The first big one through Mellieħa AC

Posted by Mellieha AC 3rd March 2014 0 Comment 2364 views

joelle marathon

The philosophy behind the club of Mellieħa AC is to treat running as something of joy, and at the same time promote a healthier lifestyle.  However, having fun does not mean that things are not done the right way.  Joelle Azzopardi is an epitome of this, as she went through all stages with the club and on her first big day registered an excellent 1:40:20.


Joelle, you joined the Mellieħa AC Academy in 2013.  How did your fascination with running start?  Do you have a background in another sport?

Ever since I can remember, I always cultivated an immense love for sport. Even as far back as my kindergarten years, I remember winning lollipops for coming first in the potato race, the pyjama race and so on. However, when I was diagnosed with severe Asthma at the age of ten, this was a massive setback for me. The treatment for this condition more than twenty years ago was not what it is today. I was determined not to let Asthma hinder me, so I continued to take up one sport after another: tennis, gymnastics, basketball, netball and skating, but my condition meant I could not participate in competitive sport. As medicine progressed, my symptoms were better controlled and, by 2007, I was fit enough to participate in the Lifecycle Challenge, a 2000km cycle over 10days in a country abroad so as to raise funds for renal patients. Unfortunately disappointment struck once again, as after completing the 9 months of gruelling training, and only a few days before the actual challenge, I had an accident on my bike, sustaining and arm fracture and chip fracture to my hip. As the years rolled on, I kept cycling as a pastime rather than a disciplined sport. Then back in May 2013, after giving birth to our wonderful son, I longed to take up a sport again. With my bike accident still fairly fresh in my mind, my maternal instinct inclined me towards a relatively safer sport, so we decided for running. I was introduced to Mellieħa AC in September 2013 by a friend of mine, and after only a couple of weeks, I dreamed of running the half marathon. Our coach Joe Farrugia was quick to encourage me and before I knew it, I had gone from Beginners Class to Intermediate until, just after the New Year, I joined the Advanced Class under the guidance of our Head Coach Has Kesra.


Running is seen as such a simple sport, some even call it boring, but we runners feel such an affinity for this sport.  What was different in the Academy, and what were the main learning points there?

I always knew that running was no simple sport, and that was my reason for joining the club in the first place. Now that my knowledge of the technique is so much vaster (and there’s still so much more to learn), I can safely say that forming part of a club was the best decision I could have taken in order to appreciate this sport in all its aspects. It was here that I learnt the technique of proper running, particularly the importance of running on the right zones, at the right heart rate and in the correct phase. I firmly believe that it is only under professional guidance that one should run, as when running haphazardly, the risk of injury soars sky high. When given direction, not only is running not boring but I can safely say that I look at my watch in dismay when I see that my run is drawing to an end!


I understand you did 10k races in the build up to the half marathon.  However, how big a challenge was the half marathon appearing for you?

Yes I did three 10K runs in the run-up to the half marathon: Fleur de Lys, Ta’ Qali and Attard. The fact that I improved my time from 49 to 45 minutes over these races was a massive boost to my confidence in the light of the upcoming marathon. However, I always had that nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I had never covered 21kilometres before, and that was certainly a challenge to me. Looking back, I now understand why covering this distance was never a necessity in our training programme, as I still managed to run the half marathon with relative ease.


And while actually going through the paces in the race, what were the main obstacles on the way?

I cannot really say there were any obstacles as such. I started off the race at the very front so other runners did not prove to be a hindrance to me. I also made it a point to take everything that was offered along the route, be it water, sports drinks or slices of oranges…and even a sponge to wash my hands from the stickiness of the orange juice! I did feel slightly light-headed towards the end of the race, presumably because my sugar was dropping. However I resolved not to let this be an obstacle, so I literally shrugged it off, pushed it to the back of my mind and allowed myself solely to focus on reaching my goal – that of making it to the finish line in the predicted time given to me by our coach Has Kesra.


Finally, you did a very good time.  What were the feelings when crossing the finishing line, and now do you look at running from a different perspective?

Ambition has always been a major driver in every aspect of my life. My predicted time was 1:40 so when my coach Has jokingly told me not to keep him waiting at the finish line, I recall telling him that I would be there one minute before – my aim was to make it in 1:39. Therefore when I stopped my watch at 1:40:20 at the finish line, there was a slight element of disappointment that I had not managed my personal challenge. However this was soon overshadowed by an immense sense of satisfaction that, in just 5 months of running I had reached such a remarkable timing for a half marathon, something which I had only dreamt of a few months back but never thought possible! Following this half marathon, running has certainly taken on an all new perspective – I appreciate the professionalism of the sport and the science behind the training program as it certainly gave results. I am enormously grateful to my coaches Has and Joe, my family who supported me and believed in me, and the wonderful MAC family who make it all worthwhile!

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