London is a city that never sleeps. On the night leading to the 23rd day of April, the Birżebbuġia guy, Bernard Farrugia was in London and could not sleep either. The day after he had 42 kilometres ahead of him with some 40,000 other athletes in the streets of the English capital. For one day, he was to swap his Mellieħa AC kit to that of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, the charity he chose to represent.
Bernard, you were a footballer, but now a runner. What turned you in a runner?
I trained and played for almost 10 years with the senior team and it was my decision to switch from football to endurance running. The main reason that I turned in to running was that it’s more flexible and it’s also an individual sports. Nowadays Maltese football has been hijacked from foreigners and honestly I do not miss anything from football although I was a clubman. Running gives me an opportunity to encourage new people into sports and organise charity events for those people in need.
You have been running for a number of years, what made you believe that it is now time to step up to the marathon?
As from day one, my main target was to do a Full Marathon. When I’ve joined Mellieħa AC under the guidance of Has Kesra, he always insisted to complete a number of half marathons before doing the Full. About one year ago, I’ve met once again with my coach to discuss this matter. After a long discussion he gave me the green light to start preparing to the Full Marathon and he guided me through since the foundation was already there.
How does completing a marathon for the first time compare to great feats such as a PB in other distances?
It’s always satisfying to do a personal best in any race but finishing a Marathon is a different story.
You have done a number of half marathons, and trained regularly for years. What changed mostly when preparing for a full marathon?
I started the training from August and I have focused more on my weaknesses. I worked hardest on my nutrition. In fact I recommend to athletes doing the full marathon to take professional advice from a nutritionist since it makes a big difference.
Did you have any setbacks while training?
I do most of my training with Adrian Busuttil and we always look forward to train together. The marathon journey is not always plain sailing. Athletes meet with soreness, races disappointments, injuries and illnesses. However, when I hit any setbacks, I always reminded myself the benefits of running and the reason why I switched into running.
You ran a marathon for the first time in London. You’ve done races before but what makes the London marathon special?
I’ve done around eight half marathons locally and another two abroad. The London Marathon is special because one of its main aims is that athletes taking part have to collect funds for various charities. This helps to create a unique atmosphere. Also, around one million people get into the streets to cheer the athletes through the whole route.
Looking back, would you divide the race in a sections?
I divided the race into two parts and would do so again for the next once since I believe that it worked.
Were any of the 42 kilometres harder than ever?
I slacked a bit on the 37th and 38th. However, when starting the 39th I was determined to make up for them as through the former I lost around 15 seconds from my predicted time.
How much do you think of the marathon is physical, and how much is mental?
I believe to do a full marathon, one ought to have experienced long distance running before so as to be mentally prepared and be wary of the tricks of the trade. It’s important that on the day one is confident, be physically prepared and carrying a positive mentality alongside an attitude of perseverance.
Can you describe the feeling when crossing the finish line?As I turned the last corner in front of Buckingham palace I found a large crowd cheering and supporting all the athletes that made it to the finish. Once I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t believe that this is real and felt amazing. I kept on thinking, “Is this real? Did I really do this?”