Malta Challenge Marathon race reports

Apologies for the length but it is a weeks worth (vastly condensed as it is)

Now I would normally say whatever happened in Malta stays in Malta, but as you’re all probably dying to know what went on, how we got on and you’ve heard a few rumours – this is for you

Sam P has written a report on the 3 races from his point of view and I’ve just added bits in where I thought necessary – so here goes

A 2.30am pick up from Penzance station, Sam P the first to arrive closely followed by Sue, myself and Jamie (Junior G), Susie T, Arnaud, Graham, Nancy, Tom and Charlie, Ronnie & Ges and Andrew H – Three 7 seater people carriers role up and in we all pile (A Newquay based company called Chy Meor – airport transport) Gatwick here we come

A straight forward journey, not too bad, one comfort stop where Charlie manages a sausage and egg sarnie! And we rock up to Gatwick at about 8am plenty of time for our 11.55 flight – we find a café, settle down for a cuppa before check in opens – Sam gets out what seems like a picnic for all – but no it’s just for him – this could have been an omen as the cake eating begins! (you can see Sam tucking in to his packed lunch in the background)

 At Gatwick Airport

8.55 check in opens and we eventually get rid of our cases and onto air side – where I seem to be the only one with anything confiscated, my sudo cream! Nappy rash here we come – we set our hand luggage down and start duty free shopping, freebie spirit tasting and just generally chilling out before we board – 10.55 ‘boarding now’ flashes up – where’s Ronnie? Now for those who don’t know Ronnie does not have the senses of a homing pigeon, this is not good!! Ronnie informs us later many a time, at the front of a race even, he manages to go the wrong way!! Sense of direction of a flip flop! We eventually find Ronnie in a completely different area of the departure lounge, accusing us of moving without telling him!

Onto the plane – Air Malta – good flight – in flight meal as per norm – nothing special, but Sam manages to blag everyones leftovers or don’t wants! Where does he put it?! In flight movie not too bad either, good light hearted teen flick

3 hours later we touch down in Malta – SUNSHINE! Bit windy though, temperature similar to an August summer day in the UK – we are met by a good friend of the race director and there we meet about 8 others, who were on the same flight, who have travelled over for the race – onto the coach and about a 45 minute trip to our hotel and race HQ, The Dolmen. It’s a strange feeling if you’ve never had it walking into a hotel, complete with Christmas Tree, Christmas music playing and the sun is shining and temperature high!

We are met at the hotel by the race organisor Barry and his wife Isabelle, we collect our room keys and off we go – Andrew & Graham share a room, as do Jamie and Tom, Arnaud and Susie T have singles and the rest of us doubles – hotel is described as 4 star but honestly I would rate it as a 3 at best, although one complete floor is closed off for refurbishment, so perhaps things will be improved soon

We all decided to go B & B although a half board basis was available at 18 euros a night – so unpack, a quick shower and down we go to the bar – we discover very quickly that from 6 – 7 every night is happy hour – buy one drink and get another free! Cisk is the local lager and served in bottles – a few swift ones and out we go, ‘down’ to the square to find something to eat – we ate out all but one night mostly sampling the different establishments around, pasta, pizza and the local dishes such as rabbit!

 Happy Hour AGAIN!

An early night for everyone as we planned a quick 4 miler in the morning. We meet for a run on Wednesday morning and soon realise that it’s hot, humid and the 3 races are not going to be as easy as we thought – the wind was blowing quite strong – back to room, quick shower and down for breakfast – this was great, eat as much as you like, plenty of choice.

Ges, Arnaud, Graham and Sam decide to hire a car to go touring around and go to the Blue Lagoon – the rest of us just chillout, wonder around and see what’s about – now I reckon they’ve eaten all the kids! It was like an episode of Cocoon (seen the film?) mind you I can’t blame them – before we left I saw deals that were £499 for a month all inclusive! Do you really blame our pensioners? No shopping or heating bills, sunshine and looked after all day for less than 500 quid a MONTH!

Thursday – registration day – we go to the race office, of course at our hotel, which helped and signed in – T shirt, a nice re usable cloth bag containing run aid water bottle or high vis band, pen, lapel badge, crackers, crisps, holder with a past medal, a bottle of Powerade, a bottle of Kristal Table water and our tyvek race numbers that we needed to use for all 3 races and must be worn on front and back.

