A Marsden woman has been crowned female World Coal Carrying Championships winner for the third time in a row.
Around 1,500 people braved the rain to watch Penny Ditchfield beat 39 other entrants in the off-the-wall 53rd annual East Monday contest, which took place in Gawthorpe today.
Penny, a member of Meltham Athletics Club, sprinted one kilometre up hill with a punishing 20kg bag of coal from the Royal Oak Pub on Owl Lane in Ossett to Gawthorpe’s village green in four minutes 35 seconds.
It was a time 12 seconds clear of the runner-up.
“I’m glad it’s over”, said Penny, 39, who is a student paramedic at Edge Hill University at Ormskirk in Lancashire.
“It’s a hard one and never gets any easier and today it was cold and windy too. I run and cycle a lot but I only held the bag of coal twice in training for this race so I rely on fitness to get through it.
“But I also had a pacer from Meltham AC called Tom Whitworth who’s 15 and won his race too, so it’s been a double success for the club.”
This was Penny’s fourth year of running in the race and she said she will return in 2017 to try beat the women’s world record of four minutes 25 seconds.
“It’s all I keep going for,” said Penny. “Last year I got four minutes 30.
“It’s my dream to be able to beat the record and bring the title to Meltham.
“The record holder of the men’s, Dave Jones (who ran the course in four minutes six seconds carrying 50kg), is also from Meltham, so it would be amazing to do that.”
Craig Heppenstall, of the 299 Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers Army Reserve from Wakefield, was the overall winner of the men’s races.
He carried 50kg of coal in four minutes, 42 seconds
Commenting on the day, Duncan Smith, one of the event organisers, said: “It was a great community event for everyone, despite the weather.
“We had the highest number of entrants we’ve ever had with 110 in the three main men’s races and 40 in the women’s and male veterans’.
“Over 100 children also entered into races.
“We are going to have to think about having two women’s races and two veteran men’s next year because of the popularity of it.
“I think it’s because it’s such a quirky event and because people are telling their friends on social media.”