Monday, March 6, 2017

Bad Moon on the Rise: Malta Marathon (3/5/2017)

Finish line - Sliema
Race: Malta Marathon
Location: Mdina - Sliema, Malta
Goal Time: 3:00:00
Actual Time: 3:21:19

Tim Morin can sum up any marathon: "Marathons are hard."

I ran across the 31 km mark, I ran past a band playing some Creedence. "I hear the hurricanes a blowing...".  All I could think was, "Bad Moon on the Rise? Well, that's kinda ominous choice of songs."

Little did I know...

Urvi and I rented an apartment in Valletta (the Baroque - and still - capital of Malta).  But the night before the marathon we took the ferry over to the tourist town of Sliema (site of the marathon finish line) and spent the night at a hotel there (But, still within sight of our apartment in Valletta).

In the morning we were bussed from Sliema to the middle of the island.  The marathon started at the gates of the Medieval capital - Mdina.  And before the race, droves of internationals wandered the ancient city.  I hadn't realized we'd get a tourist destination too.

In the Cathedral Square, Mdina, before the marathon
photo by Urvi

 The race started right at 7:30.  It was 58F and still a bit overcast.  Not terrible, but not great.

The raced wrapped its way around the central hills of Malta in a pair of figure eights.  So, constantly got shots of rolling farmland and vineyards leading up to the old capital with its spires and basilica dominating the area.

(photo blatantly stolen from a real estate developer's site)

My plan had been a simple break the race into 5ks and each 5k race 5 seconds faster per mile.   Things were looking good for the first 15k, which I ran through at 1:05:23.  But, I started to notice the heat and the fact that "partly cloudy" was not as "cloudy" as I would have liked.

near-ish to the 10k
notice how fresh and un-sweaty we still are.
My shirt was now stuck to me from the sweat.  But, many of the local Maltese were out and cheering - especially around the two passes of the National Stadium.  Still, there was a lot of shadeless open road.  Any trees were both that gorgeous gnarled and twisting variety you get in the Mediterranean; but, also as you get in the Mediterranean, about my height and not full of leaves.  Where there was some shade was running through the little towns.  But there were also cars to compete with.  (99% of drivers were respectful; and some even encouraging).

Just past 25k the course turns onto the straight road back toward Valletta and Sliema.  Quickly you leave the Arcadian imagery of timeless Mediterranean.  The road becomes a modern road with trucks and industrial shops and 20th century apartment blocks.  By now, I had realized there would never be a 3 hour marathon and probably not a PR (3:05).  But, as we went through the last quaint village of Attard around 29km, I thought I could still break my second fastest marathon at 3:12.

Leaving Attard, the course  gets real industrial as it directs you toward the tourist waterfront.  This is where I passed the Creedence band.

"I see trouble on the way"

The 32km marks starts 5k on a freeway.  While the baroque capital is ahead with its basilica and spires, I was suddenly done.  The exposed shadeless asphalt was only broken by the occasional dip under a bridge.

I walked off and on on the highway as half marathoners (who'd started 1:45 after us), whizzed by me.

At 37 km, the road violently goes down to the waterfront.  And in a long - seemingly interminable - meandrous route, the marathon snakes along the waterfront.

Finally with about 1 km to go, you run through a cafe and then a gas station (why?) to hit "the Strand" (the main waterfront road of Sliema).  With view of Fort Manoel and Valletta on your right, and tourists of all kinds cheering on, I put my head down and jogged into a finish.

Celebrating at the awesome beer bar in Valletta -  67 Kapitali
While I'm not unhappy with my marathon, I think more access to water and powerade would have helped.  And Urvi's marathon turned bad... but I'll let her tell that story.

On the plus side, I was the first American!

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