We declare our teams – 4 in a team, 3 to count, so mens team A = Ronnie, Ian, Andrew and Graham, MBH B team Charlie, Arnaud and Sam. Ladies team – Nancy, Sue T and Sue M.

A new couples competition was also introduced this year for married or couple residing at the same address – so Charlie & Nancy and Ian & Sue are our only couples eligible

Sam, Ronnie, Jamie and Tom decide to go fishing and snorkelling – Sam goes to dive shop to a buy mask and snorkel and bumps into a guy who will take them out fishing – job done and off they go – they say afterwards that whilst out the Maltese Police speedboat comes  by……………..the guys tell them that if they ask they are just mates out fishing for the day……..um, unofficial or what? Lots of ‘tiddlers’ caught, the fisherman guys take all the fish to make soup! There is a great photo somewhere of the great catch – Sam leaves his new (un used) mask on the boat, never to be seen again!

Susie T and Sue M decide to take advantage of the on site health spa and book a massage – conclusions were Susie T was not impressed but Sue M happy enough – the masseurs, two nice blonde young ladies, first blindfolded their subjects and then went to work – Sam P hearing this went immediately and booked up a post race massage!

That night we make happy hour again and bump into a large Dutch group also in the race, a good crowd! It’s race party welcome meal (included in our runners race package) tonight in the hotel so we all pile in meet all the other runners who are staying at The Dolmen and eat our own body weight in pasta – where does Sam put it all?

 

The MBH Team 

 

DAY 1, (Sams Report)

 

The race today was 11.195KM (approx 7 miles) and started nearby at Mdina at 1pm – We were all glad at breakfast as there was a light rain outside which we were all looking forward to running in.  I didn’t eat that much for breakfast for a change, I just had 2 of everything, 2 cups of tea, 2 bits of toast, 2 OJs, 2 Croissants, 2 fried breakfast and another 2 cups of tea and cake.

As we had taken the race package, coach transport was provided for each race to the start and then back from the finish to the hotel.

On we climbed and arrived about 90 minutes before the off – We were dropped off at Mdina gardens where there is a quaint touristy flambards type train – Jamie, Tom, Nancy Charlie, Sue and myself decided to hop aboard, just as the train was due for the off we spied Arnaud, who we shouted, he sped over clambered through one of the carriage windows, much to the annoyance of the Maltese equivalent of Jones The Steam and joined us in the carriage – 30 minutes later, after a really interesting tour – not – we arrive back – Arnaud stating that if we ever saw him again whilst on such an excursion to pretend we didn’t know him!!

Onto the race start, this was a chance to see the other 80 or so competitors, the local clubs out in force, but not too many what I would call racing whippets, one bloke, 72 years old, had done all of the years since the race began (18 years), he needed 2 new knees and hips to match but he was going to get round, don’t you worry! Is that what running in Malta does to you?

Unlike this Country, the rain then stopped and the sun came out, it became quite warm and humid and once we started running it got hot, very hot, not to mention the high winds that didn’t seem to go away no matter which way you turned it was a headwind. 

Sam positions himself at the start line alongside Ronnie! Gun goes, Sam nearly gets run over by 40 other runners – when will he learn?

 

The first 3 miles were up and down with some short hills, but still going up, then we had a long drag up to Dingley Cliffs where it flattened out but had to deal with the wind off the cliffs before turning back to Rabat (pronounced RABAR) a short down hill slope followed by a bit of flat and then a long drag back up to the finish. The road surface was dreadful, very rough stoney ground, only back onto the roads near the finish, and for those who know Maltese roads these are not much better.

A third of the way around at Dingley Cliff poor old Andrew nearly got blown over and then had to deal with Nancy moaning at him.  (A severe case of humour failure due to a wonky hip).  There was then a long drag up to the finish before it sloped off, ideal for sprinting which Graham took full advantage of and left Arnaud for dead (on the line!!).  Poor Arnaud, he also ran the wrong way, only because he was having instructions shouted at him by our great leader Ian.  Consequently, Arnaud was then shouted at by the Cub Scouts, wailing like banshees, to go the right way. 

Ronnie was running unbelievably, even though he was injured, and could hardly walk afterwards, he still only managed to come fourth, upsetting the Maltese runner in front of him though by stepping on his heals! Not once, not twice but FOUR TIMES – no wonder the bloke wasn’t happy!

