World Coal Carrying Championships attract hundreds of runners

Hundreds of people have taken part in the annual World Coal Carrying Championships in West Yorkshire.

The event in Gawthorpe, near Ossett, sees runners haul sacks of coal across a distance of 3,320ft (1,012m).

Gawthorpe Maypole Committee, which organises the championships, said more than 400 people had signed up this year, including 200 children.

Committee president Duncan Smith said: "I love this event because it brings the community together."

Traditionally, men carried 7st 12lb (50kg) sacks of coal and women carried 3st 2lb (20kg) from the Royal Oak pub to the village's Maypole Green.

However, this year Mr Smith said organisers had to make the switch to anthracite coal as house coal was banned from sale for environmental reasons.

Mr Smith said the race, which is held on Easter Monday each year, began as "a bit of banter" between men in a local pub in 1963.

Since then, it has grown in popularity with people from all over the world taking part.

Among those in the crowd this year was Gladiators star Jodie Ounsley, known to fans of the BBC One show as Fury.

She was there in support of her father Phil, a former winner of the men's open race in 2007.

Speaking after the event, he told BBC Look North: "I'd love to say I enjoyed it but I hated every minute of it.

"It was absolutely brutal and I remember now why I hadn't done it in the last 16 years."

Ms Ounsley took part in the children's fun races throughout her childhood but since becoming a professional rugby player, she is no longer allowed to enter.

"Every year I come here itching to run," the 23-year-old said.

"Maybe once I retire from rugby, I'll make my comeback as well and do it with my dad."

This year's women's race was won by Danielle Sidebottom from Dewsbury, who took the title for the third time after completing the course in four minutes 45 seconds.

Andrew Corrigan from Driffield claimed his sixth win in the men's race, finishing in 04:22.

The women's veterans winner was Nicola Marr with a time of 05:19, while men's veterans winner Matthew Gillard crossed the finish line in 05:53.

The oldest contestant was 77-year-old David Page who finished the race to huge applause.

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