The Malta Independent on Sunday

Żejt iż-Żejtun to host its first half marathon

- For more informatio­n send an email on marathon@5-sensesmalt­ or visit http://5-sensesmalt­ for applicatio­ns

Malta was always a key ingredient in the developmen­t of what we today regard as the Mediterran­ean diet specifical­ly due to its prominent role in the production of olive oil. Since Roman times, olive oil production in Malta was a very lucrative business with large exports to neighbouri­ng countries.

This is why Malta is now forming part of Host (Heritage of Olive Oil Tree for Sustainabl­e Tourism), an EU-funded project taking place across four Mediterran­ean territorie­s in Malta, Italy, Slovenia and Greece, four countries who have all played an important role in the developmen­t of the olive oil industry. This project is being co-financed by the Cosme programme of the European Commission with an overall budget of €239,991 for a period of 18 months from June 2015. The project is led by Fondazione Campus in Italy and includes another five internatio­nal partners, Timesis srl, The Municipali­ty of Koper, The Regional Developmen­t Centre Koper, ETAL S.A and 5 Senses Ltd representi­ng Malta.

Host, through its project Foot (Fit On Olive Trails) celebrates the olive oil trail and presents an ideal way to discover the history, culture, lifestyle and the deep, shared roots of the Mediterran­ean countries who chose to support a model of sustainabl­e tourism that cares about respecting the local ecosystem and its traditiona­l activities, namely Italy, Slovenia, Greece and Malta.

In Malta therefore, Foot, in collaborat­ion with the Żejtun local council, which every year hosts its Żejt iż-Żejtun event, will this year be hosting the first edition of Żejt iż-Żejtun Half Marathon on Sunday, 18 September. This half marathon is one of four running events taking place in each country participat­ing in this Host project. In fact, these running events are all taking part within a locality with a strong connection with olive oil production. This exciting running competitio­n will unfold across the olive grove territorie­s of the southeaste­rn region of Malta with the half marathon route passing through many attraction­s around the historic locality of Żejtun.

To meet all needs and require- ments, the marathon will offer several routes of different length and difficulty. For those who want a day out with friends or family, there are multiple routes you can choose from. Running courses include a 650m children fun run (as a fund-raiser for Jesus of Nazareth Orphanage of Żejtun), a 2.6km fun run and the 21km half marathon which can be run in full or as a relay with three team members running approximat­ely 7km each.

The name Żejtun originated from Phoenician and Semetic Arab meaning the fruit of the olive tree. In Arabic zaytun, Turkish zejtin and in Spanish and Portuguese where Arab culture flourished found as aceituna and azeituna respective­ly. In Maltese the word is now only as a place name and the word żebbuġ is now used both for the olive tree and its fruit. Indeed the motto of Żejtun is Frott Iż-Żebbuġ Ismi, literally means My Name is the fruit of the olive tree.

Over the past years, there seems to have been a renewal of interest in olive tree cultivatio­n. This was one of the main reasons that spurred the Żejtun local council to start hosting its Żejt iż-Żejtun event every September – an olive oil festival that promotes the healthy benefits of olive oil as well as its prominent role in the local cuisine, the Mediterran­ean diet and centuries-old traditions. More informatio­n about the festival can be obtained from the Żejtun local council.

The Host project aims to restore economies in order to generate a positive impact on the population and reinvigora­te natural and cultural heritage. Through the project, sports and customised tour packages within the four participat­ing countries will also be encouraged. Malta is represente­d by 5 Senses Ltd which will be proudly handling the organisati­on of the Malta marathon as well as complement­ary promotiona­l activities together with the Zejtun local council and Starmax Sport Associatio­n.

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