The race that started as a bet in a Yorkshire pub - and now sees hundreds of runners carrying coal on their backs

In terms of racing events, the World Coal Carrying Championship must be among the most niche.

But that didn’t stop over 140 runners descending on the village of Gawthorpe near Wakefield yesterday to run over a kilometre carrying up to 50kg of coal on their backs.

The race, which attracted hundreds of spectators, saw runners start from the Royal Oak pub to the Maypole Green in the village centre.

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The men’s race of 50kg of coal was won for the fourth time in a row by Andrew Corrigan of Driffield with a time of four minutes and 16 seconds, while the women’s race of 20kg of coal was run by Amy Walker of Dewsbury with a time of four minutes and 52 seconds.

The men’s race of 50kg of coal was won for the fourth time in a row by Andrew Corrigan of Driffield with a time of four minutes and 16 seconds, while the women’s race of 20kg of coal was run by Amy Walker of Dewsbury with a time of four minutes and 52 seconds.

Mr Corrigan beat his previous record by 10 seconds, taking home a prize of £750 while Ms Walker won £500.

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The event began in 1963 when Gawthorpe residents Reggie Sedgewick and Amos Clapham were enjoying a drink at the Beehive Inn.

Another local man, Lewis Hartley came into the pub and remarked how tired Mr Sedgewick looked, to which he took offence.

He challenged Mr Hartley to get a bag of coal and put it on his back and race him to the nearby wood.

Another bystander suggested the race be held on Easter Monday, and thus the World Coal Carrying Championships were born.

Duncan Smith, 63, now organises the race, which has had a two year hiatus due to the pandemic.

He told the Yorkshire Post: “It’s been brilliant, a fantastic community day. What people have been waiting for after being in lockdown for two years.

“The streets have been rammed and the weather has been kind.

“Gawthorpe has had a record of having a mine here since 1366, but there’s no longer a mine here.

“The race does keep that tradition and heritage together.

“People still enjoy it, and it’s just grown in popularity.”

One woman competitor, Caitlin Jones, even flew in from New York to take part in the Championships.

A veterans’ race for men over 40 was won by Craig Heppenstall of Ossett, while over 100 children took part in a fun run.

Funds raised during the Championship will go towards the village’s Maypole celebration, including providing tea and treats for 100 socially isolated pensioners.