This weekend I probably did the craziest thing in my whole life so far & survived it. Consider rolling down an almost concave hill face inclined more than 1:1 for 200 yards from the top and ending at the bottom in any position, but on two feet. That exactly is what I and almost 75 other people did this weekend. Welcome to the Annual Gloucester Cheese Rolling festival (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooper’s_Hill_Cheese-Rolling_and_Wake) . Every year on spring bank holiday adrenaline junkies from around the world gather on top of Coopers hill with only one purpose, to be the first to get to the bottom. From the top of the hill a 3.5kg round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled, and competitors race down the hill after it. The first person over the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. In theory, competitors are aiming to catch the cheese, however it has around a one second head start and can reach speeds up to 112 km/h, enough to knock over and injure a spectator. Traditionally, the winner of each year’s contest is expected to perform a shirtless victory ascent of Cooper’s Hill where he or she will return the cheese to its ceremonial plinth. This is done in order to symbolize the eternal cycle of man’s creation, release, pursuit and re-capture of his dairy products.
Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling has been summarized as “Twenty young men chase a cheese off a cliff and tumble 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to hospital”. Yet every year thousands of people assemble on the top of the hill for the run and at the bottom of the hill to witness the spectacle. Last year’s count was 15000 souls, people come in from all over the world to participate in the event.
This is not any official race, nobody is responsible for it and everybody in there understands the risks of being there and has come expecting nothing less. A bunch of lovely like minded locals striving to keep the centuries old tradition alive.
There also is a word about how people are trying to ban it for safety reasons, but when I put forth this question to a cop at the event, he says they don’t want to ban it, all they are worried is how to accommodate this many people at the place and to get to the venue in case of emergencies. With an event as crazy, you can be very sure about injuries not being very far, broken bones, dislocated joints, cracks, bruises twisted ankles and more. Even with all that denial there a emergency rescue chopper on standby, 3 fire engines, 2 police cars, 2 ambulances rushed to the spot as soon as an injury was reported.
And none of the participants or the spectators were disappointed at their expectations.
But still each year people turn up at this unique festival and get worked up emotionally each time somebody tries to ban it or any such thing even crops up. There was a huge backlash a couple of years back as people tried to implement 20 pound entry fee.
Apart from all these I believe, things like these are instances that let you realize you are alive. These spikes in adrenaline make you different from the corporate zombies that we are.
What worries me is that at this pace, with people killing traditions in the name of culture & safety and others. We might not just get any opportunities to release our energies and in a couple of decades, the world will be a strictly controlled, tames and boring place to live in where in everybody is confined to live within the confines of the averaging common denominator. There will be no thrills, no achievements, no excitements and nothing different. There might be genuine concerns on safety, animal cruelty and what not but as they say, if you decide on something, you will always find a reason. I just wish we decide to live.
An American Kenny Rackers flew in all the way from the USA just to participate in the event and won the first race taking home the ceremonial Cheese. And I am glad I did the run, may be half hearted & came 4th from the last. 🙂 and got away with just a handful of bruises & a sprained ankle.
Further Details & History : http://www.cheese-rolling.co.uk/index1.htm
(Note: I own none of the images, credits to their respective owners)