Charlton Debono (Gozo Athletix) wrapped up the 2015-16 MAAA Road Running League title after winning the Ta’ Qali 10K, held last Sunday.
This being the Gozitan’s fourth straight victory, he has now built an unassailable lead over his nearest challenger, Andrew Grech, winner of last season’s edition.
Debono’s emergence as a top runner has brightened up the local road running scene. His rapid rise has taken many by surprise, not least Debono himself.
“I’ve only been running road races for about two years now, having run solely middle distance on the track previously,” he said.
“Mario Bonello, my coach and mentor, suggested that I give long-distance road races a try.
“Up till five months ago, I thought winning the Road Running League was impossible, but I really trained hard for it and the work has paid off… I’m really happy.”
Grech (Mellieħa AC), who came in second in 32.40, 14 seconds behind Debono, and will also probably finish runner-up overall, was still upbeat despite losing his crown.
Describing Debono as a “pleasant surprise and now a reality”, Grech said he is taking many positives from this season’s competition, even though things haven’t gone exactly as planned.
“Actually, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Grech said.
“Last season I finished top of the league, winning every single race comfortably by a margin of almost two minutes over my nearest rival.
“This time, despite finishing second, I improved my results in every single race, also thanks to Charlton who makes you dig deep during each run we have.
“I’m sure if we keep challenging each other like this, we will both keep improving our times.
“Most importantly, we respect each other as if we were team-mates and really get on well together,” Grech added.
Evidence of this is how, after every race, they go on a long cooling down run together... Grech might have lost the title but he has certainly found a new friend.
Another runner who had good reason to be satisfied with his performance is Mark Herrera (Pembroke Athleta).
He finished third in 33.32, 30 seconds faster than he ran last year for a personal course record.
In the women’s league, Lisa Bezzina (Pembroke Athleta), who is coached by Ivan Roznov, clinched the title after clocking 37.20 for her third win in a row.
Under the Russian’s guidance, she is in top form, race after race registering a personal best.
Second in was Mellieħa AC runner Rita Galea, 32 seconds behind Bezzina, with Josann Attard Pulis (Starmax) third in 38.02.
The fifth and last race from the series will be the Marsascala 10K on April 19.