Margaret Kuras not only completed the 21.1-kilometre distance without wearing shoes, she finished in a time of one hour, 29 minutes and 55 seconds in Apia on Saturday, 15 seconds clear of her nearest competitor.
Kuras won all the distance events in barefeet at Vanuatu’s national games and said she was more comfortable running without shoes.
“Yes, I won it with only socks on,” 20-year-old Kuras told the Pacific Games News Service.
“Wearing socks is a personal decision that I made because I had never run with shoes on before, so I didn’t feel comfortable running in shoes at these Games. When I tried the shoes on, my feet felt too heavy and I didn’t like it.”
Kuras encouraged others from the Pacific Islands to not give up on their long distance running dreams because of fear of having to use running shoes.
“I was nervous to run without shoes on, because I could see everyone else with shoes on, but I knew that wearing shoes was not an option for me if I wanted to win, so I chose to run with socks on instead. I know there are a lot of young people back home who have never run with shoes on, just like me.
“I would like to tell them that shoes and other gear are only there to help us be more comfortable when running, but they are not the reason why we win. Our talent, determination and hard work are the reason why we win.
“So I would like to encourage them not to be afraid to expose their talents so they can have the same opportunities that I was given,” she told the Pacific Games News Service.
In another heartwarming sight, Kuras’ brother, Sam, who was running in the men’s half marathon, helped pace his sister to the finish line as her energy waned.
“My brother slowed down, ran beside me and was supporting me as I was running the final metres towards the finish line,” Margaret Kuras said.
“He was telling me to not give up, that I was almost there and to just keep pushing and keep my stride going, one step at a time.
“He gave me courage and confidence to finish strong for that gold medal and I am very thankful for his support.”
Kuras’ gold in the women’s half marathon was her second medal of the Games, after also securing silver in the women’s 10,000m at Apia Park Stadium on Thursday.