The 31st running of the Malta Marathon, to be staged on February 28, will see another record participation, the seventh year in succession, organisers said.

In 2015, 4,054 took part in the marathon, half marathon and walkathlon. This year the numbers increased to 4,315 between local and foreign participants in all three events.

There are over 750 entries for the full marathon and over 3,550 for the half with 750 of the latter group participating in the walkathon.

Race director Joe Micallef said there will be a strong field of elite athletes including multi-time marathon winner Mohamed Hajjy, of Morocco.

“Mohamed Hajjy will be among the favourites this year,” Micallef said.

“Besides having won the last five Malta Marathons, Hajjy also holds the course record of 2:16:06.”

The local favourite for the 42km race should be Jonathan Balzan who has taken this top place several times over the past few years.

Last year, Balzan had to settle for the runner-up position behind Andrew Grech but this time the latter has opted for the half marathon.

Josann Attard Pulis will hope to repeat last year’s feat of being the first Maltese woman in the full marathon.

Statistics issued by the Malta Marathon Organising Committee show that the number of Maltese participants has risen by 100 overall – 2,244 – to set another milestone in the entry list.

“Ten local women and 93 men have applied for the full marathon and 985 local women and 1,156 men will take part in the half or walkathlon,” Micallef confirmed.

Overall, he said, there is an increase of 165 foreign participants over the figures of 2015.

The biggest contingent – 600 – will come from the United Kingdom. The Italians have increased again and this year count 390 followed by runners from Germany (209) and France (152).

Other countries with a significant number of runners are Poland (88), the United States (58) and Japan (57).

These are followed by a string of other nationalities with a substantial amount coming from far off countries like Canada, China, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

“We believe that the Malta Marathon and our other events have the potential to further increase foreign participation. There are numerous countries that we can exploit with advertising and sports travel agents to bring over athletes for our races at this time of the year,” Micallef said.

While Vodafone is the sole sponsor, the complex nature of the marathon requires the support of other official partners. These include San Michel, Powerade, Urban Jungle and Fitness.

Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that Inspire were appointed Official Charity of the Malta Marathon.

For the ninth consecutive year, chip timing will be used to record the times and positions as all finishers within the allowable time limit will be given a specially-minted medal at the finish line.

Tomorrow week, the Malta Marathon starts at 7.30am. The half marathon and walkathon both get underway at 9.15am from outside Mdina Gate.

Routes remain unaltered and that means the finish line is again set at Sliema Strand.

“No time and effort has been spared with Transport Malta, Malta Public Transport and the Police to ensure participants can run safely with the least inconvenience possible to all concerned,” Micallef said.

Local registration will take place at the Vodafone Destination Store, starting today and tomorrow between 4 and 7.30pm.

Overseas runners may register between next Thursday and Saturday from Le Meridien Hotel between 6 and 9.30pm.


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