The route was marshalled by extremely bored Cub Scouts who looked as though they would rather be tying knots instead of standing around with little arrows pointing the way for us to run.

Like our races at home, we are used to having spectators clap and shout as we’re running around and especially at the finish of a race, there were none, The Maltese looked on in wonderment – except for the MBH crew and a bunch of crazy Dutch who cheered everyone in, oh yes! we made a point of cheering everyone.

Now we all thought this race was going to be a doddle as “we do hills down ere” and didn’t really expect the course to be as undulating as it flipping well was.  It was well mixed up with lots of ups and downs, but even on the downs we were still going up if that makes sense!

Round one over and over to the bar for Happy Hour 6-7pm.

Before we do……..interjection from Ian

4pm Sam was booked in for his massage! On turning up there was no sign of any pretty blonde girlies but a nice (very nice) young man named Ramone – Sam that night let slip that he too was blindfolded and massaged both front and back and whilst massaging Sam head the bloke kept sticking his finger in Sams ear!! Was it his finger we ask? Tongue? Or something even worse!!! This story, much to the annoyance of Sam, didn’t go away very quickly.

 

Times and results for Day One

Ronnie   4th                43.06
Ian          14th                48.08
Andrew  22nd                50.38
Nancy     25th                51.14(3rdwomen)
Graham 28th                51.52
Arnaud   29th                51.54
Charlie   37th                52.44
SamP     49th                54.52
SusieT   54th                56.12
Sue M     67th                1.06.28 

 

 

DAY 2,

 View from the Terrace Restaurant at Mdina old city

Another fine day for running again, it was hot with no wind this time, a short 6KM (just under 4 miles) onto the coach and off we go – now Graham had said he was going to use today as a recovery run – you little liar – never trust a man who wears the colours of 2 clubs!

 We were all suffering a bit after Day One, even me after exploiting the Hotel’s Sauna and Jacuzzis as well as having a massage, I still required old faithful and embalmed my legs in Deep Heat which is OK if you like the smell, but being in a small confined pace such as a coach it can be quite over-powering and before I knew it I’d managed to empty the bus.

 Now with warm legs, myself, Andrew and Ronnie went for a little warm up by the harbour and to take advantage of the toilet facilities, as there was no queue ha ha …  Top tactic we thought, only to find there were no toilet seats!  I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

This race was through the streets of Birzebbuga, none of the locals seemed to know what was going on, as a bunch of scantly dressed runners ran past their homes, they looked on in bewilderment! It was a long drag up the hill to the half way point, before going down and then 200m up hill to the finish, which was in front of a whacking great Church thingy.

I normally do alright at this distance but I died at the top of the hill, don’t think I’ve recovered from the Cornish yet!  Graham, Nancy, Arnaud and Andrew came past me, but I had nothing, even Ronnie struggled again and still could only manage 4th place again!

While at the finish Ronnie was shouting at Graham to put in a surprise running attack on the Dutch at the finish, Sue Taylor did well putting her success down to the several espresso’s she drunk 10 mins before the start of the race and then wondered why she didn’t sleep that night! 

Charlie was nearly arrested for using a hedge to relieve himself with the police watching!  And some of the MBH Crew went for a post race cool down in the nearby harbour, while Graham heard an almighty bang ….

Hum…………  What could that be! …

We all apparently have 15 seconds of fame in our lives on TV, and I can happily say I’m glad mine was on a foreign TV Stations, I remember seeing Ian not too far from the finish, shouting at me to sprint, which, me being me, was a dead cert, I timed it just right, unboxed myself and exploded at high speed, I over took 5 other runners beating someone just on the line, who thought he could keep up. 

Now I tend to find that when one is flat out, one tends to focus on the finish line, and not on the race director’s wife’s car, parked 15 foot behind the flipping finish line, which doughnut here hurtled into the back of at full speed, followed by quickly collapsing into a sweaty heap on the floor in the shape of a swastika and on top of that it was all caught on camera by a local TV crew and made the local Maltese News … oh dear !

I hope to high heaven it doesn’t end up on Harry Hill’s Greatest Sporting Blunders !

We get back to the hotel at about 2,30pm, some of us decide to go for a swim on the hotels beach – the water is very very clear, and really warm, Sam goes for a massage (What?!?!?) he was booked in at 4! Nothing like being early!

