The Malta Amateur Athletics Association brought its 75th Anniversary celebrations to a close by recently organising a cross-country race for the first time in its history.
Although there were previous events bearing this title, this was the first proper attempt to stick as much as possible to the spirit of the competition with the route stretching over 8km of grassy terrain. And, judging by the comments of those who took part, the experiment was a complete success.
Unsurprisingly, the overall winner was Belgian Christian Nemeth, a veteran of this kind of race who has twice taken part in IAAF World Cross Country and and the World Half Marathon Championships on many occasions. Indeed Nemeth, 32, who was using the MAAA Cross-Country race to step up his preparation for next month’s European Cross-Country Championships, immediately raced into the lead and dominated all the way eventually finishing in a time of 24:83.
John Buhagiar did his best to keep up with Nemeth but had to settle with a second place finish and a time of 26:43. Promising athlete Gerald Grech continued his recent good form by finishing third with a time of 27:83. The female category was won by Giselle Camilleri who managed to finish the route in a creditable 31:52. She was followed by Doreen Vella (34:40) and Marisa Muscat (35:17).
However, the most significant result was the good turnout of athletes most of whom were experiencing this type of event for the first time which is just what the MAAA was aiming for.
“It is extremely important that we give our long distance runners the opportunity to run a real cross country at least once a year,” confirmed MAAA President Tony Chircop. “The running technique for a road race is very different to that of running a cross country on a grass and muddy surface.”
“Our athletes had experienced great difficulties running on such a field when we entered a team in an international cross country a few years back. We need to prepare our athletes for this event too.”
“Above everything else, we would like to see our athletes enjoying themselves running this cross country race. This could become the event of the year where families come down to watch the race.”