The architect with the proper plans – an exclusive interview with long-distance runner luke micallef – the malta independent

I had started running 8 years ago with a close group of friends and coach Dario Mangion, we were studying together at University. As you know, Dario is a very talented runner and he was so enthusiastic to embark on this project. It was my introduction to the track and field events and we also used to work a lot as a group – I always thought that even though it is an individual sport, it is also a good opportunity to form good social relations. As you said, each year marked a solid progress, gradually as I was consistently improving. In two years, all of Dario’s athletes settled to compete in different events, and Dario guided me to Mario Pisani where I could continue my Middle Distance training while giving a go at Long-Distance events and Steeplechase!

I did considerable improvements with Mario, and experienced my first 10K races and Half-Marathon. I developed a versatility for a wide range of track events, and for this I am forever indebted to coaches Dario and Mario, for always pushing me to new limits throughout those years. Training was always intense!

I ran loads of road races and athletes vent views about the improvements of others and I do recall that at the beginning of this season, one guy who happened to be in Pisa told me that Luke has really impressed many and could have become a serious threat to Charlton Debono’s leadership and the rest. As things stood this season, the gap has been narrowed considerably especially on the track. Are we going to enjoy another formidable close tussle between you and Charlton next year? There is a good saying about athletics that to run all you need to have is a strong pair of legs but a stronger mind. I must say that your mental strength is second to none and these close duels are proof of it. What goes into your mind throughout the entire race following or leading by just a metre for 12.5 laps or 25laps for the 10,000m? Is it really a war of nerves as it appears from the outside? In International races, we are used to see a leading group of 5 or more runners, so mentally wise, athletes are less demanding but obviously the race becomes more physically. I reckon if races become in contention between 4 or 5 athletes would have faster times and saving energy on the physical rather than the mental. Do you agree or differ?

Athletes aspiring to achieve a qualifying time for international races can do so more realistically when running with a good quality field. While a good option is to find races abroad, it is sometimes very complicated to make the required arrangements. The association may help by organising short stays for foreign athletes in Malta, who can compete in local events. In my case, for the most part of the season, I end up racing the 3K Steeplechase on my own, with each race being a tough time trial. Such arrangements can be made for all middle and long distance races, and all local athletes stand to benefit. This latches on to another important aspect which is to have state of the art sports facilities, which is extremely essential to attract foreign athletes. Being an architect, I cannot help but notice the deficiencies present in our training grounds. In my opinion, we need to enhance our existing sports infrastructure to include all the required ancillary facilities and to have a complete track facility at University. Various projects have been tabled, but the situation has remained the same for years now.