Hartlepool schoolboy tackles a 53-mile walk and becomes the youngest to finish
When it comes to putting your best foot forward, Martin Slimmings was a dab hand at it.
Back in 1964, he made the headlines in a 53-mile West Hartlepool walk which was held annually.
It pulled in competitors from all over the North East and came with a presentation ceremony in the West Hartlepool Odeon Cinema at the end of it.
Martin didn’t win the race but he won lots of praise - and a special medal - because he was only 12 when he tackled the event and he completed the course in 18 hours and 52 minutes.
Even more impressively, he did it in a comfortable pair of black rubber-soled shoes and won himself a new pair from the manufacturers after they heard of his achievements.
Our Northern Daily Mail report at the time said: “Of all the cheers that went up on Saturday night for the medal winners in West Hartlepool’s 50-mile walk, the biggest was for the youngest of the finishers.”
Martin was a pupil of the West Hartlepool Grammar School and a resident of Mullroy Road.
And when he stepped onto the stage at the presentation ceremony - held at the Odeon - he collected his medal from WP Murray, the chairman of the Hartlepools Round Table, to great acclaim.
But this was a modest young man who played down his achievement. He told the Mail he had done no special training. He had merely kept up his interest in rugby, athletics and gymnastics.
The race was won by Glyn Bathgate who was a 20-year-old scoutmaster from Sunderland. It was the second time he had won and did the 1964 course in 12 hours and 12 minutes.
As well as taking two minutes off his time, he also took 8lb off his weight.
The second finisher was John Parkinson, of Kingsley Avenue, West Hartlepool, in 14 hours and 40 minutes, while Jeffrey Tomlin of Catcote Road was third.
The other medalists were Edwin Charlesworth of Lawson Road, Seaton Carew; Kenneth Shepherd of Marlowe Road, West Hartlepool; Bill Elsworth, of Ruislip Close, Stockton; and Bill Spowart of Marine Crescent in Blackhall Rocks.
Sandra Williams, 17, of Uppingham Street in West Hartlepool was the only female finisher.
The event was organised by the Round Table who provided the marshals and manned all the checkpoints.
Perhaps a true indication of the severity of the challenge lies in the statistics. Eighty people started the race yet only 16 finished it.
And such was the impression made by 12-year-old Martin, he won a pair of shoes as his reward for finishing.
In fact, he did more than the official distance as, according to the Northern Daily Mail report, he wandered off course just after 13 miles and took a longer route.
We would love to hear from anyone who took part - or anyone who knows more about the annual challenge.
Contact Chris Cordner by emailing [email protected]