On a hillside near the edge of the Cotswolds, competitors race down 90 yards of steep decline, chasing a delicious wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. This is one of the world’s most absurd displays of sport, and perhaps one of the most dangerous as well. This British springtime passion is notoriously precarious, causing many broken bones. The racers do not so much run down the hill as they do flip, somersault, and tumble across the racing plane, arms outstretched reaching for a fleeting disc of cheese. At the bottom of the hill, human-wranglers attempt to soften the landing of the racing lunatics by catching them. The event is a spectacle. Enthralled spectators travel far and wide to view the rough and tumble start to finish.Rumors abound as to the origins of the strange competition. Some say that it began as a pagan ritual. Others persist that the event has its origins in Roman Times. I do not know the truth about the birthplace of this oddball event, but must say that this festival of the absurd is a sight to behold.
The event takes place annually on the “Late Spring Break Holiday Monday” (last Monday in May) in Gloucester, England. While entrant safety is an issue, the “official” competition was actually canceled last year due to popularity, not injury concerns. The cancellation did little to stop the cheese from rolling as loyal fans and competitors held an “unofficial” event on the last Monday of May. This year’s event has yet to be canceled or announced, but will likely go on, as it has for many many years. This website is a pretty exhaustive resource for all your cheese wheel racing inquiries. To reach the event, travel to Gloucester by train from London.
flickr image via Hauggen