In this race in the English countryside, the winner gets the… cheese

“Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!” hundreds of people sang at the top of their lungs.

An eight-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese flew down a hill. Seconds later, a waterfall of two dozen people fell behind it. The first person to reach the bottom of the hill, which is so steep that it's nearly impossible to stay upright while running down, wins.

The cheese hunting competition, one of the most distinctive traditions in England, if not the world, dates back to at least the early 1800s, according to local lore. While it's unclear why the race began (some say it had to do with grazing rights on the land or a fertility ritual), today people come from all over the world to see or personally participate in the race. 'event.

Thousands turned out at Cooper's Hill in southwest England to watch the event on Monday, undeterred after local authorities deemed the event unsafe for both competitors and spectators. The winners came from as far away as Gloucestershire, Germany, the United States and Australia.

Dylan Twiss, a 25-year-old from Perth, Australia, who won one of the competitions, said that as soon as he realized he would be in England when the competition took place, he knew he had to compete. “I said, 'Okay, I'm going and I'm winning it,'” he said.

At the top of the 200-meter hill, said Mr. Twiss, an outdoor instructor, he tried to stay relaxed. As soon as the race started, he was “literally just rolling with it,” running and falling as fast as he could. “I've got a gash on my knee, but it's a small price to pay,” he said, holding the prize: a big wheel from Double Gloucester.

Before the first race it started to rain and the crowd started to get agitated. “Put down the umbrellas!” shouted spectators, using the popular British term for umbrellas, frustrated that their view of Cooper's Hill was blocked.

The rain, though brief, may have turned out to be a blessing. A volunteer paramedic said he had made the ground much softer and therefore safer for those who rushed down. In rainless years, he said, he usually “runs around like a headless chicken” to provide medical care to contestants.

It's unclear whether anyone has been seriously injured this year, although there have been many bumps and bruises. Two men limped down the hill, clutching their ribs, and at least one person said they went to hospital.

Last year, one of the winners, Delaney Irving of Canada, passed out shortly before crossing the finish line. In 1997, more than 30 people had to be treated by paramedics, according to local news outlet Gloucestershire Live.

Attendees couldn't say they hadn't been warned: before the event, Arman Mathieson, assistant chief constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary, advised those attending or watching to “consider the risk”.

The race does not require any form of registration or waivers. There were three men's and one women's races, with around 25 people each, as well as an uphill race for children and another for adults. To compete, participants simply need to show up at the top of the hill and make their way to the starting line.

Lewis Graves, a police officer who finished in the top five of one of the men's races, was covered in mud and had blood running down his knee after the race. He ran for the first few seconds and then rolled down most of the hill.

“As soon as you start moving, you don't stop,” said Mr. Graves, 24, who lives about two hours away. He ignored every warning about the risks. “I know what I was getting into,” he said, though he added that he probably wouldn't compete again.

The spectators were fascinated by the scene. “It's really crazy,” said James Collins, a photographer who had come to watch the race out of curiosity.

“I just wanted to see people throw themselves down a hill,” said another spectator, Vega Salsbury, 19. “Looking at her now, she is so steep.”

One of the winners, Abby Lampe, a financial services consultant in Raleigh, North Carolina, won her second title, having won two years ago. She (she missed last year because of a Taylor Swift concert.) Luckily, she didn't suffer any serious injuries during the race.

“It went as well as it could,” said Ms. Lampe, 23. “I wanted to do it again, to defend the title, to bring it back to the United States”

As for his trophy? She said he would put it in his carry-on and keep it in the refrigerator. He'll go under what's left of his 2022 prize, another wheel of Double Gloucester cheese.

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