Scarborough coal-carrying champ John Hunter to retire after 32 years in back-breaking sport

John Hunter in action on Monday
John Hunter in action on Monday

He’s a many-times champion in his chosen sporting field ... but now Scarborough’s John Hunter is hanging up his coal sack for good as he retires.

Over Easter, the 55-year-old won yet another title at the World Coal Carrying Championships, held annually at Gawthorpe, near Wakefield. This year, temperatures were the hottest in the event’s 56-year history.

But, of more significance, it was John’s last ever race, as he has bowed out of the sport.

On Easter Monday he came third in the world veterans race in a field of 56, and, to mark his 30 years at the event, was presented with a coal sculpture of four figurines, with a plaque inscribed with “30 Years of Coal Carrying”, and a watercolour painting.

John, of Brigantia Gardens, Crossgates, is a 10 times winner at Gawthorpe – eight in the main race and twice in the veterans, in which he holds the record time.

The self-employed builder has been in the sport for 32 years, starting when Scarborough had its own coal race.

In his 60 races he has won 32 titles.

“I’ve been saying I’ll retire for a while but I wanted to reach the 30 years,” he said.

“I’m officially the world’s best ever coal carrier !”

As well as Gawthorpe, John has competed at various pack-carrying endurance events, including the Army-style Para 10 and Fan Dance; the latter involves scaling Pen-y-Fan, the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons, to a height of 3,000 feet, carrying a 35lb backpack.