Lymington athlete Valeria Sesto wins Maratón del Desierto in Argentina
LYMINGTON-based athlete Valeria Sesto made it a happy return to her country of birth, winning the Maratón del Desierto in Argentina.
The desert marathon, which snakes along the Argentine Sea off the Atlantic coast of Argentina, forces the athletes to tackle long, high dunes.
The elite athlete, who has competed at the highest levels while winning international events and a world championship, chose to run barefoot, comfortably beating every other woman present.
Sesto's preparations for the race were far from smooth, sleeping on a bus the night before and making do with a makeshift pre-race breakfast, topped off with a shared coffee with a prepared fellow runner.
Sesto, who is involved with Walhampton School's extracurricular activities program, said: "When I discovered the entire race was on the sand, and as it was a cool day, I decided to run barefoot.
"It was a tough race, and most people found it incredibly challenging, but it was nothing compared to other races I've done, or so I have to tell myself when it gets difficult."
The race starts along a mile of compacted sand next to the sea's edge before competitors balance for miles on top of the thin tops of dunes.
The running coach and Lymington Athletes founder continued: "It was thrilling. Going up some of the steep dunes was hard, and I didn't feel I was fit for it, but I kept trying my best and sometimes climbed on all fours.
"I took the lead early on, yet the other two girls were close by for a while. Then I stopped paying attention to them as the terrain was too challenging not to pay attention to where we were putting our feet.
"As the home straight neared, I got my arms moving and just ran. As I was barefoot, I could run on the firmest side of the beach, and with my feet splashing the water, it was magical!"
Sesto added that it was moving to be able to run and win in her country of birth. After winning, she spent another five to six hours on a bus to reach her parents' house just before midnight.