‘Don’t say WHY ME? Say TRY ME! When it all seems hopeless, keep plugging away. Nothing can stop you if you don’t stop for anything. Don’t stop for ANYTHING! Remain faithful to yourself, and when it gets painful, push harder, and your time WILL come...’
I have been sat in-front of my laptop for a good 10 minutes, trying to find words powerful enough to describe yesterday: the day of the Malta Half Marathon 2022.
I still can’t quite believe what happened!!
Sunday 6th March 2022 will forever be one of the best days of my life, and Malta will always have a piece of my heart.
The original Malta Marathon was cancelled three weeks before it was due to take place, which was a devastating blow. Everyone knows that half and full marathons require months of training and dedication. In this case, training took place throughout the winter, which is notoriously disheartening. No-one really wants to be getting up at 6am on a frosty Saturday morning in December for a training run when the rain is pelting down and the rest of the world is asleep. I never regret any of my runs, but that doesn’t always mean that I leap out of bed full of beans in all weathers!
For me, the Malta Marathon was all that got me through the dark days of the knee injury I obtained back in October. Unable to run, I felt depressed and as though I had lost my identity. Securing a place in the Malta Marathon gave me something positive to focus on.
After the cancellation, I noticed that a local runner - Darren Vandit – was proposing a new event, The Running Malta Solidarity Run 2022, which offered both a half marathon and 10k route.
I signed up, and here we are: in the aftermath of one of the best decisions I have ever made!
The run was scheduled to kick off at 06:45am, with bib collection starting at 6am. My alarm was set for 4am, with my taxi arriving at 05:30am. Don’t get me wrong – when it comes to running, I’m all for an early rise, but 4am was not okay! There were people traipsing back from a night out in Valletta drunkenly singing the Macarena as I was stirring, lacing up my trainers and listening to motivational sports speeches on Youtube - since when did my priorities become so sophisticated?! 🤣
(Side note: I was that knackered, I genuinely nearly fell asleep head first in my celebratory pasta later that evening!)
I perked up a little bit and started to feel excited when the taxi driver proceeded to blast out Ashanti’s album. Any day that starts with Always On Time is a good day in my opinion!
The starting line was at a church in Qrendi. It was still pitch black outside when I arrived and there were just two other runners waiting. An unidentifiable animal kept howling and it sounded like someone screaming, and to top it off, I don’t think I have ever been so cold in my entire life. I huddled on a bench pretty much in the foetal position, angrily nibbling a KitKat. Not my finest hour!
At this point, I did wonder why I ever took up a sport with such unsociable hours…!
Eventually, the sun came up and a beautiful morning yawned across the island. More and more runners started to arrive, bringing with them the banter, unity and support that I love so much about our worldwide community. I made so many new friends from all over the world at the starting line and my heart swelled as we swapped stories, compared PBs and high-fived one another good luck.
Finding my extended family of runners has been such a huge part of my journey over the past year or so.
New friend Keith, of Maidstone Harriers: England on Tour!
How Darren managed to organise such a seamless event in a matter of weeks is beyond me. We had medics on hand along the route and marshals assisting with traffic at the busy spots. Luckily for me, the terrain underfoot was mostly road. Me and grass do NOT mix when it comes to running!
And the route... OMG! 😍
The whole event went ridiculously fast, and I think that’s attributable to the fact that I spent most of it gawping at the scenery.
Malta is such a uniquely pretty island! We wound our way around endless fields; a patchwork of perfection skipping delicately into the horizon, which was ablaze with the tantalising rays of the sunrise.
On the course... Beautiful Malta! 😍
Any runner will tell you that every run is different. Sometimes I can head out and my body will literally just not play ball. It’ll feel heavy and irresponsive and time seems to stand still. Other days, my body just buzzes with energy and I feel capable of running for miles.
Yesterday, I knew from my very first stride that it was going to be a great run. My legs felt incredible beneath me as they tore up the road. Every time I increased my pace slightly, I felt as though I had more to give.
My knee was absolutely fine – I didn’t even get a twinge.
Truth be told, I had no idea how I was going to finish, time wise. My half marathon PB was 01:39, but that was before I got injured. My recent training runs have been around 01:50, so this was what I was aiming for. I said I would be happy with any time under two hours as I had to take into consideration the heat and the fact I didn’t know the terrain or the course. Obviously at the back of my mind, I dared to hope that somehow, I might just beat my PB, although it seemed unlikely that I would shave at least 12 minutes off my training run times...
I finished with a new Half Marathon Personal Best of 01:36, which placed me second female and first in my age category.
I drifted away from the course in a daze. I barely remember the taxi journey back. But as soon as that apartment door closed behind me, I stood in-front of the mirror and just burst into tears. And I mean I was full-on UGLY crying. Sobbing. I just stood there draped in my medal staring at my legs absolutely bawling my eyes out, hahaha honestly sometimes I do worry 🤣🤦🏻♀️
I had never felt so overwhelmed, overcome with pride, or... Exhausted with emotion? Is that possible? That’s the only way I can describe it. It was as though every emotion that has built up over the past few months was just released. My blossoming love of running, anorexia, the injury, the long, cold 6am weekend training runs, the race being cancelled, the race back on...
The relationship that we have with our bodies is all about balance and give and take. Regretfully, I have spent the past eight years taking and expecting the world in return.
Getting injured provided me with precious time to improve the relationship that I have with my body.
Anorexia is full of challenges and every day has the unpredictability to bring something different.
One of the hardest and most mentally gruelling things that I have endured in recent years was gaining and retaining five pounds over Christmas 2021. I am pleased to report that I am still the proud owner of these extra pounds! Deep down, I have to admit that I feel a hell of lot healthier and stronger for it.
And look what happened in return... My body went out there and achieved what I thought to be the impossible. On an unknown course, in the heat, after injury, after all I have put it through... Despite all of this, my body still performed like I have never known and brought me home to safety in a time that I could have only ever dreamed of.
I have truly never been prouder and I wish I could relive yesterday morning again and again.
Anorexia is a never-ending learning curve and yesterday taught me a valuable lesson: between us, my body and I can do anything if we work together.
Above all, anorexia is a journey. It takes its victim on a rollercoaster of unexpected twists and turns, some of them resulting in rock bottom, and some of them quite remarkable highs. My anorexia has brought me here, to Malta, where I have never felt more alive. ❤
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©