Races That Never Were – May 2020 (Part 1)

Races That Never Were – May 2020 (Part 1)

With no races in the month of May, Ryde Harriers members were asked to send in their tails of past races where they didn’t make it to the start, or didn’t finish.

We received some great detailed stories, so detailed in fact, I’ve split it into two parts.


Malta 2019 – The race that never was! by Jodie Wilmott

Peter and I flew out to Malta on Friday 22nd March 2019 with 4 friends for a break in the sun, with a cheeky half marathon to start the week! Two of our party had also trained hard for the full marathon whilst the other two were there for the break, having participated the previous year.

After a 3hr flight from Gatwick we landed in full sun and basked in a balmy 22 degrees, enjoying our first holiday evening. Our apartment was in St Julians Bay; a 5km promenade walk/run to the finish point of Sliema, where the race registration was also being held in the local shopping mall.

Saturday arrived and we trudged dutifully to the registration point, the Nike shop in Silema. The queue was huge! Being such a lovely day, we opted to head to Valletta and return later.

We eventually returned and got our race packs, the afternoon was turning quite grey and we joked about running in the rain the next day as we headed back for pre-race tea; Peter’s lovely Puttanesca 😊.

Pasta consumed and electrolyte drinks on the go we played a few hands of cards before an early night…

Then came the first announcement…(sic)

‘Dear athletes whilst we are ready to brave the weather, it seems to be worse than first envisaged. In view of this, we’ll be heeding advice from the professionals. We have planned a meeting with the appropriate authorities tonight at 7pm to make a decision on whether tomorrow’s race should go ahead. Please look out for an update on our Facebook page at approx 8pm tonight’

So, we chatted…we looked at weather reports… we anxiously looked out of the window at the rising fury of weather…and waited…


‘The Malta Marathon Organizing Committee together with its safety officers have taken the unfortunate decision to cancel the 2019 GiG Malta Marathon. This decision is based on the current weather conditions and the forecast for tomorrow that indicates a further deterioration. This decision has been taken in the interest of the safety of the participants, the volunteers, the general public and all third parties involved.’

Disappointment but fine English resolve withstanding, we shrugged, said how glad we were for the poor volunteers who would have now not had to withstand hours of the harsh weather and drank more Cisk (pronounced Chisk if you ever visit!)

The weather on Sunday was a storm force 12 with winds of 10km/hr, fish were raining onto the promenade we had strolled up the previous day. What to do? The Nike shop we had collected numbers from was now open for the distribution of medals and t-shirts, if you dare to get there. We dared.

Vests on, numbers on we ran gallantly through biting rain and wall like wind to the promenade for our promised bling just 5km away…then saw the waves. After a hasty double back, we decided to navigate the relatively sheltered back streets; electricity wires were swinging, as were the many cranes surrounding the industrial quarter. We ran scared and fully aware of our stupidity.

As we got to the mall we passed the sad sight of the metal finish arched mangled and tossed down the road, many other participants had turned up for race treasure…in full wet weather gear! We entered the mall to the sight of another massive queue into the Nike shop! At this point Peter’s German tenacity kicked in,,,’sod it we are wet! and we bloody ran here!’. We marched bravely to the front of the line (sheltering behind him of course).

The next day was back to balmy sunny beauty and we all headed to Rabat for a long group run counting our blessings and lamenting our stupidity for the rest of the holiday!

Malta is both beautiful and kind, we got free entry for the following year, and returned for wonderful pre Covid-19 race-holiday…but that’s another race report 😉.



Worthing Marathon,  1990 – The Race that nearly wasn’t! by Steve Lee

On 10th June, 1990 I set out at some ridiculously early hour to take part in Worthing’s Centenary Marathon, due to start at 9.30 am.  I’ve forgotten what centenary it was – it was certainly not a running one of any sort, and was a one-off in the Marathon calendar.  To my surprise, on looking up my old Running Diary I discover that it was only three weeks since I had run the I.o.W. Marathon in 3:01:31 (25th overall, 9th M40).  I must have felt that I had run this conservatively and had more to come, as I would not normally run another Marathon so soon afterwards,

As I was the only Harrier going I was dependent on public transport (on a Sunday!) and all went well initially – ferry and train from Portsmouth Harbour.  But when the train got to Fratton it stopped for a long time and eventually we were told it would go no further as no conductor had appeared, and we went back to Portsmouth Harbour!  What to do?  I was all fired up to run a Marathon, and the next train would not get me to Worthing anywhere near the start time, especially as the last bit was a replacement bus service from Littlehampton!   Go back and run the I.o.W. again? – not attractive.  Pop over to Gosport and run the course I knew well from several previous Marathons? – a bit underwhelming.

I also knew the Worthing course would be dead flat but for a couple of railway bridges, so I looked at the timings again and eventually decided I would catch the next train, strip down to my running kit, and get a Taxi from Littlehampton – I would only be about 10 minutes late and had a map of the course with me so would not need marshals.  I was able to direct the Taxi to a roundabout near the start, but it was unable to cross as the Marathon field was streaming past!  So I got out, ran between the runners, threw my bag to a couple of nearby marshals, and ran straight through the Start/Finish line – where the clock registered 7.00 as I ran under it.  The race commentator was still in place and spotted me, so my late start was broadcast.

I soon realised that I would not need the map as marshals were still in place after the first corner, and it was not long before I caught the tail enders.  All the while I was telling myself to keep to my planned pace and not get carried away.  No GPS in those days, so I was dependent on mile marks and my watch.  All went well for about 9 miles, and then I realised I needed a pee, in spite of going while on the train.  (I have to admit that I had spent the previous evening drinking red wine and black coffee with a friend!)  I was going too well to look for the loos, so I made sure I washed myself down thoroughly at subsequent drinks and sponge stations.

I went through 15 miles in 1:25:50 and 20 miles in 2:08:20, having kept to a 6.24 m/m schedule since the start.  After that I started to run out of people to pass!  And my pace dropped a bit in the last 6 miles, but I still recorded 2:51:33 which counted as one of my best Marathons.  And the commentator spotted me finishing in under 3 hours in spite of my late start, and my bag was safely returned to me. By the time I set out on the return journey the trains were running properly again!