Round 2 over, straight to the bar for a drink! Shower and down for happy hour and then out to find more pasta – an nearly night ready for the biggy tomorrow (and very early start, 5am breakfast (that’s 4am UK time))

Results from day 2 and accumulative

Ronnie- 21.45,                4th                1.04.51                4th
Ian-         24.18,                14th                1.12.26                14th
Graham-26.05                25th                1.17.57                28th
Andrew- 26.18                27th                1.16.56                24th
Nancy-   26.29                29th                1.17.43                27th
Arnaud-  26.33               30th                1.18.27                30th
SamP-   26.53               34th                1.21.45                46th
Charlie- 26.57                35th                1.19.41                37th
SusieT-  28.36                54th                1.24.48                54th
Sue M – 33.01                 69th                1.39.29                 68th

 

DAY 3 -25km (just under 16 miles)

Breakfast at 5am – far too early for me!  Most of us didn’t sleep too well and were still in a bit of a daze as we got on the coach to ship us to the start. Arnaud was entering the unknown as he had only ever previously run a maximum of 10 miles! He was now facing nearly 16 in hot humid conditions, and looking at the race profile it was going to be hilly – near the end, around 14 and 15 miles it looks like we’ll be climbing Mount Everest.

Again, I embalmed my legs as did a few others this time.  A nice cool morning it was, but looked as though it was going to get hot as there were hardly any clouds in the sky. Ian and Nancy had their line breaks on (that was going to be hot)

Pre-race nerves kicked in and a trip to the thunder box was required.  I joined the queue and was alarmed to see everyone retching as they entered it had not been cleaned out in a few days, on top of that, there were only a few sheets of toilet paper but Ronnie turned up with a part roll and you could say he saved the day even though we had to use both sides!!

This last leg was by far the easiest stage, in some ways as it was a really nice picturesque run, you could take your mind off things.  Water stops were every 5k, unless you were Maltese as some of them had support from friends on bikes or in cars or pacers carrying for them!  Oh well…   No. 59 had best ass of the race oh yea!  Voted by me, Andrew, Ronnie and Graham, no wonder her bloke was carrying for her on his bike. Lucky Git! (this is a no no in the rules, so how they avoided DQ I don’t know)

The race kicked off and took us past our hotel and the race HQ, there was a little bump at 3 miles and the first hill kicked in at 6 miles, it was a long up hill drag about 1 and a half to 2 miles long with a water stop strangely placed part way up the hill, at the top of the hill may be better? but apparently it is placed at 10KM where ever it appears on a course so you can gusge your pace, this is where Ronnie said his wheel came off and he began to struggle going as his injury flared up.

Nancy, Graham and Andrew all pointed out a particularly nasty pot hole to Arnaud, which he then managed to step in and fall over.  Nancy was struggling a lot with her dodgy hip causing her some pain, but Graham stuck with her driving her on with lots of encouragement, good on him!

I died at 4 miles and Charlie and Sue T shot past me.  As we came up to the hill my 2nd wind kicked in and by 10 miles I had caught them up and over taken them, which didn’t last very long as I died quickly and again they shot past me.

Sue-M had to stop and sponge one of her feet as she had a nasty blister, she should have put on some of Ian’s Assos cream, yes that’s right, Assos cream.  Ian says he likes to use this lubricating cream on a regular basis!

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

As we came into Silema, road works were going on and I could hardly breathe due to the amount of dust.  Going down to the harbour I ran the wrong way and ended up being shouted at by the ever bored Cub Scouts, but to be honest, this small section could have done with a coupe of extra marshals and when talking to the others some of them did the same as me so I didn’t feel too much like a divvy!

Ian managed to overtake Ronnie at 20k as his injury slowed him right down, Ian was going to stay with him, but Ronnie told him to carry on and in a flash he was gone again, not surprising if you could have seen the ass he was chasing! Infact, Ian ran the first 10k in 42 mins (Ronnie in 38!) right behind Carmen Hilli’s behind and what a fine behind it is, not as fine as No.59, did I mention we voted her best female behind of the challenge, may be even in Malta.

Sorry to digress!

