One of the fastest women in Malta and she hasn’t slowed down …. Hear Olympian Deirdre Farrugia talk about her life.
Full interview transcript below:
Monique: Welcome to the woman behind with me Monique Chambers and this week’s guest is Deirdre Farrugia. Now you are an Olympian.
Farrugia: Yes I am a long time ago but anyway yeah still the title remains. Monique: So what did you do in the Olympics?
Farrugia: I represented Malta. I’m actually half Maltese. My mom is Irish and my dad is Maltese. I was actually born in London so I’m bit of a mixture, however I came to Malta when I was very young, I was two years old. So that’s how I came to represent Malta because I essentially am Maltese.
I represented Malta at the Olympics in 1992, so quite a while ago and I ran the hundred meters and 200 meters.
Monique: Okay, so two chances to events.
Farrugia: In fact now they’ve changed a system that you can only like some countries can only
take part in one event. So I was quite fortunate to have done the two.
Monique: So being a former Olympian, were there other people in the team with you at that time?
Farrugia: Yes, we were actually a team of only seven athletes from Malta. And that consisted of two of us from athletics, myself and Karen Walsh, around 800 meters. There were two Judo, Jason Trevor and Lori Parks, a couple of sailors and a wrestler. Gosh. I think literally team of seven athletes and a whole bunch of officials as you can imagine. But it’s a very small team.
Monique: And you’re still heavily involved with sports?
Farrugia: I am in a sense that when I decided to retire from competitive athletics.
Monique: You’re a pensioner. (Laughs)
Farrugia: I’m a pensioner. I still carried on kind of training and doing other stuff and now I freelance as a personal trainer.
Farrugia: And I trained as well but yeah I’m a freelance personal trainer and love what I do I’m lucky to be able to and earn some money doing what I love with some great people so I’m still involved with Sports.
Monique: So do other things as well these you work with your husband on things like x Tara which right sounds like hell to me.
Farrugia: Yes my husband and I also have a franchise called X-Tara. It’s an off road triathlons brand. It’s an international brand actually American and here we have the local franchise and we organize a series of races throughout the year. We organize a race in April. This is as I said the offer X-Tara. We organize another race in May which is our circumnavigation of Gozo which is a 50 kilometer run for the crazy people infact it’s kind of our logo “ Challenge yourself ” and then we also do a 21 kilometer race in that event as well. We organize a few other events throughout the year.
Monique: You do color my run as well, which is you started whitening?
Farrugia: Exactly. It’s this on Sunday, the 28th of October. And this Sunday, we have a race that’s called color my run. And this is literally not competitive at all. We don’t even take people’s time.
Monique: So I could do that one day.
Farrugia: You can be with kids or you have to run a walk it has a lot of people actually walk. In fact, Nathan and I went to London in July to see how it’s done before we committed to bring it to Malta and it’s an absolutely fun event. What happens is as I said, well, five kilometers or thereabouts not times. And it’s open to everybody. Absolutely from little toddlers in buggies to old people who can, you know and every now and then we have these huge arches, and we have people on the side as volunteers and marshals who spray paint at to you.
Monique: How wonderful.
Farrugia: And it’s really, really fun. So we have our medals that arrived today and they are
unicorns. Monique: Oh Cool.
Farrugia: It’s all about fun and just having a good time just getting outside of a phone cannon about fun. Laughter the happiest five k you ever run well, so that’s all the fun runs.
Monique: I’m so sad I’m not going to be here for that genuinely, but things like these x-taras and Hellfires, and whatever else to do that.
Farrugia: You have another race that we organize the first one this year round camino swim run. So what we do is you swim a bit, then get out of the water, run a bit, then you jump in the sea again. Then you swim run, swim run. And that’s a very good event. We had a good turnout this year as well.
Monique: So it must be quite difficult to organize logistics wear your shoes are or do you run and swim in the same shoes?
Farrugia: When you’re starting, you’re finishing and you actually have to be for the swim. You actually have to be attached to your body because it’s actually a body race. So like it’s done in pairs and you’re actually attached to each other with a bungee cord.
Monique: It reminds me of the agon spoon race because we always had the three legged race maybe we should do a race like that. Maybe I could help look at, all sports. Sports day. Sack race.
Farrugia: Yeah. Is there a blindfold one? We can introduce one.
Monique: What sort of training did you have to do when you’re an Olympian. Is that something
you don’t keep up that level of training because you were doing short distance.
Monique: Well I was actually a sprinter and competed in the sixty meters, hundred and two hundred. And when forced by 400, that was a long way around when the track and my training was very, very, very intense. Obviously, I had a long career of about 20 years. And my main competition time was probably about 15 16 years and I was training six times every afternoon if I wasn’t competing in the mornings we were in the gym three times a week. So yes very, very intense I mean, athletics came first in my life. I took it very, very seriously. I had good coaches, thankfully. I mean, on a local scale, like it was worthwhile because I got to travel a lot.
