THE World Coal Carrying Championships attracted a huge crowd to witness an unusual Yorkshire tradition.
Now in its 51st year, the annual Easter Monday event in Gawthorpe, which sees men, women and one youngsters racing the streets carrying huge sacks of coal on their backs, took place on Easter Bank Holiday Monday.
Men aged over 40 took part in the men’s veterans race, followed by a women’s race and two men’s main races, with the best time being taken across the three men’s races. This new method of judging was introduced in 2013 due to the events popularity and was a great success.
Men carry 50kg of coal and women 20kg in weight, and the youth race stipulates a 10kg sack.
Entrants left the Royal Oak public house, at Owl Lane, Ossett and raced for a distance of 1,012 metres to the finish line at the Maypole Green in Gawthorpe village.
Children’s fun runs of 150m were also held and only one youth entered the youth coal carrying event, so he was crowned winner.
Overall male winner was Chris Birkin, from Chickenley, who came in at 4 minutes and 46 seconds; veteran men’s race was won by John Hunter, of Scarborough, who has previously won three times before, finishing in 4.57; and the women’s race was won by Penny Ditchfield, 37, of Huddersfield, in 4.39.
The youth race was won by the only entrant Brendan O’Meila, 15, who carried a 10kg sack of coal.
Duncan Smith, one of the coal race organisers, said that it had been a brilliant community event in lovely spring sunshine.
He added: “The crowds really turned out and cheered on all the competitors. We had a fantastic entry in all the races, over 100 children took part in the fun runs.
“We had the biggest ever entry for the women’s coal race with 31 competitors which was won by Penny Ditchfield who came second last year. The overall men’s race was won by local man Chris Birkin, from Chickenley who won the race three years ago and he won for the 3rd time today.
“The men’s veterans race was won by John Hunter for the 2nd year running. John has also won the men’s main race eight times in the past and has been running the coal race for the last 25 years.
The coal race was born in 1963, when two men were having a pint at the century-old Beehive Inn, in Gawthorpe.
They were Reggie Sedgewick and Amos Clapham, a local coal merchant and current president of the Maypole Committee, who were enjoying liquid refreshment when they had the idea.