It was back in April 2012 that I claimed victory in the Gozo Half Marathon in a time of 1hr 15min, which still is the second fastest winning time over the past 15 years. It was an honor this year, to win one of my favorite races, this time clocking 1hr 18mins, ten years later and on a different and more challenging route.
After an absence of two years, I was delighted to hear that the Gozo Half Marathon is back. This race is particularly special for me… it gives me great motivation as I consider hills to be one of my strengths, which gives me an edge over other runners. The fact that it was held outside its usual April slot in the local running calendar, was a blessing in disguise for me as I was out of action with injury in the first half of this year. The timing was also ideal as it served as good preparation for other half marathons coming up both locally and abroad.
Without any doubt, the Gozo Half Marathon is by far the toughest 21.1K for any athlete. This unique half-marathon route demands a great deal of mental preparation. The first 5K is a complete drop from Xaghra to sea level. A cautious start is key, as this 5K can either make you or break you. I ran this rather relaxing 5K with Gozitan seasoned runner and friend Matthew Xuereb, chatting and exchanging jokes along the way. What follows however is 5K of continuous uphill from Qbajjar to Ghasri, where the challenge begins. This is where I took the lead, which continued to increase till the finish line. The second half of the race is a continuous mind-over-body struggle, whereby you push your body beyond its boundaries, whilst running through some picturesque villages. When you think that you’re nearly done, upon reaching the 20K, you’re in for a final 1K Xaghra uphill killer, where quitting is not an option. This is then followed by the most rewarding, yet never-ending 300m final straight to the iconic Xaghra Square.
All participants crossing the finish line should consider themselves deserving winners on completing the most challenging local half marathon. It was great to share the podium with Matthew and my Mellieha AC teammate Clive.
I do strongly recommend this race. Besides the qualities of the race itself which in my opinion is by far the best-organized race locally. The effort that the volunteers/organizers of this race put in is second to none. From the build-up in the months and weeks preceding the event to the facilities made available on race day, the course marshaling, the water and feeding stations as well as the vibe at Xaghra Square which were all to perfection.
I conclude with what in my view was the most powerful message of the #YourRunGozo Campaign (Day 18) – “The pain you will feel throughout the run will be all worth it at the end. Trust us!” – to which I fully subscribe.
See you in April 2023.