Occupation: General Manager
Favourite K-Way Products: K-Way Reflex Drake Down jacket
Quote to Live by: "The more I practice, the luckier I get"
With three podium finishes in three of the Western Cape’s toughest trail races, and these in his first two years of competitive running, Wesley Sweetnam is a trail force to be reckoned with.
Capetonian born and bred, Wesley’s love for nature and the outdoors was ignited at an early age by the fun adventures he had as a kid, hiking in the mountains above Kalk Bay with his brother and dad. Now co-owner of Doggy-Style, a doggy-daycare, grooming and boarding company in Noordhoek with his brother, Wesley loves being able to blend his love for animals with work.
Running has always been on Wesley’s radar – his dad was an avid runner and has 13 Comrades and 12 Two Oceans Ultras under the belt. But the action-packed sports were Wesley’s preference, and his school years were competitively packed with rugby, soccer, cricket and, later, action netball.
That changed about three years ago, when the proverbial running bug bit.
“I had run a few short distance wine farm trail races and found them fun. Then, in 2015, I entered the Bastille Day Trail Run 25km, purely out of curiosity. I trained up a bit and was keen to see how I could do. But just 5km in, I dislocated my ankle, which put an end to running for the next several months while it healed.”
Wesley came back determined. He chose the Old Fisherman’s Trail Challenge 2016 as his first race ‘back’ – he trained hard and finished third. Next up in his sights was that same race that had beaten him the previous year, this time with 10 additional kilometres, the Bastille 35km.
“That day will always be special for me – I hadn’t known what to expect, and everything went so well. I had to dig really deep to hang in, and I finished 2nd, behind trail great, Christiaan Greyling.
Soaring on his Bastille high, running became his sole focus – he loved the challenge, the adrenalin rush of racing technical descents, and the thrill of competition. He looked for bigger and tougher races, and entered Ultra-Trail Cape Town 65km to see how he could do. He achieved 2nd place.
“UTCT 65 was huge for me – it was the furthest I had ever run. I learned so much that day, and it was such an emotional finish!”
But Wesley’s biggest learning was still to come. He’d run too much, too soon, and in January 2017 he picked up an over-use injury in his foot. Still he continued racing, not realising that he’d be doing more damage. He competed in the 2017 Bos Sport Mountain Challenge Series (HMC, JMC and MMC), setting a new record for the MMC 35km, and winning the Series. But the cost of those successes was more injury.
“This past year of not being to do the sport I love has taught me to value it more. We should never ignore what our body is telling us. Never continue running with niggles! My biggest lessons have been to not over-train or over-race, not to leap into bigger distances too soon, to go into races well rested, and that proper recovery is essential. My injury has levelled me – I’ve learned the hard way that running with a healthy body leads to better performance.”
Wesley will be back, and he knows he’ll run smarter. And when he does, his bucket list races include Ultra-Trail Drakensberg 100km, Skyrun, UTMB, Western States 100 Miler… but spaced over several years!