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Five Top Tips for Running a Marathon

On the last Sunday of February, a few thousand people ran a long race from Mdina to Sliema. Margerita Pulè went along for the ride.

Five Top Tips for Running a Marathon

I’ve wanted to run a half-marathon for a long time. Eventually, I decided to do it; do it properly that is, because I wanted to set myself a task and see it through to the end without giving up half way through. I’d have to train for it, and any shirking would make the actual marathon more difficult, but the aim was to do it, to run it, without having to stop and walk to the finish line. How I saw it was, if I can do it, if I can make myself fit enough to run for over twenty kilometres, then I can do anything. I found a training schedule compiled by John Walsh on the Malta Marathon website ( and followed it, maybe not religiously, but as best I could. I jogged along Tower Road, along the Coast Road, even once along the Regional Road.  I went out some mornings when it was still dark, and saw the sun rise over sea. I went out some nights when it was cold and dark and miserable. I even went out on Christmas day, and felt very virtuous speeding past all the tipsy merry-makers on their way home from Christmas lunch.

When marathon day arrived, I felt like packing the whole thing in; I hadn’t trained as much as I should have over the last two weeks, and didn’t feel like I could do it. I looked for excuses everywhere; it was raining so hard last night, the ground will be too wet; I can’t find my hair-band and I can’t run with my hair in my eyes; I didn’t sleep so well last night, I’d better just go back to bed for a few hours. But not doing it would have been silly at that point, so at a quarter to ten on Sunday, I found myself outside Mdina surrounded by more than a thousand people all wearing tight running gear, and all hopping up and down in a very strange manner and jumping around and stretching and slapping each other on the back. As we set off, it was down to business and the only sound to be heard was the slap, slap, slap of thousands of running shoes hitting the tarmac. The sun shone and the runners spread out; I ran and ran and ran and then ran some more. After what seemed like an eternity, we came down the hill to the sea and made our way through Pietà and Gzira towards the finish line. I don’t know how I did it; towards the end, it was more a case of not letting my legs stop than of making them move. And I felt awful afterwards, truly awful for the most of the day. But I did it, and that’s what counts.

If you’re tempted to enter the marathon, half-marathon or walkathon next year, I’ve compiled a few tips to help you on your way.

1              If you are thinking of running a half-marathon, and you heed only one piece of advice, then heed this; if you are thinking of running a half-marathon, don’t put it on Facebook. If you do, wherever you go and whatever you’re doing and no matter how unfit you are feeling, someone will come up to and ask you how the training’s going. Better to keep such foolish thoughts to yourself until you are absolutely sure of what you’re doing.

2              You’ll hear this piece of advice a zillion times, but it’s definitely worth listening to; buy yourself a decent pair of running shoes. If you don’t the very least that will happen is some of your toenails will turn blue and eventually fall off and you’ll spend the rest of your life knowing that two of your toenails were missing on your wedding day.

3              Get hold of a copy of Haruki Murakami’s lovely book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It’s a sort of memoir told through Murakami’s experiences running and training for marathons around the world, and gives an insight into what seems to be an incredibly focused and single-minded character.

4              Get someone to cheer you on along the route, but make sure they know the route you’re going to be running, otherwise they’ll be waiting for you to pass by somewhere in Rabat while you’re trying to text them as you run towards Attard.

5              If, after all this, you look up the results of the Malta Marathon and see you that you finished number nine hundred and something, do not think of the nine hundred and something who passed the finish line before you. Think, rather, of the six hundred and something that followed you, and how you ran faster than them.



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