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.

Joe Micallef
Malta Marathon & M2S Race Director

Carol Walsh's message read by her
to those who went to bid John farewell for the last time

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,

Jeremy.

 

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

John (squatting 1st left) at his first race - Ta Xbiex 4 x 1 relay (no longer held). 1985 M2S with 16 participants, 3 more than 1984 but 361 less than 2010! John Walsh is at the back with number 15. This was the first time that the race was run on a Sunday morning instead of Saturday afternoon. Members of the original Malta Marathon Organising Committee preparing for the inaugural Malta Marathon held in 1986. John Walsh is seatedon the far left. Joe Micallef - official photographer:) John Walsh (center) at the registration of the first Malta Marathon in 1986. John is seen with Peter Borg Costanzi to his left and Edwin Attard one of the 4 remaining active co-founders of the Malta Marathon. John Walsh as usual applauding and encouraging all athletes at the finish of the first Malta Marathon in 1986. John Walsh (second from left) after finish of the first Malta Marathon in 1986. John is seen with Joe Farrugia to his right, Peter Borg Costanzi to his left and Charles Micallef St. John to his far left. Squatting from left John Walsh and Peter Borg Costanzi. Standing from left Edwin Attard, Joe Micallef, Ron Hill - 1986 Malta Marathon special guest, Charles Cioffi and Joe Farrugia John with a group of Japanese runners in 2008 John with Race Director Joe Micallef before the start of the 2008 BMW Malta Marathon John always there to help till everyone has finished John with his usual encouragement, even for the stragglers Familiar site, John at one of the many Malta Marathon starts John - always dedicated to athlethics John giving last instructions and encouragement to the participants of the 2010 Endo Walkathon John ready to lead the 2010 Endo Walkathon participants