Aguilera upbeat after Sands experience
Monica Aguilera failed to defend her Sands Marathon title but remains upbeat about her experiences in the southern Moroccan desert.
The Spanish endurance runner finished fifth at 254km ultra marathon - the equivalent of six regular marathons and considered the toughest foot race on Earth.
But Aguilera did not allow the disappointment of losing her crown to overshadow her achievement in finishing the race for a second year running.
"In this race you fight is against yourself," she said. "There is just you and your rucksack. You should not focus on your rivals' performance, as you need to take care of your own self, and this in itself already stretches you to the limit.
"On a personal level, I am more than happy with the fifth place in the women's ranking and 37th in the general ranking among 854 participants.
"After all the suffering, I was not certain that I was going to finish and only the idea of our team prevailing kept me from quitting.
"Without any doubt, competing in a team was the core motivation to keep running. We finished third in the team raking, which is an excellent result , given that in the first place there was a Moroccan team and in second a Jordanian team, both teams of experienced desert runners."
She added: "This is a highly demanding race, where one suffers a lot during the stages.
"I was not feeling very well, but despite this I did not wish to stop running at any point, as I knew that if I continued by walking it would be even harder to come back.
"I was fighting for the classification, for the team, and I was also fighting against myself.
"Despite all the suffering, in the end what remains is the experience of living in the desert, the amazing landscapes, the magical starlight skies at night, and above all the feeling of solidarity one gets at the camps from the other co-runners.
"This is a race that inspires solidarity and companionship. This is what primarily remains and what I tend to keep with me.
"Once you cross the finishing line, it's hard to control your emotions following several days of striving to overcome the hardship and to survive."