Training consisted of as I said, sort of Monday, Wednesday, Friday, we were in the gym at six in the morning and check every day. And obviously, the programs were created by my coaches. I had about three or four coaches throughout my career. And yes, very intense. I mean, there’d be two or two and a half hours on the track every afternoon after school. My poor mom. I mean very, very lucky that my parents supported me and my mom would pick me up from school and take me to the track every day, sit in the car. So I owe a lot to my mom and dad for helping me be successful.
Monique: Because it is true actually. It’s not just your effort and your coaches, your absolute friends and your family plays a big part.
Farrugia: I was quite lucky that obviously a lot of my friends were fellow athletes. In fact, even so many years later, we’re still good friends I’m having lunch with a couple of friends in two days’ time and. We don’t see each other very often but we still get on really really well and meet up and it’s like it was yesterday.
Monique: Are they are still working in sports or something is that continued for all of you?
Farrugia: I have a few of people yes actually there’s a set of twins who actually in the UK and they do intense coaching and there’s another guy who does triathlon training and other friend who I said I’m meeting for lunch is a nutritionist and she’s those exercise physiology so yes some quite a few people have taken it on. Sadly some others haven’t at all and actually interestingly enough stopped completely which is very interesting
Monique: Maybe they were scarred by the whole experience of six o’clock wake up call. It put me off a bit. What do you think about sport in Malta today? What’s the level, what’s the activity rate like? What do you do you see a lot of other sports happening?
Farrugia: I’m actually quite out of touch with competitive sport on a national scale, however it’s really good to see people out moving. I mean, I live about son and I often go for a run around our area. I hope to Leah tired too early but last Sunday morning I happened to be running in Sliema because we I met a group of friends and the amount of people that were out just moving and running and walking and like doing stuff on the beach and so well that’s not really sport that’s more exercise I’m talking about of course, but it’s just great to see that people are moving and people are putting sport into their life.
Monique: Not just stuck in front of their phones, TV and Netflix but do you still so you work in personal training now obviously you have these franchises, etc. But do you still dare I say enjoy sports? Do you still enjoy sports? Do you still go for a run just for fun?
Farrugia: I very, very much so, in fact I’m in the studio with water because I just came back from run and quickly jumped in the shower. Having done sports for so many years, I feel that my body needs it not just physically, but also mentally. I feel much better when I train be it going for a run. Or as I said, I freelance illustrator. So I’ve got weights in the back of my car or going somewhere quiet and just bringing the weights and doing some upper body while I’m waiting for my children while they’re doing their dance class. So yes I really do enjoy it. It’s the feeling that I have after and if it’s a nice day as it was today when I was out running, it’s just all the warmth of the sun on my face, the cool breeze, seeing the green fields it’s the whole experience.
Monique: It’s a bit of meditation. Bit of Me time. Yeah .So more of us should do it. Farrugia: Absolutely.
Monique: Don’t look at me like that. [Laughs] I’m one of those armed chair athletes. I think we call them but no, it’s because we have been interviewing various people on this program and talking about mental health being quite an issue and you are saying about running gives you headspace and stuff.
Farrugia: It really does. I mean in my case it’s running. Running does it for me but I’m not saying people should go out for a run whether it’s going out for a walk or going out into the countryside a little bit if that not that much, going out for a cycle or swimming I mean we have no excuse well we’ve got the scene was surrounded by the sea even its winter now, it’s October and that sea is still warm so any form of exercise we even if it’s going out for tourism, but class with friends
Monique: I was just thinking about that’s actually because now there’s everything.
Farrugia: And if being in a group does it for you, it’s still time for yourself and everybody and we do so much for women. And this program is specifically women oriented. I mean, we do so much for everybody. We do so much for our partners for our children, our jobs, for our parents, we constantly seem to be doing stuff for everybody we forget about ourselves and so whether it’s
I mean my case obviously it’s sport but whether it’s making a painting, it could be anything doing something for yourself.
Monique: There’s a gym I saw recently they called the dance divas and they recreate pop videos, which, I haven’t done since I was 15.
Farrugia: Exactly. And you’d be moving Yeah, it would be in a great environment and you would switch off manually because you try to keep up focusing on the choreography so yeah.
Monique: Good works. Okay. So any type of Me time.
Farrugia: Absolutely. That moving but moving? I like to move it [Laughs] Monique: So your typical day that is a wake up and?
Farrugia Yes. Well, Nathan and I have two daughters. Robin is 14 and a half and Hira 12 and obviously quite independent now at their age. However, I’m always there before well when they when they leave for school and I’m there when they come home so I’m up at 6:15 and I see them off to school and sometimes I leave before them if I have early client this morning my first client was at 7:30am so I left just before them and I basically see clients back to back usually sort of all morning then I have a little break and then the children come home from school and then I drive them to their various activities and I see clients while they’re at their activity good use of time Yes absolutely. Or else if I don’t have clients or somebody sick or if I have a free afternoon I sometimes train while they’re doing their dance because both of them dance again then obviously come back home cook again for my husband and I so you all seem to eat separately in different food and have a very early nights because I’m usually exhausted by the end of it.
