The Sinister 7, a 161-kilometre competition through southern Alberta, is a gruelling race through rugged terrain. It’s a challenge for even the most seasoned runners, but a group of kids aged 10-15 from Central Alberta conquered the course earlier this month. 

Ten-year-old Nieve Laird, of Edmonton, hiked and ran 23 kilometres of the race. The course consists of seven legs, which range from 16 to 30 kilometres. 

“It was pretty crazy. It was cool.” Laird said.”I was actually running an ultra marathon on a team and it was just … I had a lot of adrenaline flowing because I was just so excited to go out and run.”

Laird was one of seven kids who participated with the team that included members from Barrhead, Edmonton, and Camrose.

Nieve Laird, 10, completed 23 kilometres as part of one of the seven legs in the Sinister 7 early this month. (Submitted by Darren Laird)

Her brother, eleven-year-old, Calum Laird ran and hiked the 31-km leg, one of the longest in the race.

“It was definitely challenging. I had the heat of the day on this leg, so it got pretty hot,” Calum said.

“Luckily during the night before it was raining so much there were giant puddles, so I just kept running through every single one I could find, and then dipping my hat into the clean streams that were running across.

“It was pretty nice.”

The Sinister 7 runs through the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains near Crowsnest Pass. It’s far from a flat run as the course has 6,400 metres of elevation gain. 

The team completed the race in 25 hours.

They were accompanied by three brothers, Jayden, Joedy, and James Dalke, who are ultramarathon runners originally from the village of Ferintosh, Alta. The three finished second in the Sinister 7 team event in 2018.

Calum Laird, 11, runs through the Rocky Mountains of southern Alberta where he completed 31 km of the Sinister 7 race. (Submitted by Darren Laird)

The brothers took this year off to train and mentor the team of nine runners under their running brand Attitude Over Altitude.

“Seeing kids conquer their fears and extend their limits, it will benefit them in all areas of life,” James Dalke said. “Right from taking on bigger and daunting projects in school to not being afraid of athletic endeavours later in life, because we see that with a lot of adults they’re like ‘I could never do that.”

“I think that anyone can do it”

Calum and Nieve Laird trained for the race and often hike and run trails with their parents, who are ultramarathon runners themselves.

For their father, Darren Laird, having the Dalke brothers, who they look up to, leading them through the race was the perfect scenario to get his kids involved in a race of their own.

“It’s changed our kids’ perceptions and it’s actually changed who they are,” Darren Laird said. “I find their confidence has kind of come up a little bit since knowing that they can go out there and accomplish this kind of major stuff on their own.”

The Sinister 7 race features 6,400 metres of elevation gain near Crowsnest Pass, Alta. (Submitted by Darren Laird)

Some may think the kids are too young to compete in a rugged ultramarathon through the Rocky Mountains, but Calum disagrees.

“I think that anyone can do it if they put their mind to it and train their whole life,” he said. “I mean, my sister is 10 and she did leg four [23 km] so that just kind of proves that if you set your mind to it and you want to do it and you train you can do it. You can do anything.”

The team is expected to take part in the Sinister 7 again next year.


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