The co-founder of the Malta Marathon, John Walsh, died of a heart attack last Saturday morning, an autopsy has revealed.

The 56-year-old athlete collapsed during his routine 5 a.m. run along the fields of Għajn Tuffieħa.

His wife, Carol née Galea, a leading Maltese athlete, told The Sunday Times how she went out to look for him when he did not return home at 6.30 a.m. She got into the car and followed his favourite route, where he had created a trail through the fields from years of running.

When she reached the area close to Golden Bay she stumbled upon an ambulance and police car that were there for her husband. A woman on a walk had found Mr Walsh on the ground and immediately called the ambulance but it was too late.

“John literally lived and died for running. He’s been my coach forever – the one and only,” his wife said.

The local athletics world is mourning the loss of the man who changed the Maltese sports landscape.

Though he sought to keep a low profile he had gained quite a reputation through his regular contributions in the sports pages of The Times in the run-up to the Malta Marathon and the half-marathon.

His column took the marathon to the people in the street, and from an event which initially had some 30 participants, has now risen to some 2,000 runners.