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Valeria Sesto among local runners picking up age category wins at Isle of Wight Festival of Running

A HOST of local runners crossed the Solent to take on the challenging Isle of Wight Festival of Running half-marathon or 5k.

After Covid-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s event, this year’s races attracted 700 runners – the most in the race’s history.

Runners from New Forest Runners, Hardley Runners, Lymington Athletes, Lymington Triathlon Club and local independent entrants braved the heat and undulating cross-country courses, which has become one of the Island’s most significant sporting events.

Lymington Athletes' Valeria Sesto takes an early lead in the Isle of Wight Festival of Running half marathon (Photo: Michael Dangerfield of Wight Productions)
Lymington Athletes' Valeria Sesto takes an early lead in the Isle of Wight Festival of Running half marathon (Photo: Michael Dangerfield of Wight Productions)

The pick of local results came from Lymington Athletes’ Valeria Sesto, who won the overall ladies and Vet40 title finishing in 1.36.17.

Sesto said: “This race is a tough one with over 1,300ft of elevation. The route goes through beaches and up and down long, steep steps and undulating straights towards the needles.

“It was a lovely event, superbly organised and followed all the rules with new Covid restrictions.”

“For me, it was a very tough first few miles as I still had not recovered from a recent 40-mile race. However, I had a real desire to win and give it my best shot.

“I was emotional when I crossed the line as I worked so hard. In the prizegiving, I found out I was double the age of the second and third-placed ladies – they should have run faster!”

Hardley Runners' Poppy Tanner (Photo: Michael Dangerfield of Wight Productions)
Hardley Runners' Poppy Tanner (Photo: Michael Dangerfield of Wight Productions)

The victory is the second time Sesto has won the iconic Needles Half Marathon after winning the event more than 10 years ago. This time she shaved five minutes off her time.

“I had done this race in 2009 and won it then. I would never have imagined that, 12 years later, I would be five minutes quicker.

“Someone reminded me that when I did it then, I promised never again until I retired. I was sort of retired, but the win tells me that, despite being 48, there is still a bit more left in me.

“The best part was bumping into so many Lymington runners on the ferry over. It was also lovely that my husband came along to run too, and we made a lovely day out of it, including a post-race picnic at the beach.”

New Forest Runners' Gail Walters (Photos: Michael Dangerfield of Wight Productions) (48284422)
New Forest Runners' Gail Walters (Photos: Michael Dangerfield of Wight Productions) (48284422)

This year’s Festival of Running featured five races – the Needles Half Marathon, a children’s fun run, and the Freshwater 5K in the west of the island and the 5k Duver Dash and the Junior Duver Dash in the east.

It was a family podium for Hardley Runners, with the top three all coming from the Tanner family. Callum, who finished sixth in the senior male category, led the Hardley Runners contingent home in 1.35.05, ahead of his father Matthew, who finished eighth in the Vet50 category in 1.40.53, and sister Poppy, who finished third overall and second senior female in 1.45.19.

The final Hardley result came from Martin Loveless (1.48.45), who finished as the third Vet50 male.

Lymington Athletes’ fastest runner was Richard Mayo, who finished eighth overall and second in the Vet40 age category in 1.32.45. Sesto was the second-fastest, followed by James Turner (1.44.08) and Clive Cosby (1.59.00).

Lymington Athletes’ Fiona Mayo finished the Freshwater 5k in 29.18 as the fifth-placed Vet40 runner.

After the race, Richard Mayo said: “It was a fantastic event, so much fun and with the option for all family members to join in; our son ran in the junior race with his cousins.

“Seeing the children getting involved and having so much fun inspired Fiona and me on our respective 5k and half marathon distances.

“I loved the half-marathon. I’ve raced it previously, and it didn’t disappoint, definitely one of my favourite ever running routes.”

Susie Jacob was the only Lymington Triathlon Club member, crossing the line in 2.08.06.

She said: “This is one of my favourite runs of the year, and it was so lovely to see so many familiar faces enjoying being part of an event again.”

New Forest Runners had seven in the half-marathon, with Emma Clayton the fastest crossing the line in 1.50.19, and Vet50 winner Gail Walters second fastest in 1.54. The fastest NFR male was Alan Grout, who finished ninth in the Vet60 category in 2.01.

The other New Forest Runners results came from Paul Pocock (2.19.17), Gail Lydford (2.19.47), Rachel Holtom (2.20.00), and Lauren Holmes (2.46.07).

In the Freshwater 5k, Caroline Woodford represented New Forest Runners, and she crossed the line as the Vet60 winner and 14th overall in 26.46.

Julian Smith, from New Milton Eagles, finished the 13.1-mile course in 2.07.31. He regularly participates in endurance events in memory of his mum and friend Martin Phillips, who both died of cancer.

Smith said: “I went over with my running buddy, Mike Contreras, and despite it only just being over the water from where I usually run, this was the first time I’ve run on the Isle of Wight. I really enjoyed it.

“The weather was great, sunshine at the start and along the beach, before we headed up into the mist and clouds near the Needles and Tennyson Down. While the views disappeared in the mist, the drop in temperature was welcome, especially after climbing up those steps and hills to get there.

“I loved running back down across Tennyson, towards Freshwater, and back to the finish for a well-deserved beer or two.”

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