The 31st Edition of the Malta International Challenge Marathon drew to a close on Sunday morning in Qawra, when the final stage of the three-day road running event concluded with a half marathon.
The 21km course weaved through a variety of terrains, from a blend of flat stretches, panoramic seaviews, and formidable steep hills that put runners’ endurance to the test.
Whilst the first two days were marked by adverse weather conditions – force six winds and heavy downpours – the final stage proved to be markedly better with the sun shining for most of the time.
The stakes in the third and final stage were high.
With seconds hanging in the balance for Aaron Mifsud, Stefan Azzopardi, and Christian Micallef, who found themselves separated by mere seconds. The trio were inseparable throughout the weekend chasing each other for the coveted title.
Earlier on in the race Azzopardi, who returned to racing following a period of injury, and Micallef took
the lead and attempted to maintain an advantage over Mifsud.
In the toughest part of the course, Wardija Hill, Micallef took the lead with Azzopardi just behind him and Mifsud in hot pursuit.
These placings were kept until the very end when Micallef was first to complete the half marathon.
Azzopardi and Mifsud finished in second and third place respectively.
The cumulative seconds from each stage played a pivotal role in the overall timings resulting in Azzopardi taking the win.
In second place was Aaron Mifsud, whilst Christian Micallef completed the Males’ podium in third place.
Meanwhile, in the females’ race, Nadine de Wilde continued to give a determined performance targeting the first place on the podium.
De Wilde had a consistent performance throughout, narrowly missing out on first place in the first stage having taken a wrong turn in the final part of the course.
A win in the second stage set her on the possibility of an overall win and a gap of nearly three minutes ahead of second-placed Caroline Ciappara.
In third place was Clara Attard.
The three females had consistently featured on each of the stages’ podium and were favourites to complete the overall podium.
The Challenge Marathon, also welcomed a host of international athletes hailing from The Netherlands, Estonia, South Africa and Canada.
Trophies were presented to the overall winners at the end of the event in the presence of Birkirkara St Joseph president Ray Grech and officials Joseph Farrugia and Race Founder Barry Whitmore.
“The Challenge isn’t just a marathon; it’s a three days test of endurance and camaraderie. Running a marathon over this extended period introduces a distinctive set of challenges, rivaling the intensity of a single-day marathon,” said Grech.
“Yet, what sets the challenge apart is the chance it provides for athletes to forge lasting connections. Witnessing athletes linger long after they finished, swapping stories and experiences, exemplifies the unique bond created on the course. We are very proud of them all!”
On his part, Birkirkara SJ secretary Euchar Camilleri expressed his satisfaction at the outcome of this edition and thanked all those involved in particular Siġġiewi, Marsascala and St Paul’s Bay Local Councils, LESA, race officials and marshalls.
The club’s final event for the 2023 racing calendar will take place on December 13, when it will host the Eurosport Fleur-de-Lys Races. Registration is open on https://bsj.mt/event/2023-bsj-fleur-de-lys-road-races/
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