Thousands watch 52nd World Coal Carrying Championships

It has attracted competitive heavyweights for more than 50 years, but this year’s World Coal Carrying Championships proved to be a particular hit with the smallest of competitors - children.

More than 100 youngsters took part in races as part of the 52nd annual Championships, which sees people race through the streets of Ossett and Gawthorpe in West Yorkshire, carrying sacks of coal on their backs. This year four classes of under-18s races took place, as well as mens, womens and veterans races.

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

Starting at the Royal Oak public house in Ossett, adult racers must carry either 50kg of coal for men or 20kg for women for 1012 metres to the Maypole Green in Gawthorpe village.

The championships were born in 1963 after an argument in the Beehive Inn between coal merchant Reggie Sedgewick and Maypole Committee president Amos Clapham, over who was fittest.

The current male world record is 4mins 6 secs, held by David Jones of Meltham. The current female record holder for the women’s race is Catherine Fenton with a time of 4mins 25 secs.

But both records remain in place after yesterday’s event, which saw Graham Crane, the current holder of the Scottish race title, haul his sack over the finish line in 4mins 30 secs in the men’s race, and last year’s women’s winner Penny Ditchfield retain her title in 4mins 30 secs.

Winners Graham Crane and Penny Ditchfield.''World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

Winners Graham Crane and Penny Ditchfield.''World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

A veteran’s race, which was added for the first time in 2013 for the Championships 50th anniversary, was won by Mick Scott, who won the main race in 1996, in a time of 5 minutes 38 seconds.

Alice Smith, one of the organisers, said it was “fantastic” day, with the good weather bringing thousands of spectators.

She said: “We had the biggest amount of entries for both the children’s races with over 100 children racing. Adults races had a fantastic turnout, also with record numbers.”

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees

World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe. ''Picture: Scott Merrylees