A charity marathon is being planned on March 6, the same day as the cancelled Malta Marathon, the government announced on Wednesday.
In a joint statement, the transport and education ministries said Transport Malta and Sport Malta had teamed up to organise the Tran|Sport Malta Charity Marathon, so that those athletes who have spent weeks training for the full and half marathon will be able to race.
They said the marathon will raise funds for NGO Puttinu Cares, in memory of athlete and oncology doctor Victor Calvagna who died recently after he was hit by a car while running.
An organising committee tasked with setting up the event has now been formed, Transport Minister Ian Borg said.
Anger amongst runners
The announcement seeks to quell discontent among runners who had been training to participate in the Malta Marathon and who were left in a lurch with the event’s abrupt cancellation.
The national marathon was cancelled on Tuesday after the organisers clashed with Transport Malta over the proposed route.
The authorities, including Transport Minister Ian Borg, assured athletes that they were working on finding a solution for the race to go ahead.
Prior to the announcement of the latest development, runners expressed their disappointment when the marathon they had been training for months for was cancelled a few weeks before the event. Among them were several foreigners who had booked flights to Malta to participate in the marathon.
Another marathon in April
Meanwhile, speaking about the logistics of organising a marathon, Matthew Pace, one of the organisers of the Intersport La Valette Malta Marathon to be held for the first time on April 24, said that discussions with Transport Malta had started last summer during which the route was tweaked 12 times.
The main reasons for these changes were: ensuring that main roads were not blocked off to traffic and ensuring that runners did not run against traffic. He explained that this was because athletes were preceded by a lead vehicle that could not drive against traffic.
Pace explained that for a marathon to be officially recognised by the World Athletics Federation it had to fulfil two requirements: Firstly, the start and finish points, measured along a theoretical straight line between them, cannot be further apart than 50% of the actual race distance; secondly, the drop in elevation between the start and the finish must not exceed 1m per km. He added that for a marathon in Malta to cover its costs - that ranged from insurances to hoarding - it needed about 2,500 athletes participating.
Transport Malta sticks to its guns
In comments to Times of Malta earlier on Wednesday, Transport Malta CEO Joseph Bugeja said there were several reasons why the marathon’s original route could not be accepted and that authorities were still in discussions with the organisers to find a way to allow the race to go forward.
“Due to the current infrastructural works and the introduction of new routes, the marathon could not take place at the same exact routes as previous years. In addition, with the proposed route from the organisers’ end, a total of 13 bus stations, were going to be closed for a number of hours and hence creating a major inconvenience,” he said.
“Furthermore, Transport Malta proposed another route which was deemed more suitable to be used by the marathon athletes. The same organisers refused to make these minimal changes which were the best choice for the marathon to happen with the least impact on traffic.”
“Despite this, we are currently in discussion to come up with the appropriate remedy geared towards the athletes.”