1) running shoes - what are you running in? If the answer is "trainers from the last century" rather than "proper running shoes which I bought from a proper running shop with a whippet behind the counter who sent me out to run up and down the road in shoes to see how they feel" then that might be something to look at
2) At our beginner groups we use the Couch-to-5k plan based on
@Debra people (hello Carmen!) have booked flights just a month or two out and the prices have been about the same. I actually started out doing the via-Dubai route with a night in the airport hotel half way but one or two stops via JNB (and possibly say FRA) seem to suit me much better as it's only one long leg. You can book cheap flights (Kuluhla / Mango) for the JNB/DUR leg so coupling that with a LON-FRA or CDG-JNB flight it can be done on the cheap relatively speaking.
I have done it every year since 2010 (sadly not next year as in rehab for a poorly knee). Though I've always gone with RunningCrazy as it's a lot more sociable that way.
The Med, in Feb, and a *net* downhill (note though - there are uphills!) course with a big shiny medal and an international field (lots of winter-fleeing northern europeans and a few peripatetic Japanese) - what's not to like really.
The buses to the start leave before dawn from by the Sliema Ferries (where the finish is - so basically stay in Sliema if you can, +1 on Tony's hotel recs). Tickets a handful of euros. The start in Rabat/Mdina can be a bit windy and nippy so take something to keep you warm, plus a space blanket or bin bag if you really feel the cold and want something to hang onto after you've chucked your kit bag onto the kit trucks (pickup at the other end has always been well organised).
The full race starts hours before the half and walkathon, and, depending on your pace, you may have to skirt a few walkathon groups towards the end (but they can be quite inspiring as well as obstacles so all in all it evens out). Nice views. Always have had decent weather - recall one year when it TIPPED it down all day on the Sat but was fine on the Sunday
The streets are anything but lined with cheering spectators (the Maltese very sensibly seem to go to Sunday mass on Saturday night and lie in on Sundays!). However the drinks stations are manned by the Scouts who are just fabulous.Water all the way through (bottles) and also energy drink of some lurid colours (also in bottles) and towards the end bits of fruit. Sponges also available.
They also do the pointing-where-to-go stuff (very enthusiastically). There's a bit of support at the end though as the last few miles are basically round the bay.
The half marathoners have a nearly all downhill course I believe, straight from Mdina to Sliema. The marathoners (Malta is quite small) are sent to run round a few things to make up the distance, e.g. the national stadium, some gardens etc. - a recent course change was a (in my view quite interesting) detour through an industrial estate past the brewery.
It is all road. Never had any issues with traffic - the combination of strategic cone use and the police stationing themselves at junctions seems to work. A small rural part of the course was flooded one year, but most of us just hopped on the low foot-wide wall by the road (and one foolhardy soul ran straight through).
Though it is net downhill there are quite a few upwards inclines within that so be prepared for both. Some bits are quite pretty/scenic/interesting, some however are doodling round quiet Maltese suburbs.Prepare yourself mentally for the up and downs over various flyovers towards the end. Once, however, you reach the waterside it's all flat for those last couple of miles.
If you are a lady it's worth seeing if you can form a team with a couple of other ladies as historically the 3rd lady in the 3rd ladies team has finished in anything from 4:15 to well over 4:30.
There is a 5h cutoff in theory though the vigour of implementation may vary.
Usually these days they offer a "sell your soul to us on Facebook and we'll upload free race photos for you as you run" scheme. There is free wifi in various spots including Bisazza Street in Sliema (near the small square with fountains / statue of people having tea.)
At the finish there is fruit, water, energy drinks and the odd photo op. Plenty of bars/restaurants/cafes for that post-race recovery. The Bay View hotel has 2 pools on the roof - the outside one is good for a post race leg dunk.
The race tshirt has always been cotton in the past but good quality (ours do get worn).
Never had any trouble with the union jack vest Lowrez, but I'd trialled it in other races first. Possibly irrelevant as Dave Ross is just organizing tshirts this year so unless someone else volunteers to do vests, people would have to get generic vests from e.g. foska instead. Well worth it though for the support!