John Walsh 26th February 1955 - 17th September 2011. An Appreciation from Race Director Joe Micallef
My weekend could have hardly started worse, when last Saturday early in the morning I received a call with the tragic news that John Walsh had died whilst out on his regular morning run.
The sad news sent shockwaves around the Maltese athletic community, not least amongst the different members of the Malta Marathon Organising Committee of which John was a member since the inaugural Malta Marathon in 1986.
John’s passing away brought fond memories of a few stories he liked to tell about how the Malta Marathon started. He loved to refer to how the seeds were sown in a long conversation he had with Edwin Attard on a bus ride from Cirkewwa to Mosta. He often mentioned a photo that Peter Borg Costanzi once had hung up in his office, it was of 13 runners at the start of the 1984 Mdina to Spinola Road Race. The current MMOC members were all there: John, Edwin Attard, Mario Chetcuti and yours truly.
John would point out that in pre-Marathon days that was the typical size of the field of runners in local road races, but he would proudly state that today the Malta Marathon and Half Marathon attract 2000 participants while the Mdina 2 Spinola now attracts 400.
The growth of the popularity of road running in Malta owes a lot to John. His regular articles in The Times have been a source of inspiration to many a reader and many runners claim that they took up running thanks to him.
Although John’s name will inextricably be connected with the Malta Marathon and Half Marathon, many will remember him as an athletics coach. John took his coaching seriously and was utterly dedicated to his athletes. He wasn’t satisfied with just getting coaching qualifications but also obtained a Masters degree in sports science.
He put his knowledge to good practice. He guided his then future wife Carol Galea to a silver medal in the marathon of the 1997 Mediterranean Games as well as other gold, silver and bronze medals in various editions of the Games of the Small States of Europe. Only this year, one of his athletes Lisa Marie Camilleri won two silvers in the 2011 GSSE.
Without knowing, hundreds of participants of the Malta Marathon, Malta Half Marathon, Walkathon and Mdina 2 Spinola events over the past years, have a piece of John somewhere in their homes. John had designed the majority of the medals presented to the finishers of these events. Besides his memories which will never fade, John has left us with the medal designs for the 2011 M2S and the 2012 Malta Marathon. These will be awarded to the participants of these two events in his memory.
John’s sudden passing away will certainly leave a great void. His energy, knowledge and enthusiasm will be difficult to replace. John, we will all miss you. My condolences as well as Mario and Edwin’s, go to his wife Carol.
Malta Marathon & M2S Race Director
Carol Walsh's message read by her
Thank you all for coming to pay your last respects to John. John was what I call 'A no-nonsense man', a very serious and private person. He was disciplined, did not like empty chit chat or wasting time. But John also had a very gentle sensitive side and I am a very lucky one and am very lucky to have been that one to enjoy that gentle side of him. Every now and then when we were apart at work, he would send me some SMS that touched right into my core. A case in point was when he recently sent 'Living with you and loving you is so much fun, forever won't be long enough'.
John you were a man of honour, I was so proud of you. You never broke a promise but one, you said you will never leave me alone and that we will go together. How could you be so wrong 'Ganni Tieghi' (My John in Maltese as she used to call him).
Message from Jeremy in Australia, Carol's son
John, here's a few words I shoudl have said long ago.
Thank you for teaching me culinary french, for being my coach, my friend and for the thousand km bike ride with my beatiful mum and me. Thanks for being an inspiration to Cynthia and me and for giving us memories which will last for a lifetime.
While you rest in a better place, your spirit will always live on.
See you again one day,
Message read by Chris, Carol's other son
John, as one can see today you effected many lives. Teaching each one a valuable lesson in the most humble of ways and for that we are greatful.
My friend, your body might not have made it to the 108 year you always wanted but your spirit will far exceed that, living on through us with your teachings.
Farewell for now.
Video links of John
'ARE YOU READY', John at the start of the 1999 Flora Malta Marathon
Images of John
An Appreciation from Race Director Joe Micallef