Monique: I’m surprised because your job is not like most people’s where we get to our desk we plonk our desk we walked to the coffee machine.
Farrugia: Actually that’s quite funny because a lot of people think that’s because I’m a personal trainer I exercise all day. However, I’m there for my clients. So I don’t actually train with my clients so I can spend contest. I can have four or five clients or sessions in a day and I won’t move almost yeah okay a little bit of course but then I need to have my own training time for me to do my own training.
Monique: It was quite something to be able to do your passion as your job and still find it amusing.
Farrugia: Yes, I really do feel very very fortunate. And as I say I get paid for I do have I genuinely would do it for free.[Laughs] Monique: Don’t say that it’s evil. [Laughs]
And do you see the country taking up more sports on a national level because there’s this new sports center there’s actually a new sports equipment shop opening or is that more about fashion people were trainers now rather than
Farrugia: I think whoever is in government, they do realize the importance of being healthy and doing sport I think unfortunately as a nation we’re not we’re a bit lazy. It’s unfortunately is shown by our obesity rates so I think you can really lead a horse to water but unfortunately you can’t make them drink.
Monique: And you would think with our climate actually there’s not that much of an excuse to don’t go walk somewhere and stuff.
Farrugia: Yes and I know that like a lot of people have working on ours and but even just again people being lazy they will walk they will drive to the shops and the people drive everywhere where for example, okay yeah, I mean I’m a sporty person however if I’ll walk if I need to buy something from the supermarket I’ll walk to the bank I’ll walk yeah.
Obviously it takes time to fit in like if you want to fit half an hour of walking in your time you can. There are 48 half hours in a day.
Monique: Okay, if you put it like that. It actually does break it down into you can do that you can fit in half an hour of moving into your life.
And what do you think about these things that tell you to do 10,000 steps? Is that something we should all aim for?
Farrugia: It’s a great motivation. I mean, everybody’s goals should be different, not everybody has the same goals or should have the same goals. But these gadgets are brilliant because they really keep you on your toes. And yes, they are a way of sort of, even if you compete in inverted commas or something. Yeah, with friends. Like I had a couple of clients who were two sisters. And then they had three other friends and they were like, Oh, I walked 500 steps more than you today kind of thing. And it really is. It’s a great way to motivate.
Monique: We just got these new scales at home and they’re hateful, they tell you everything about your bone mass and your body. You know your BMI.
Farrugia: But again it’s good because it keeps you on your toes and it’s not just a case of that. That’s another thing. It’s not just a case of being thin or slim. It’s more important to be health. There’s a thing of being size four or five.
Monique: Of course I’m happy being size ten, there’s a zero in it. [Laughs]
Farrugia: But really I mean being healthy we have to be for our circulation for our bones for our heart as I said for our mental health so this is why we should all move and certainly even little goals that we want to, five k or walk a five k.
Monique: I’m really gonna regret that to you before we did this program. [ Laughs ]
Farrugia: It’s gonna happen.
Monique: I don’t know what to do it’s just one of those things I’ve told myself I can’t run so it’s
been it’s just like that, I can’t run.
Farrugia: As my husband says who’s a marathon runner you can we really can everybody can run a marathon if you train for it and if you put your mind at something it’s incredible how strong and powerful the mind is.
Monique: Obviously I recently heard his story actually about being an asthmatic child, and he sort of did sports against all odds.
Farrugia: Yeah he was a hospital case with asthma
Monique: But at least it’s inspirational because you do see people like you that fit in everything and you think I always think I haven’t got time so but like I said these 48 half hours that’s really good that’s gonna stick with me now yeah.
Farrugia: We really do need to make the time for for I mean our body has lost and lost us our lifetime
Monique: Because it’s not about yes I have a thing I want to run a five k for whatever reason but it’s actually thing getting out of the sofa going on holiday and being able to walk around without getting out of breath if there’s a hill.
Farrugia: Yes absolutely. I mean you could die tomorrow you could die when you’re 98. If you do lift and 98 it will be nice to be able to move to move Yeah.
Monique: Somewhere recently and it was saying about exercise to stay away from obesity and cancer and things like that so it’s not just being healthy and yourself is actually putting things off coming to get you
Farrugia: And eating well of course as well.
Monique: Yeah I’m indulgent eater but I think if you do some form of exercise, then it kind of
Farrugia: Yes I mean it’s okay to everybody likes to eat and eat well, but it’s just, you doing is in moderation.
Monique: Yeah, not the whole Christmas cake, the whole Christmas cake
Farrugia: Just a slice without any cream on the side. [Laughs] Monique: Oh, cheese. Cheese is the thing to have with Christmas cake. It’s Northern England
thing they have cheddar cheese with Christmas came Farrugia:I might have to try it out.
Monique: We have to try and run 10 miles. [Laughs] So I think it’s been fun talking to you dear Deirdre Farrugia. Thank you for sure. It’s been wonderful the woman behind.
Farrugia: Thank you.