon or 10k I decided to enter the half. I felt quite pleased with myself until I looked further into the details of the race: ‘This one is for utterly determined and the physically and mentally prepared’ and ‘Conquer your Fears’. I really must look before I leap in the future I feel.
The half marathon route was designed to cover a long ecological green and coastal path, as well as covering large parts of northern and central Gozo.
I had prepared as well as I thought I could and was pleased to be back running after sustaining a tear in my quad several weeks earlier. At the start line and looking down at my watch poised and ready to start the proceedings, I noticed with horror that it hadn’t charged up from the previous evening and would most definitely not last the duration of the run. Not the best start and the old saying “If it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen” came to haunt me!
Off we went through the square with the impressive Xaghra Church to our right, past the cheering crowd and almost immediately downhill into the countryside which presented some really striking views of the island.
The weather conditions were near perfect with a temperature of 22 degrees, with a light wind and the sun playing hide and seek through the clouds throughout the run. The decline done; it was now time for the incline phase to begin as we run through the impressive Marsalforn bay and valley and the iconic salt pans and out into the countryside which for the next two miles was challenging to say the least and until the surface levelled itself out again.
The next part of the run took us past the magnificent Basilica and square at Ta’Pinu with fantastic views in the distance and onto the Ta’Zesta valley taking in several local charming towns and their unique architectural designs.
The spectators were mainly donkeys and goats looking at us with amusement. Feeling pretty tired around the ten-mile mark and keeping pace going as best as I could up the inclines doubting my sanity, I urged myself on ‘One more parkrun’ I screamed to myself and envisaged trotting around Belton House.
And then it came into sight the 19 km marker which meant a steep incline up to the finish, head down and eyes at a sixty-degree angle I dug deep into my reserves.
Fortunately I had a few runners along with me as we helped each other up Mount Gozo. At the 20km marker I could hear music being played above me and knew the end was near.
Thoughts came into my head as I knew that the event was being live streamed via the Xaghra Parish and that the potential millions watching and that great GRC acronym – DBS (“Don’t be S***”), prompted me to have a final four hundred metres sprint cheered on by the crowd to the finish and get under 2.5 hours. Big relief, low fives (I didn’t have the energy for a high five) and a goodie bag given to me along with a most impressive medal presented to me along with a hug by a local resident, which was a nice touch…. I had conquered the beast!!
My chip time was 2:28:31 which I was pleased with considering it was 319 metres of ascent. The winners of the half Female (Ladies first) 1:19:49 and the Mens 1:16:06 which was a new course record. There were 332 finishers, with thirty or so from the UK and the furthest away from Brazil.
It really is a run that I’ll always remember with affection, although my legs wouldn’t have agreed for a few days afterwards.
Report by Stephen Fay