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Zurrieg Half 2005 Report

Carol Galea

Carol Galea

Zurrieq yesterday woke up to the shouts of hundreds of young children as they ran through the village core. With the roads free of any form of traffic, they took advantage of the number of fun runs organised by Zurrieq Wolves Athletics Club in celebration of the World Run Day to temporarily reclaim the roads for pedestrians.

The joyful screams of the children served as a perfect boost for those eagerly waiting the conclusion of the eight edition of the Zurrieq International Half Marathon. With in-race reports confirming that Belgian Christian Nemeth – winner of the past two editions – had a clear advantage at the front and as such likely to regain his title, attention switched to the race record that he himself had set last year at 1.09.58.

As Nemeth turned the final corner and started running the closing one hundred metres, attention alternated constantly between the progress of the Belgian and the ticking of the clock at the finish line. The finish was so tight that even when he finally raced home, everyone was left excitedly waiting for the verdict of the time-keepers.

These promptly confirmed that Nemeth had done it: the Belgian had shaved two seconds off last year’s time.

Setting the new record had clearly been preying on his mind although at the start. “After the first five to ten kilometres I was doing very well but then there is a very steep climb and that took a lot off me. The last four kilometres were very difficult. At the 20k mark I realised that I was three seconds off last year’s record time so, even though I was feeling the strain, I had to push myself in order to beat the clock.”

“Ultimately, I did it and I’m very happy about it. It hasn’t been an easy year for me as I’ve had some injuries that have kept me back. However, a couple of weeks back I did 15 km in 45.15 so I knew that I was getting back in shape. This race will help me build for the cross country season.”

In hindsight, he had more reasons to be pleased about his result. The energy sapping heat had worn down many others so much that practically everyone registered slower times than last year.

The case of Carol Walsh was typical. By finishing in 1.23:35, she regained the women’s title but it was way off last year’s record setting time of 1.20:37. “I set out for the record but very early on I realised that I wasn’t going to make it and therefore switched my sights on doing the best that I can.” Which, as always in Walsh’s case, is much better than the rest of the field.

Last year, Walsh’s talk at the finishing line featured the upcoming Small Nations’ Games. This time it was the turn of the Commonwealth Games. Prompted about her hopes for these Games, Galea confirmed her desire to compete. “I would love to take part in what I consider to be my last major championship but a lot depends on how I feel.”

“Nevertheless, whatever happens, I’m going to Australia to watch the games.”

Whilst Walsh has often tasted success on foreign shores, Jonathan Balzan’s recent victory in the Palermo Half Marathon was his first experience. In Zurrieq, he tried to continue his good form and emulate last year’s 1.12:40 time but ultimately the strain on his legs told as he finished in 1.13:07.

“At around the eight mile I knew that it would be impossible to make it. The heat made it difficult and my legs were aching. At least I managed to finish in second place which had always been my target.” The result means that Balzan was the first Maltese man to cross the finishing line.

Charles Cilia finished third, a result that came as a welcome relief to the athlete who had been somewhat disappointed a couple of weeks ago at the MAAA Zebbug 10k.

“It was a good workout and almost exactly what I had been expecting,” he said of his 1.14:07 finish. “It is a good test for me as in a month’s time I will have to do twice the distance in the Palma de Mallorca Marathon!”

Lisa Marie Bezzina finished second among the women although, even in her case, the finishing time of 1.28:25 was quite slower than last year. “I’m not in the same condition as last year and it was very hot today,” she explained, failing to hide her disappointment even if other’s experience confirmed that she had very little reason for regrets.

“It is a very tough route and you need a lot of support to prepare for it. Thankfully I have my coach John Walsh along with my sponsors Kristal and Krest Vitamin Supplements.”
Cecilia Fenech, running in the colours of the organising club Zurrieq Wolves, finished third in 1.29.19. Her post race thoughts confirmed the feelings of many others. “The weather certainly wasn’t ideal and there are many climbs. At first you have the energy to overcome them but towards the end it becomes increasingly more difficult.”

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