Malta Marathon

2007 BMW Malta Marathon

22nd Malta Marathon - February 25, 2007

Kenyan Kipkering wins on Maltese debut
Paul Grech

In the end, no record was broken. The presence of four top-level athletes, two each from Kenya and Morocco, had raised expectations of a possible new best for the BMW Malta Marathon but ultimately Philemon Kipkering's time of 2:20.43 was over a minute shy of the previous record.

Yet, this shouldn't detract anything from what was an exhilarating marathon, one that saw two athletes matching each other for most of the race. It was only three kilometres from the end that Kenyan Kipkering made his decisive break, one that took him past Youssuf Banniz to open an unassailable lead that he retained till the finish in Sliema.

It was a triumph for Kipkering's experience as he perfectly timed his race. "My experience helped me in the end," the winner said. "It was a good, well-organised race. I must say that I've been impressed by the warm welcome I've received and I will never forget Malta."

Most of the talk before the race had been about the possible new record but this didn't put any additional pressure on the Kenyan.

"I was aiming for the record but we started very slowly and it was difficult to make up for that later. But this is definitely a race where the record time can be improved. With a good pacemaker, a time of around 2:14 or 2:15 is certainly possible."

"Perhaps next year," he concluded, hinting that he will be back to defend his title in 2008.

So too should second-placed Banniz who still registered a very good time of 2:21.31. For the young Moroccan, this was his first full marathon and in the end it told.

"I was always in front of the Kenyan athlete until three kilometres from the end when he overtook me," Banniz said.

"It was still a very positive experience for me and one that will help me a lot in the future. My coach says that the most important thing in one's first marathon is to finish the race. So, all considered, I didn't do badly!"

That his coach happens to be Abdel Kebir Marchanne, the current record holder, helps.

"Next year I'll try to break his record," Banniz said with a smile.

If Banniz keeps at least half of his promise, next year's marathon should be some event as even Marchanne intends to come back.

"This year's race was good because there were two athletes of more or less the same level. They stayed constantly with each other whereas I've never had something similar," Marchanne said.

Another Kenyan, Edward Tabut, came third with another good time of 2:23.38. Again this was a marathon debut for him as he normally competes in half marathons or 10km races.

"It was a positive experience," the 23-year-old said. "I ran strongly in the first 5km but then found it hard in the final five kilometres.

"My shoes were slightly small and with the final part of the marathon being downhill, my feet hurt a lot so I couldn't push as much as I wanted."

Balzan, Hili win again

Amid so many new faces, it was pleasing to see the familiar smile of Carmen Hili who won the women's marathon in a time of 3:06.19.

After every race, Hili is known to answer journalists' questions with the phrase "my time is what's important to me".

This year, having shaved off six minutes from her previous best, she had every reason to be pleased by both her finish and her time.

"It is extremely satisfying," she said. "You have to be confident in your abilities and in doing well but it is only when you start the race that you know what you're facing.

"I started the marathon slower than usual and I felt the benefit in the end when I had extra energy. I always try to improve on my time and this time I managed to do so."

Second place among the women went to Briton Erni Hamilton ahead of Hili's St Patrick's team-mate Marika Micallef.

St Patrick's had another overjoyed athlete at the finish line as Jonathan Balzan was the first Maltese man at the gantry.

Having had a troubled year with injuries, Balzan had every reason to feel this way.

"I never expected to do so well," was his immediate reaction.

"I only started training seriously for this event in the beginning of January, so it hasn't been anything like ideal preparation.

"At one point during the race I started to feel a twinge of pain but decided to put it at the back of my mind.

"Given the sort of preparation that I've had, I'm ecstatic about my time of 2:32.32 which is only slightly worse than the time I registered last year."

Mellieha top team events

Mellieha AC maintained their dominance in Maltese long-distance running when they swept the team events in both the marathon and the half marathon.

It was a pleasing result for a club who have succeeded in putting together a group of experienced and promising athletes who look set to make their mark on local athletics.

Malta Marathon

Men - 1. P. Kipkering (Kenya) 2:20.43; 2. Y. Banniz (Morocco) 2:21.31; 3. E. Tabut (Kenya) 2:23.38. Women - 1. C. Hili (Malta) 3:06.19; 2. E. Hamilton (Britain) 3:17.01; 3. M. Micallef (Malta) 3:18.08.