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Running up the numbers for next Malta Marathon

Josette Falzon, kneeling to right of banner, was part of a large group taking part in the walkathon to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Josette Falzon, kneeling to right of banner, was part of a large group taking part in the walkathon to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Attracting 4,000 participants in next year’s Malta Marathon is a real possibility, according to race director Joe Micallef, who is still running on a high after the success of Sunday’s event.

A total of 420 participants registered for Sunday’s marathon and 2,800 for the half-marathon, making it the most popular edition since its inception in 1986.

Aching limbs and fresh Facebook photo albums were displayed like trophies across the country yesterday, as participants basked in the glow of their achievement.

“Every year we are getting more Maltese participating. They see the photos of friends taking part and they get envious. It’s a chain reaction,” Mr Micallef said.

This year participants were able to put their race number into a special Facebook app, which posted photos of them on their profile while they ran.

Reflecting on the 2011 death of Malta Marathon co-founder John Walsh, who died during his morning jog, Mr Micallef said: “He would be so proud of its growing popularity. He loved athletics and he always wanted Maltese athletes to improve.”

Maltese were also becoming increasingly attracted to the marathon because it was well organised and good fun, Mr Micallef said.

“People don’t run for prizes or competitiveness – they run for enjoyment. The traffic is controlled and we have bands playing along the route and entertainment at the finish line.”

Walkathon participant Josette Falzon was one of many who took part to raise funds for charity.

The 40-year-old mother helped to raise €8,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust by encouraging some 315 people to sign up for the walk. “It can be quite hard work but you are on such a high afterwards that you forget about any pain,” said Ms Falzon, who had previously run the half-marathon and the full marathon.

“It encourages people to keep fit but it’s also accessible to everyone as you don’t have to run at all,” she said. Mr Micallef said the main barrier to increasing participation in future years would be economic problems abroad causing the number of overseas participants to fall.

That had happened in 2008 and 2009, but this year the number of foreign participants in-creased by around 200 from the previous year.

Among this year’s overseas participants was Alex Flynn, a Briton aiming to raise more than £1 million through his 10 Million Metre running challenge for research into a cure for Parkinson’s disease (www.alexflynn.co.uk).

“I had never been to Malta before and I found it a fantastic place with generous, welcoming people. The huge amount of support from people along the route really helped,” said Mr Flynn, who suffers from Parkinson’s himself.

Mr Flynn ran alongside the deVere Malta team and Nigel Green, chief executive of the deVere Group.

Together the team raised some €125,000 for the deVere Charity Foundation and other child-ren’s charities.

Irish runner Siobhán O’Sullivan was also raising money for charity.

“I’ve done a few races in Malta and it’s great to see them growing in popularity.

“I think sport and fitness are growing in popularity here in general, especially running, cycling and triathlons,” Ms O’Sullivan, who lives in Malta, said.

Malta-based sports massage therapist Henrik Winberg said bookings usually increased after the marathon, with some emergency calls from less experienced runners begging him to fit them in.

“About two days after the race is when most runners really feel stiff and would benefit from a massage.

It is important to plan your post marathon training just as much as the preparation to prevent injury,” he said.

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