There’s now’t more Yorkshire than humping bags of coal up a hill in the name of fun.
Gloucester has cheese rolling, Wales bog snorkling but hard-as-nails West Yorkshire folk head to the World Coal Carrying Championships.
Among this year’s novice racers was Examiner journalist Lauren Ballinger, 36, who ran the 1,012-metre course from Ossett to Gawthorpe with a lung-busting 20 kilo (3.1 stones) of coal on her back.
It’s so heavy that she can’t lift it onto her shoulders without help from husband Liam, 33, who also took part in the men’s race (carrying 50kg/7.8 stones).
“The weight of the bag really presses into your shoulders and your mind goes blank as you focus on finishing,” said Lauren.
Months of training paid off as she paced herself over the course, which she had run several times in training.
“I did manage a sprint finish,” she said. “Some people started off hell for leather; pacing yourself is very difficult. If you don’t, you burn out.”
After finishing in seven minutes – 11th place from 23 runners in the second heat – Lauren said she felt proud.
“We put blood, sweat and tears into this,” she said. “I am proud of myself because I never thought I could do it.”
Lauren, who also enjoys park running, says it’s a great stress buster.
But would she hump a 20kg bag of coal again?
“I would like to do it again - I would like to get top 10,” she said. “It depends on Liam as I can’t lift the coal onto my shoulders on my own. I can’t get it above my head!”
She thanked her friends and training partners for helping her get race fit, among them Mike Keddie, John Macphail, Richard Goldthorpe, Alastair Leitch and Sean Dodson.
“Liam and John finished joint 11th place and then ran over the finishing line like the Brownlee brothers,” said Lauren.
The winner of the women’s race was Jenny Mustan with a time of four minutes 30 seconds. In second place was Lindsay Heppenstall on 4:41, with Danielle Sidebottom third (4:51).
In the veterans’ race, the fastest runner was Damian Cameron with a time of five minutes and 14 seconds. There was a tie for second place with both Tony Gardener and John Hunter finishing in 5:24.
The men’s race was won by Andrew Corrigan in four minutes 31 seconds, with Daniel Wright second (4:33) and Steven Thackery third (4:40)
One runner, Joel Hicks, won applause when he became the first person to carry two sacks of coal over the line. He also ran all four of the first races.
The current male world record is 4:06, held by David Jones of Meltham. Fastest ever female is Catherine Foley with a time of 4:25.