Meltham runner Penny Ditchfield is a world champion – at humping coal.
Penny, 37, women’s captain at Meltham Athletic Club, showed rivals a clean pair of heels at the World Coal Carrying Championships in Gawthorpe.
The Easter Monday tradition, where men, women and children race carrying sacks of coal on their backs, has been going for 51 years and the women’s race is undergoing a renaissance.
Penny, who was runner-up in her first attempt last year, went one better this time, posting a winning time of four minutes 39 seconds.
Competitors run the uphill 1,012 metre course from the Royal Oak in Owl Lane, Ossett, to the maypole in Gawthorpe village centre. Women carry 20kg sacks while the men hump 50kg.
Race organiser Duncan Smith said the women’s race had been in the doldrums in recent years but extensive promotion on social media had boosted entries.
“A few years ago we were down to as few as four women,” said Duncan. “But this year we had 31, a record entry.”
The men’s race was won by Chris Birkin, of Chickenley, Dewsbury, in a time of four minutes and 46 seconds followed by Ryan Williams and Andrew Child.
Second and third in the women’s race were Anita Faherty and Gemma Fromage-Crawford.
Back for more success was Scarborough builder John Hunter winning the veteran’s race for over 40s for the second time. He holds the joint record for eight wins in the men’s race.
Competitors came from as far afield as Australia and Spain and Duncan said: “The whole world is welcome to our little corner of Yorkshire.
“We have been going for 51 years and all roads lead to Gawthorpe on Easter Monday. It is great British eccentricity at its best.”
The coal race started in 1963 when Reggie Sedgewick and Amos Clapham challenged each other over a pint at the Beehive pub in the village.
The prize money has got better over the years too. Penny won £500 and men’s champ Chris £750.
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