Retired handyman, 72, crosses World Coal Carrying Championships finish line

Winner David Page, 72 Credit: Dave Higgens/PA

The oldest-ever competitor in the World Coal Carrying Championships was cheered as he carried his 50kg (7st 12lb) load in sweltering conditions for the traditional bank holiday event.

The championships, in the West Yorkshire village of Gawthorpe, were nearly called off last year due to snow.

On Monday, organisers said the 20C (68F) temperatures made it the warmest in the event’s 56-year history.

David Page, 72, was cheered by hundreds of spectators enjoying the sunshine as he completed the 1,108-yard (1,013m) uphill course, with a bag of coal on his shoulders – coming 21st in the veterans’ race.

David Page, 72, (right) after winning the race. Credit: Dave Higgens/PA

Mr Page said: "The drama that unfolds - you can’t make it up.

"It’s fabulous to watch it".

Retired handyman Mr Page, from Wakefield, said he was worried about the temperatures but it ended up not being as warm as he feared.

He said: "Time heals, doesn’t it? I may be back next year, I’ll see.

"I am happy because I was taking over a few people, a few stragglers.

"Usually I’m on my own, isolated."

Chief Marshall Robert Oldroyd said the event - which is sponsored by a local funeral directors - began in 1963 following an argument in a Gawthorpe pub.

Competitors take part in the World Coal Carrying Championships in sweltering conditions in Gawthorpe, West Yorkshire. Credit: PA

The championships take place every Easter Monday.

The men’s, women’s and veteran’s races all start at the Royal Oak pub and then wind up through the village to the maypole, where the competitors dump their bags.

The men’s bags weigh 50kg (7st 12lb) and the women’s 25kg (3st 13lb).

The men’s world record is held by David Jones, who ran the course in four minutes and six seconds in 1991 and again in 1995.

Mr Oldroyd said: "I’ve been doing this for more years than I care to remember, 40 years I’ve been helping out with this, and I’ve never known it this hot.

"Last year it was snowing. We had a snowplough coming into the village."