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Top Squad - The Race across Malta.

Our weekend of fitness kicks off with the longest event: a race from one end of the island to the other. 

It’s no secret that I’m exceptionally excited about this one. The imagination is the limit with a running event really, and we wanted a challenge that long distance athletes on the island were unlikely to have done before, or at least not in a competitive environment. 

The race starts in Ahrax at the Chapel of Immaculate Conception. Athletes will have a maximum of 4 hours to get themselves to Pretty Bay in Birzebbugia.  

The difference with this run, of course, is that there is no fixed route. Each athlete will decide how to get from A to B. 

A quick Google search shows that the shortest line to the finish is just over 31km. Before we even get into route selections, we’re keen to see what challenges the distance itself poses to our Top Squad pioneers. 

Most runners who compete in organised races up to a Full Marathon are used to training for standardised distances: 5km, 10km, Half Marathon [HM] (21.1km) and the Full [FM] (42.2km). They will most likely have pacing strategies for each of these and have trained extensively to nail them down. 

31-ish km’s lies neatly between the full and the half, but how do you pace it? Use a HM pace and you’re likely to burn out before the end. Use a FM pace and you’ll have left too much in the tank and potentially lost yourself a few positions. 

This is one of the reasons why we wanted an unconventional distance. New plans are required.  

Onto the routes. Is the shortest line the best one? Athletes will need to analyse hills, whether they want to skirt around towns to reduce the number of time consuming road crossings, whether they want to take advantage of running on quieter roads instead of higher impact pavements in congested areas…

The smart runner will need to do their homework. 

Memory or maps? The most efficient option is to know precisely which way they’re going and know their route like the back of their hand. In the heat of the moment though, a fork in the road could easily get confusing. Athletes will be carrying a phone, so they can check the map for directions, but this will waste precious time. 

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen someone head off in the wrong direction and have the next athletes follow them blindly. Will this happen to anyone who hasn’t got the entire route burned into the back of their heads?

As with all the other events, it is positions which will dictate the number of points they win for their team. 

If there are 20 Squads on board, and therefore 20 runners, first place will take the full 20 points and last place will take 1. It’s a simple point system which keeps the scoring incredibly close throughout the weekend. Every position matters.

To make things a little more challenging, we are implementing a few strict rules. 

  • The entire route will be self supported. Runners will need to carry all their own nutrition and fluids with them from start to finish.
  • Phones must be carried in case they need to be contacted or they need any help.
  • Strictly NO pacers, running/cycling/any-other-mode-of-transport buddies are allowed beside the runners. Team mates/friends can meet them along their chosen route, but only to cheerlead.
  • Strictly NO assistance can be given on the route. No one can accept nutrition or fluids from anyone - all must be carried with them. Assistance can only be given in case of a medical reason (ie. injury/low BP/blood sugar etc). 

How will we make sure there’s no cheating? I’ve been asked this a lot. It is impossible to follow everyone. What we will require all our runners to do is record their run on their watch or phone (Strava). All results at the finish line will be considered unofficial until each runner provides us with the km splits for analysing. An unrealistic speed up will be noticeable and signs of cheating will result in disqualification. We do, however, believe in the integrity of our cardio comrades and are quite certain nothing dodgy will be found.

We are already seeing some big running names commit to our first event and cannot wait to see what happens out there.