The second to last hill was a long drag and started at about 14 miles where my 3rd wind started to kick in and I was playing cat and mouse again with No.18 as we ran into Valletta, it levelled off, slightly dipped, then oh my god, a hill like, Lidden Hill only Steeper with attitude!  I saw Ian at the bottom who said well done 400m to go, lying git, maybe from the top of the hill, but No.18 pulled away from, Oh did I swear!  We got onto the flat and I managed to catch him up and again the local Maltese watched us as if we’d just been let out of the asylum! The finish was a long straight, right down the centre of the Valetta shopping precinct – you could hear the music and commentator from here on in and you knew you had nearly done it! I said to No.18 with a about 100 meters left, are you ready for a sprint finish and he said I could have it, Thank …………….. Goodness I thought.  I still pulled away just in case and could see and hear the other runners cheering me in.

Medal placed over your head, a nice refreshing bottle of water and Gatorade – the finish – I had done it!

I crossed the line and again had to collapse, all of a sudden the ambulance staff jumped out and ran to my assistance as they thought I was having a heart attack, leaving Ronnie all by himself with his foot in the air.  Once I regained feeling in my body I joined the other runners and cheered those who came in. The rest came in very close together, Nancy really struggling with a hip problem (more rest perhaps young lady!?) Graham was a rock and ran backwards up the last hill encouraging everyone, Arnaud conquered his half marathon distance and more, Charlie and Andrew raced well and the ladies The 2 Sues really ran well – Ronnie needs to get that injury sorted ready for going back and winning it next year!We all recovered whilst eating more cake and drinking coffee in the sunshine whilst watching everyone finish – how good could it be?!

Results from stage 3 and final positions

Ron        1.57.10                  3.02.01                  13th
Ian          1.50.05                  3.02.31                  14th (I wish I could run a straight marathon in that time)
Andrew  1.59.17                  3.16.13                  24th
Arnaud   2.06.52                  3.25.19                  35th
Graham 2.07.48                  3.25.45                  36th
Nancy     2.08.08                  3.25.51                  37th
Charlie   2.07.22                  3.27.03                  40th
SusieT   2.07.55                  3.32.43                  47th
SamP     2.12.14                  3.33.59                  50th
Sue M     2.38.46                 4.18.15                   69th

We all had a really good time and managed to cram a huge amount of touristy things in on our are little trip, swimming, eating, snorkelling, chilling out in the Hotel’s saunas and Jacuzzis, or one of the various pools, eating, day trips, MBH fishing competition, eating, visiting museums, some more eating, sunbathing, MBH dart throwing competition beside the swimming pool (40 foot from the board!)  We even managed to do some running!

And very well we all did too, you can see the results below and lots of photos at www.marathonchallengemalta.com.

A big thank you to Tom who won the fishing and darts competitions, Jamie and Ges who gave us lots of support.

So……..how did we do?

They nicknamed us the Pirates of Penzance as we came away with a lot of the silverware.

Nancy – 4th lady overall

1st Ladies team = Nancy, Susie T and Sue M

Susie T 1st female vet 55-59

Sue M 1st female vet 45-49

Ronnie 1st male vet 40 –44

4th Mens team = Ronnie, Ian, Andrew and Graham

2nd pair – Nancy & Charlie

4th pair – Sue & Ian

 First Ladies Team - Nancy, Susie T & Sue M

Monday was bit of a come down day – some went for a swim, some went to the motor museum, some went to say their goodbyes to the local cake stockists, all of sporting our yellow race T shirts! – we all jumped on a bus and went to Mdina for Lunch, the pic is the view from the cafe inside the old city – we left the hotel at 2, jumped on the coach and said our goodbyes to Barry, the race organisor, and went to the airport – un eventful flight, arrived back in the UK and onto our people carriers to get back home – my god it was cold! A rough drive back due to rain, fog and a nasty accident just in front of us that closed the road – back in Penzance at 1am safe and sound.

Thanks all who went who made it a fantastic week full of fun, friends and a little bit of racing!

I know it’s not a straight marathon, but in some ways it’s harder as you have 3 tough days back to back and your ability to recover is put to the test

Will we be back? I reckon we will!! I already have next years entry form and at present the basic price, excluding flights and transport to / from UK airport is £350 – OK it doesn’t seem cheap but by taking the race package you are right in the middle of everything. We had such a great time, the race is well organised, everything is taken care of for you – but one thing is compulsory if you come along – you have to be able to eat your own body weight in both pasta and cake!!

 

More photos will appear as they come off everybodys camera

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*