Spotlight on…James Scriha

James Sciriha, is a Certified Public Accountant. Graduating in B. Accty (Hons) from the University of Malta in 2007, he joined the Financial Services audit team at Deloitte, where he worked on audits in Malta, Luxembourg, Dublin and Isle of Man. He currently occupies the post of Group Financial Controller at CareMalta Group Limited. James has a passion for travelling and has recently discovered a love for running, which he aspires to build on.

Run, Run, Run

Numbers were always my bread and butter, and it came no surprise to anyone that I chose to become an Accountant. What was surprising particularly to my friends and family, was how unexpectedly I became so focused and committed to running!

I was always a sport lover, and have practised football since the young age of 6. Stopping training at the age of 19, my relationship with football turned from an active player, to an active follower. There was barely one Sunday where I missed a match, and many times I have flown to Italy to watch Roma, the team I always supported! The long days at the office, and the long sits in front of the television over the weekend, left me with a few piled up kilos, and continuous grumbling by my other half.

And because I could not take her “you’ve became a couch potato” any longer, I decided to hit the road and do some miles. I started running 2 years ago at the age of 29, and was always on the road at the early tocks of sunrise. The pace was slow at the beginning and rarely did I accomplish more than a 25 minute run. Slowly, slowly I kept increasing time and distance, until 3 months later, I figured that I was in a good shape to take part in a 5km run in Mtarfa. Clocking 20:42, and being told I had potential from my future running buddy, I decided to it further. I joined the Mellieha Athletics Club under the supervision of Has Kesra, in November 2013, and this has taken my running to another level.

My newly acquired hobby, has quickly turned into a committed sport. Training rapidly increased from three times to five times a week, with sessions of not less than 1 hour, and a further increase to six times a week. I have learnt that running is not simply about running … there is more to it! The training programme involves understanding your body, its strengths and weaknesses and focusing on lessening those weaknesses throughout. Nutrition and biomechanics are also extremely important in the daily routine of a long distance runner.

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To date I participated in a number of distance runs, and attempted three half marathons, two in Malta and one in the Netherlands. My first half marathon was in February 2015. I focused on endurance and ensured to keep myself well hydrated, not only on the day but well in advance throughout the season. I focused on coming out of this marathon, stronger and with a better result. I followed the training programme thoroughly with no excuses not to perform and trained at different heart rate zones.

Whilst the Malta half marathons, remain something to look forward to, my best experience so far nonetheless remains the Almere City Half Marathon which was held in June of this year. Together with another 27 runners from our club we participated in this marathon – 21.1 km of no hills, only flat routes, most of it by the canals and in the forest. Fresh air and the chirping of the birds made the run painless! It was a really enjoyable race, with people cheering you along the route and shouting your name (yes our race number had also our name on it!). I managed to improve my time by 2 minutes and half and clocked 1:24:08, registering my best time so far and placing 13th out of 475 participants.

I no longer view running as a solo sport. Our club is a gathering of friends, happy people who are there to celebrate each other’s success from the fastest runner to the slower one, and this is what makes each race special. And let’s face it, running alone might give you the benefits of hitting the mute button on the world, and for once enjoy the nature surroundings. This, always if you are training in beautiful landscapes such as those of Wied iz-Zurrieq, Rabat, Golden Sands or the likes. Yet, running with others and under the supervision of a great coach, gives you some additional perks – accountability, that extra push of getting out of bed, and an eye not to slip out of pace and encouragement to achieve better next time round.

Travel, travel, travel

My passion for travelling goes further back in time than running. When I was younger, family travels were confined to our European neighbouring countries. Lately I ventured out to the Asian and South American continent, and travel has become an addiction since. Amongst the countries I travelled to are Argentina, Brazil, Thailand, Cambodia, India and Maldives.

Argentina is a vast country, offering many landscapes and scenery, and there is no place in Argentina not worth visiting. I still to this date find it difficult to decide which memory of this holiday tops the list. Hiking on the Patagonian glaciers, taking a boat ride underneath the Iguazu falls, and watching Boca Juniors play their final match of the season are amongst the many highlights of this holiday. The sound and vision of the glacier falling off, the strength by which the falls come down when you are underneath the Devil’s throath, the ground trembling while the football fans are jumping, and the afternoon spent beside the grill feasting on the tastiest meat, are all memories I will treasure. We ended in Rio de Janiero. Brazil is a true South American country; we all heard about the Brazilian vibe and I must admit that you can feel it even walking along the streets. The scenery is spectacular – the Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Ipanema, Copacobana and Ilha Grande are not to be missed, same as refreshing caipirinhas on the never ending beaches, an experience I recommend to everyone.

A year later, we decided to visit Asia but still wary of a possible culture shock, I negotiated on what I believe is the most “commercial” of countries in Asia – Thailand, with a spice of Cambodia which provided the right balance for this holiday. Thailand is a paradise for party-goers and famous for pristine beaches and temples. Yet the experience which marked this holiday was my first ever encounter with Buddhism. I will never forget sitting down with monks and learning the “how” and “why” they have chosen this life and their following of the precepts. Nor will I ever forget the rural beauty of Cambodia and its way of life so beautiful in its simplicity, the Cambodian children living in families who survive on less than 2 Euro a day, yet emanating so much happiness and warmth from their smiles, and the waking up at 3.30 am to watch the best sunrise ever, over the most wonderful temple complex I’ve seen so far – Angkor Wat.

Of all the travels nothing comes close to India. We travelled to India in November just about for Diwali – “the festival of lights” and the Pushkar camel fair and this made the experience richer. The culture shock in India can be hard to deal with, and by the end of the first day I had terrible headaches from all the blasting horns and the crackling of fireworks, yet I knew this was going to be an unforgettable life changing experience.

The dimensions of India, makes it a special place – from the overcrowded streets of Delhi, to the wilderness and solitude of Kerala, the colours and deserts of Rajasthan, the spirituality in Varanasi, and the friendliness and curiosity of the people. India is indeed a colourful country, there is plenty to digest and we have made it a point to digest as much as possible. I’ve taken back a lot of experiences from India, participating in an aarti on the Ganges River, watching traders trading their camels and showing these off as if they are on some kind of an Armani show, sleeping in the middle of the desert, waking up to the sounds of prayers by the rivers, and learning about Hindu – it’s many Gods and the concept of reincarnation.

Continue, continue, and continue

Running and travelling are a way of life, a life that I aspire to continue! I aspire to one day have a list of completed marathons as long as my list of travels, and to manage to cross the finish line of the Malta Full Marathon, in the near future. As for travel, allow me to borrow a quote you probably heard many times – I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list!

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