Nine-year-old muddy marvel steals the limelight for Striders

Thomas Sweeting. who is pictured here with his brother Rhys, covered himself in glory at the Belvoir Challenge, even though he is only nine years old.
Thomas Sweeting. who is pictured here with his brother Rhys, covered himself in glory at the Belvoir Challenge, even though he is only nine years old.

He might be only nine years old, but Thomas Sweeting produced the tastiest performance of the weekend’s events involving runners from the Gainsborough and Morton Striders club.

Thomas was just about the youngest competitor in a 700-strong field for the Belvoir Challenge, which is a 15-mile walk, run and occasional clamber over and across hills and trails around Harby in Leicestershire.

But he was totally unfazed by the challenge, which the organisers accurately described as “mud, mud and more mud”! Many runners had to retrieve a training shoe or two during the slog around the circular route, with climbs measuring 30 per cent on occasions, but Thomas went round in a time of two hours, 57 minutes to claim an excellent 220th place.

He even finished two places ahead of his father, David Sweeting, who was one of those who lost a trainer and was gracious enough afterwards to admit that his son could well have finished in a much higher position had they not decided to run together.

Thomas’s performance was so good that he was the first-placed junior at the event, almost 40 minutes ahead of his nearest challenger. The magnitude of the achievement can be understood by the fact that the junior category was for runners up to the age of 16!

By the time the Sweetings had reached the finish-line, they were able to welcome Striders teammate Jonathan Chapman, who came home after three-and-a-half hours of strenuous effort.

Meanwhile, over in Cheshire, another Strider, Carl Currie, was hitting the headlines in the Oulton Park Half-Marathon, which comprised six laps of the famous racing circuit.

There were not many hiding places from the strong wind hitting the track, but Currie showed his preparations for his upcoming marathons were going well as he ran a personal-best time of exactly 89 minutes, almost three minutes quicker than his previous fastest. This placed him as high as 50th in the 600-runner field, and his time ranked as one of the top 400 in the UK this year for runners in his age group.

Striders’ weekly training sessions are continuing as normal, with the juniors meeting at Gainsborough Academy at 5.30 pm on Tuesdays. Senior sessions are held on Thursdays, starting at 5.30 pm from Queen Elizabeth’s High School, and on Tuesdays, starting from DW Sports in Marshall’s Yard at 7.15 pm.

Anyone can go along to the sessions, but the adult ones do require runners to wear high-visibility clothing.