Malta Marathon

2012 Land Rover Malta Marathon

27th Malta Marathon - February 26, 2012

Hajjy retains title
Hili takes women’s crown
Valhmor Camilleri 

Mohammed Hadjj made it two wins in a row at the 2012 Land Rover Malta Marathon as the Moroccan retained his title with a commanding run yesterday.

In the women's marathon, Carmen Hili completed a successful return after leading Michelle Vella Wood and Rita Galea past the gantry for an all-Maltese podium.

Hadjj was the outstanding performer over the 42km distance, however, as the Rome-based African came agonisingly close to setting a new record for the course.

He had fellow countryman Abdelkebbir Kabbouri and race favourite Sammy Kiprotich, of Kenya, trailing at his heels up to the 32nd kilometre.

Then, Hadjj upped his tempo for an impressive time of 2:19.04... just 26 seconds slower than the current race record set by Kenya's Joshua Kipchemba in 2008.

Kabbouri had to settle for the runners-up spot for a second successive year when he crossed the finish line in 2:25.38 as Jonathan Balzan retained his status as the fastest local athlete in the race when he produced a late burst to take third place in 2:32.27.

Kiprotich, touted by many as the leading candidate for victory given his excellent personal best of 2:12.00, had to stop due to a stomach injury.

Hadjj felt he was on course to establish the record.

"It's always a huge satisfaction to win a marathon," Hadjj told The Times yesterday.

"Actually, I thought I had managed to set a new record as on my watch I clocked 2:17.23 but you have to accept the decision of the organisers. I think that the course here is slightly longer than normal.

"According to my equipment I did some 700 metres more here.

"But, apart from that I'm happy to be here a second time and I plan to return next year to defend my title."

Balzan was delighted to have reached his goal of finishing on the podium.

"It's so satisfying for me to have succeeded in reaching my objectives for the race and, more importantly, again rank first among the Maltese runners," the St Patrick's AC runner said.

"True, my time was not particularly fast but given all the injury problems I had to deal with in the past few months, coupled with the difficult conditions we had today, I'm happy with my third place.

"The ones in front were hard to catch but when I saw one of them pulling out of the race a few kilometres from home I drew more courage and ran harder to preserve my position."

Yesterday, Hili was taking part in her first full marathon in three years. Her winning time was 3:03.15.

Vella Wood, more renowned for her performances in triathlon, was an excellent second in 3:18.50 as Galea clinched her best result in the Malta Marathon with a time of 3:19.11.

"I've not raced over the distance for a long time and I wasn't expecting any titles today. However, to end up winning the race is unbelievable," Hili, also of St Patrick's AC, said.

"My time was some three minutes slower than usual but timing had little importance for me today. The important thing was that I showed that I'm still competitive in these distances.

"The result also fills me with motivation to continue doing what I love to do most in my life, which is running."

This year's Malta Marathon has been another outstanding success for the organising committee with a record 2,500 entries in the marathon, half marathon and walkathon.

Race Director Joe Micallef was an elated man for the levels reached and vowed to work even harder for his team to increase the numbers in 2013.

"Seeing so many people coming together for the Malta Marathon is a great feeling for myself and the rest of the organising committee," Micallef said.

"Obviously, there are always problems to face, this year we had traffic congestions in some parts of the course which we managed to solve. But, all in all, it was another great success and it will instil more desire in us to make this event even bigger."