The 20 facts that make Gawthorpe's World Coal Carrying Championships a proud Yorkshire tradition

Here are 20 little-known facts about the history of Gawthorpe's World Coal Carrying Championship for those competitors and spectators missing out on the event for the first time in its 57-year history

Monday, 13th April 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 13th April 2020, 1:05 pm

1. The idea for the World Coal Carrying Championships was first thought of in the Beehive Inn, Gawthorpe in 1963, following a bit of banter between three men over who was the fittest.

2. The coal races are officially timed by a clock that is used for timing racing pigeons and has been the tradition from the beginning of the races.

3. The official race distance is 1108.25 yards or 1013.38 metres or 0.629 687.5 of a mile - to be exact.

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Chris Mackie leads the field on the way to winning the men's race in 2005

4. The weight carried by competitors in the coal races are as follows: Men's 50kg (8 stone, 112lb); Women's 20kg (3 stone 2lb or 44.09lb) and the winner is the first person to drop their sack of coal onto the Maypole village green.

5. The record for the women's coal race stands at 4 minutes 25 seconds and was set by Catherine Foley in 2011

6. The men's world record holder is David Jones, of Meltham, who won the race in 1991 in a time of 4 minutes and 6 seconds. For good measure he did it again in the same time in 1995.

7. Terry Lyons of Meltham, near Huddersfield, has won the men's coal race a record-equalling eight times, along with John Hunter of Scarborough

Susan Hall on her way to winning the women's race in 1973.

8. Only two winners of the men's coal race have come from Gawthorpe - Anthony Walton, in 1986, and Chris Mackie, in 2005.

9. The coal races are run over an uphill course for most of the way. The final hill is known as 'Benny Harrop Hill'. The topography of the course ends in being a vertical height gain of 14metres, or 46ft, from the start of the course to the finish.

10. The Royal Oak pub on Owl Lane is where the Coal Race officially starts from.

11. The coal race trophies are made of real coal. The winners get a replica smaller version to keep - with the main trophy returned each year.

Coal racer in 1968

12. In 2008 Ben Fogle, TV presenter and extreme adventurer, who rowed the Atlantic with Olympic gold medalist James Cracknell, took part in the coal race while filming for BBC Countryfile. He said: “It is one of the hardest things I have done”.

13. In 2011, multiple men’s races were introduced due to the increasing popularity of the event. The races allow for up to 35 to compete with the best time taken across the heats.

14. The Coal Race is featured in a book called 'We Could Be Heroes', written by two BBC Sports Journalists who both took part in the race in 2006

15. The championships have been dominated by winners from the Kirklees area. Police Inspector Phil Ounsley, of Dewsbury, won the event in 2007. David Jones, of Meltham, held six of the top ten times and last broke the record in 1995. Terry Lyons, also of Meltham, won the race eight times in the 1970s and 1980s.

Amos Clapham's track take coal sacks to the start line

16. The winner of the first ever men's coal race was David Thompson, of Garforth in 1964, who won it in a time of 6 minutes and 52 seconds.

17. Raymond Bostock, a coal man from Outwood, Wakefield won the second coal race in 1965 in a time of 6 minutes and 6 seconds. Raymond came straight from work in his gear and ran and won the race.

18. Janine Burns, of Dewsbury, won the women's coal race no less than 11 times without being defeated between 1983 and 1993.

19. The only time that there has been a tie for first place was in the women's coal race in 1972. This was between Pat Ellis and Margaret Hinchliffe (both of Gawthorpe).

20. John Hunter, from Scarborough, who has won the coal race a record-equalling eight times, has been competing in the event since 1990.