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Gozitan runner Azzopardi eyes Small Island Games after winning La Vallette Marathon

Intersport La Vallette marathon winner Stefan Azzopardi crosses the finish line on Sunday. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Attard Pulis places first in women’s category

After a rain-washed opening, sun shined on the finish line as Gozitan runner Stefan Azzopardi sped through to take the win at the Intersport La Vallette Marathon on Sunday.

In the race, organised by CORSA, Azzopardi led an all-Maltese trio as he finished the 42km race in two hours 39 minutes and 12 seconds, followed by previous winner Matthew Xuereb who managed a time of 2:42.01, and Ryan Farrugia who completed the podium in 2:47.37.

Speaking to the Times of Malta after the race, an elated Azzopardi said the win came unexpectedly.

“I am very happy with the time I managed to do today,” Azzopardi explained.

“I wasn’t expecting it because the route is quite challenging and apart from that, I’m just returning from an injury so I’m building back up slowly. But I’m very happy. I’m hoping to continue building upon this race for the next ones.”

Asked about what the win means for his preparation for what lies ahead in his season, Azzopardi believes it was an important step.

“This win means a lot because it’s a boost for me. It will definitely help me for the rest of the season, especially in the Malta half marathon,” he said.

“That will be very important for me because due to the fact that I am from Gozo, we have qualification for the Small Islands Games in summer so today have definitely given me the boost for that. This is my target for the season so that in summer, I would be able to produce a good time for Gozo.”

In top spot in the female category was another Maltese racer as Josanne Attard Pulis finished at 3:03.23, meaning she also finished seventh overall. Attard Pulis was followed in second by Irena Smojver, who finished at 3:16.53, and in third by Nicole Klingler who produced a time of 3:19.17.

Asked about the time made on Sunday, Attard Pulis was happy despite the hilly nature of the race.

“You can’t really compare the time with the other races as this one had a lot of hills. But I did my utmost and I’m happy with my time and placing,” she said. “This win was satisfying, and it gives me the courage to continue working hard.”

Women’s half-marathon winner Julia Mayer and overall half-marathon winner Luke Micallef. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Micallef, Mayer win Half-Marathon honours

The marathon that started on the Sliema seafront also hosted a shorter 21.1-kilometre half-marathon race and a walkathon simultaneously.

The men’s half-marathon winner on Sunday was Luke Micallef, after he was the first runner to cross the finish line at 1:08.18.

He was followed by Omar Hassan who made a time of 1:10.08, and Simon Spiteri who finished seconds later at 1:10.53.

Following the win, Micallef believes this has been a “good endurance test” ahead of the Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) in May.

“I’m happy with my time. It wasn’t a personal best, but I have to admit the race had parts that were very challenging. It had a bit of everything, including great scenery, so I’m sure people enjoyed it. The challenge of running up hills and the fastest mile added to that. It was a very good race,” Micallef told the Times of Malta.

“We are currently preparing for the Small Nations Games in May so we are building endurance and stamina so that eventually, we can have more tapering and specific sessions when the time comes. This race was perfect for that and it was a good endurance test.”

Fourth overall and first in the women’s category of the half-marathon, Austrian runner Julia Mayer echoed the other racers in acknowledging the challenging route despite managing an impressive 1:12.12. Second in the category was Jemima Farley with 1:17.17, and third was Kata Kovacs-Garami who finished at 1:19.43.

“The target time was 1:11 but it was a high goal for this course because it was a really tough course,” Mayer admitted.

“It was a little harder than expected. The second hill killed me a bit so I had to slow down and in the end, I finished at 1:12 but I’m really happy.

“Dylan (Cassar) did a really good job pacing me through the finish and it was really nice to be here. It was a really good race and really good training for me, having come directly from high altitude in South Africa, so I’m happy.”

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