53rd World Coal Carrying Championships

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It was a contest dreamt up over a pint or two more than 50 years ago when one man walked into his local and told another he was looking a little unfit.

Somewhat affronted he challenged him to a race and from this gentle banter in 1963 the World Coal Carrying Championships was born.

Every Easter Monday since the village of Gawthorpe has hit the headlines as heavyweight competitors attempt to navigate the art of running while carrying a sack of coal uphill in the quickest time possible.

Starting at the Royal Oak public house in Ossett, adult racers must lug either 50kg of coal, for men, or 20kg, for women, for 1012 metres to the Maypole Green in Gawthorpe. There are also races for children and veterans.

On Monday, crowds lined the route, applauding as competitors as they reached the finish line, dropping their heavy bags of coal from their backs on to the green.

Duncan Smith, secretary of the Gawthorpe Maypole Committee which organises the race, said: “There were people there who wanted to win, some raising money for charity, some in fancy dress and some doing it just for fun. All were welcome and it was a really nice inclusive event just how we wanted it to be.

“It was a record year of entries and there was a fantastic turnout of people coming to watch and support the event.”

The men’s veteran title was taken by Damian Cameron in a time of 5 mins and 3 seconds, while Craig Heppinstall, took the men’s title for the first time with a time of 4 minutes and 42 seconds.

In the women’s event Meltham’s Penny Ditchfield won the title for the third year in a row with a time of 4 minutes 35 seconds.