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Watch: Records tumble as Nijhuis, Medugu secure dominant wins at La Valette Marathon

Cassar sets new half marathon standard

Records marked the third edition of the La Valette Marathon, which is a certified AIMS race, as not only did this year’s event attract the biggest-ever entry list but new standards were set in three of the four major races held on Sunday.

Danish runner Thijs Mathisen Nijhuis and Sylvia Mmboga Medugu produced a dominant display in the full marathon to finish as clear-cut winners in record time.

On the other hand, Dillon Cassar and Jemima Farley set a new course record in the half marathon race.

A record entry of 2,068 runners registered for the race, of which 1,421 were foreign nationals hailing from 51 countries.

In the full marathon, Nijhuis was in charge right from the outset as the Danish runner, who represented his country at the Tokyo Olympics, ran clear of the pack to finish home in a new record for the race of two hours 25 minutes and 11 seconds.

Thijs Mathisen Nijhuis with his first reaction after winning the La Valette Marathon. Video: Chris Sant Fournier/Paul Cachia

Malta’s Charlton Debono took the second spot when clocking 2:34:31 while Ante Zivkovic completed the podium when crossing the finish line in 2:40:00.

“I was very happy to be racing here in Malta for the first time and get away with the win,” Nijhuis said.

“It was a cool race course along the seafront and that made the challenge a bit easier.

“It has been a difficult journey in recent years as I represented Denmark in the Marathon at the Tokyo Olympics but then I got some injuries in the past two years and I wanted to find a race that could put me back on track.

“It was a tough race with three major hills and 15 to 20 small hills but it was well-variated. I had to adapt different rhythms in the race but I let go in the downhill sections and that helped me a lot.”

“I will surely come back if the organisers want me,” he concluded with a smile.

Charlton Debono reacts after the La Valette Marathon. Video: Chris Sant Fournier/Paul Cachia.

On his part, Gozitan runner Debono was proud of his achievements on Sunday.

“This is not the easiest route in Malta as it is quite demanding. I started with a comfortable pace and I had a foreign participant running alongside me for much of the race but in the latter part he started to struggle and I managed to stroll to second place,” Debono said.

“The race featured three demanding hills in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, Sai Maison, and Paola but you need to manage the pace well, or else you will struggle and I am pleased with how I faced the race today.

“Now I look forward to some rest and hopefully, I will start focusing on track races in the coming weeks.”

Sylvia Mmboga Medugu gives her thoughts after the race: Video: Chris Sant Fournier/Paul Cachia

The women’s race saw Mmboga Medugu produce a dominant display in her first-ever marathon participation in Malta to secure the win in a new course best of two hours, 46 minutes, and two seconds.

Malta’s Josann Attard Pulis was second at 3:18:50 just ahead of Jemma Steele (3:18.52).

“At the beginning, I was so scared because there were a few things I was worried about such as the race route and the water energy during the race,” the Kenyan runner said.

“But then I told myself that I needed to find a bit of flow and that is something I need to work on for the coming race.

“The race was tough in some way as I believe that if I was better prepared for the hills I could have done a fantastic race. But I’m proud of myself as I didn’t have big expectations and it was great to win the race.”

In the half marathon, Dillon Cassar further underlined his status as one of Malta’s top athletes on the distance when he set a new course record when crossing the finish line in one hour seven minutes and 30 seconds.

Luke Micallef, last year’s winner, placed second in 1:07.44 while David Borg completed the podium in 1:12:48. Andrew Grech was fifth in a new personal best of 1:13:25.

Dillon Cassar reacts after winning the La Valette Half Marathon: Video: Chris Sant Fournier/Paul Cachia

Cassar was delighted to have reached his goal of setting a new course record.

“This race was planned for us as a build-up to next month’s participation in an overseas half marathon,” Cassar said.

“I was very confident from the start and am so pleased to have set the fastest time on this beautiful race course.”

The women’s race saw Jemima Farley secure the win in time of 1:15:42 ahead of Maltese duo Rosalie Borg Cauchi (1:26:08) and Jessica Bonet Bonet (1:26:57).

Matthew Pace, CORSA CEO and race founder, was delighted with how this third edition developed and is already looking forward to the 2025 edition where he is targeting an even bigger participation list.

“I am very proud to see that all the participants were pleased with our race organisation,” Pace said.

“To see the race participation grow into more than double figures over last year was an amazing feat. But we’re not resting on our laurels and as of tomorrow we will start working on next year’s edition, which will be held on March 23, 2025, to attain an increase to 3,500 participants.”

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