Charlton Debono (Malta) and Lia Wijnberger (The Netherlands) emerged clear winners of the 27th edition of this unique race, traditionally held on the last full weekend of November ad organised by Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club.
The Malta International Challenge Marathon is a full marathon (42.195km) spread over three days. The Marathon was split into a 10-mile (16.097km) race on Friday, a 5km route on Saturday and wrapping up with a half marathon (21.098km) on the Sunday. Measured to IAAF and AIMS regulations and standards, the race takes athletes along scenic yet demanding routes around Malta – SigÄ¡iewi to the West, Marsascala to the South and St. Paul’s Bay & Wardija to the East. Changes to the route from last year resulted in the half marathon being described as one of the toughest routes ever.
From the very first stage, Debono took a comfortable lead over Pensby Runners (UK) Rob Grantham. This lead was maintained throughout the weekend, where Debono registered three wins in as many days and an overall time of 2 hours 31 minutes and 56 seconds, over ten minutes ahead of Grantham. Jostling for third position in the overall classification were the Galea brothers, David and Johan. Despite securing two third places in Stages 1 and 3, it was Johan’s Stage 2 performance that sealed his overall placing, pipping his brother by just a mere two seconds on the overall time.
“The new routes really brought the challenge into the Eurosport Malta International Challenge Marathon, especially in the half marathon route – Wardija Hill is very tough. Nevertheless, I pushed myself to set a good course record and am very satisfied to have won with an overall margin of nearly ten minutes. This race is really unique and look forward to next year’s race – which is already on my race calendar” – Charlton Debono
Charlton Debono, winner of the Eurosport Malta International Challenge Marathon
In the women’s category, Lia Wijnberger (The Netherlands) claimed two stages to win the Female’s title, having gained seven minutes over Malta’s Francesca Arrigo. Arrigo, first Maltese female, won the second stage of the race with a seven second advantage over Wijnberger and claimed overall second place followed by Karen Amato.
Arrigo echoed Debono’s comments on the route – “A tough but very scenic course, and I thoroughly enjoyed most stages. First stage was tougher than I thought, the second stage was a pleasant and a fast route. I admit I was slightly apprehensive for the last stage, but San Martin downhill gave me some welcome respite after Wardija Hill. I strongly encourage runners to take part in this run, to deviate a bit from the usual routes, distances. This race is a Challenge, so it is not for the faint hearted!”
Francesca Arrigo, first Maltese female, receiving her trophy from Mr. Ray Grech, President, Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club
A presentation was held immediately at the end of the race. Prizes were given out to the winning athletes by Mr. Ray Grech, President of Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club.
“This race has been a great learning curve for the Club. We have listened to the athletes and worked on improving the race experience. We are pleased with the positive feedback received and we are already working on the 2018 edition” remarked Euchar Camilleri, Secretary General, Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club. “We encourage athletes who might not yet feel confident to cover the full distance to start training for the relay event – it is a great team building exercise too!”
The Eurosport Malta International Challenge Marathon was supported by Eurosport, Gatorade, San Michel. The Club thanks all those volunteers who assisted in the organisation of the event