WORLD and European gold medal athletes inspired more than 1,400 Halton children to get fit.

Primary schoolchildren took part in two Ineos Go Run For Fun events.

The campaign aims to get 100,000 kids off the couch, get active and combat obesity.

British track and field sprinter Richard Kilty joined 700 pupils from five Widnes schools at Victoria Park on Tuesday, March 17.

European and national indoor champion athlete Jenny Meadows cheered 700 children at Phoenix Park in Castlefields the following day.

After a mass warm-up, they set off in stages for a 2km run.

More than 50,000 children aged five to 10 have now completed the challenge.

Richard, aged 25, who recently won European 60m indoor gold medal for Great Britain, said:”Getting children to embrace sport in a fun way when they are young is the best way to encourage a healthy lifestyle.”

The giant run was the brainchild of Jim Ratcliffe, owner of chemical giant Ineos, which has a plant in Runcorn and employs 17,000 people across the world.

The company has donated £1.5 million to set up a new charitable foundation to encourage children to run for fun.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “I’m passionate about getting as many children running as possible as early as possible.

“The idea is simple – to get children out of the house having fun. It is not rocket science.

“Running is the basis of so many great sports.

“If our children can catch the running bug early, they’re more likely to stick to it, and this can only lead to them having more active and healthier lifestyles in the future.”

More than 29 per cent of youngsters start school in Runcorn and Widnes overweight or obese, according to new figures from the National Childhood Measurement Programme.

This rockets to 33 per cent by the age of 11.

Helen Birrell, sports development officer for Halton Council’s sports development team, said: “I’m delighted to be a part of this year’s events in Widnes and Runcorn.

“Go Run For Fun encourages children to have fun, make new friends, be healthy, enjoy the great outdoors and develop a passion for running.”