Dillon Cassar may have only been running for the past five years but for him, athletics has become an integral part of his life and is keen to transmit his passion for this discipline to everyone who is keen to practise the sport.
Since making his competitive debut in 2018, Cassar has managed to establish himself as one of the top long-distance runners on the island, winning several titles, which included the Road Running League last year with his club Mellieħa AC, before marking his debut in a GSSE with an impressive bronze medal in the 10,000m race in last June’s Malta 2023 Games.
Cassar is rather a late beginner in the sport and reveals he started practising the sport in a bid to lose some weight.
“I remember that I had gained a bit of weight and my girlfriend encouraged me to start running,” Cassar said.
“My father used to go running every day and I decided to start going out with him.
“I started very slowly but I was determined to set up a number of goals. I remember one day I told my dad that I wanted to be able to complete a half marathon in one hour 18 minutes, which was my father’s personal best.
“After four months of preparation I remember I took part in the half marathon and crossed the finish line beneath the benchmark I set after clocking 1:16. And from then on I never looked back and my goal has always been the same – to try and always become a faster runner.”
Practising the sport of long-distance runner brings with it, like in any other sport, a lot of sacrifices.
“It’s obvious that if you want to stay at the top of this sport you need to make a bit of sacrifices,” Cassar said.
“But for me personally, the idea of spending late nights out at Paceville is not something that I even consider as for me my career is everything. I do go out sometimes with my family but my priority is to ensure I do get the necessary rest that I need.
“Even when it comes to nutrition, I do try and eat healthy but at the same time, I don’t follow a strict diet as the body will quickly get fed up with it. So if I feel like eating a pizza I do it but then I make sure that I can make up for it through my training sessions.
“Obviously the support of the family and the people around you is very important for an athlete as they have to be ready to make sacrifices too and I am blessed in this sense as the persons close to me are ready to give me all their support to succeed in my career.”
Cassar said that it’s difficult for him to single out a memorable result in his career but admitting that winning bronze on his debut appearance at the 2023 GSSE held a lot of significance for him.
“Winning a medal in the 2023 GSSE was a great experience for me,” Cassar said.
“It was my first GSSE participation and winning it in front of the Maltese public made it extra special. The level of the race was very high. Jordan Gusman is a top long-distance runner while the runner with whom I battled for the bronze medal had a faster personal best than me so to beat him for third place was a huge stimulus.”
In 2024, Cassar will take a new role after he accepted an invitation from CORSA to design a flat 10K race that will be held on March 10 with the name Beat Your PB.
The race begins near ‘Mamma Mia’ in Ta Xbiex and runs along ‘The Strand’ towards Sliema and ends in Msida by the Parish Church.
“It’s a new experience for me,” Cassar said.
“CORSA are one of my sponsors and when Matthew Pace approached me with the idea of designing a new race route I immediately accepted as I believe that having new races in the local calendar is very healthy for the sport.
“It’s a very flat race and I tried to make sure that the route has less than 15 metres in elevation. It’s a great course and will provide an opportunity for all participants to give it their best shot and lower their own personal best.
“CORSA will be fully responsible for the organisation and I have no doubt that they will do an excellent job as always.”
Added to that, Cassar is also looking forward to taking part in the La Valette Half Marathon this year, scheduled for March 24, where he hopes to add this race to his long list of successes.
“The La Valette Half Marathon is one race I am looking forward to in 2024,” Cassar said.
“Last year, I acted as a pacer for Austrian runner Julia Mayer who clocked a very fast time of one hour 12 minutes.
“To be honest I really enjoyed it as the race was very well organised and was run in a great setting.
“The race course is very beautiful and next year I am planning to take part again, this time as a competitor. I will prepare well for it and make sure I clock a very fast time.”
Asked if he had advice for runners who are at the start of their career in sport, Cassar highlighted the importance of having a good mentor.
“Running is quite a complex sport and therefore one should take it one day at a time,” he said.
“One cannot set any timelines on his progress and everyone’s body has its own timeframe to develop.
Every training session and race that you do is all part of a process. I like to compare it to when one is constructing a house, you are building it one brick at a time.
“It’s important that you are patient and is ready to be resilient in different times. I can assure you that after a bit of time everything will fall into place.
“The most important thing is that you have a good coach who can guide you through every phase of your career and that you follow his instructions.
“Running is a great sport that will transform your life positively.”
The La Valette Marathon will be held on Sunday, March 24, 2024.
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