Runners battle it out at biggest ever coal race

Date:9th April 2012.'The World Coal Carrying Championships held at Gawthorpe, near Wakefield. Pictured Third time mens winner Matthew Wainwright, aged 34, from Cleckheaton, (time-4m 34secs) with ladies winner for the first time Anita Faherty, aged 40, from Huddersfield (time-5m 8secs).
Date:9th April 2012.'The World Coal Carrying Championships held at Gawthorpe, near Wakefield. Pictured Third time mens winner Matthew Wainwright, aged 34, from Cleckheaton, (time-4m 34secs) with ladies winner for the first time Anita Faherty, aged 40, from Huddersfield (time-5m 8secs).
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A COAL-CARRYING champion held onto his crown yesterday.

Strength and endurance was put to the test during the 49th World Coal Carrying Championship in Gawthorpe.

And Matthew Wainwright, 34, kept his grip on the men’s title, crossing the line in 4 minutes 34 seconds.

Mr Wainwright, of New Lane, Cleckheaton, said it was six seconds slower than the personal record he set last year.

He said: “It was very tough going so it’s good to win.

“I was really hoping to beat my last time, but I had a few injuries in the lead-up to the race and my legs didn’t feel too good on the day.”

Anita Faherty, 40, of Huddersfield, took the women’s crown at her third time of asking, finishing in 5 minutes 8 seconds.

She said: “I’ve come second for the last two years so I’m really pleased to have won. It felt tougher this year than ever before.”

The traditional Easter Monday race takes contestants on a 1,100m uphill course from the Royal Oak pub, on Owl Lane, to the Maypole on the village green, on High Street, with sacks of coal on their backs.

There were two men’s races using 50kg sacks this year, to cater for 63 entrants.

And 22 women battled it out in a 20kg race.

Hundreds of children also took part in 100m junior races with smaller sacks of sand.

Gawthorpe Maypole Committee treasurer Susan Walshaw said there would be a special veterans’ race to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the event.

She said: “It was a fabulous turnout this year despite the weather, and it was good to see a lot of families.

“People are already putting their names down for next year’s veterans race.”

The championships were born in 1963 after an argument in the Beehive Inn between coal merchant Reggie Sedgewick and Maypole Committee president Amos Clapham.

A pub-to-pub egg-and-spoon race had previously been held in Gawthorpe on Easter Sunday.