The weird world of cheese-rolling

Cheese rolling event Wikipedia Commons 3

Cheese the day

It’s not every day you see a group of people tumbling down a hill after a wheel of cheese. The cheese-rolling event is not for the faint of heart as it takes “high contact” activity to a whole new meaning. 

The cheese-chasing event on Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester, England, resonates as one of the most unique and dangerous sporting events to ever occur. The annual event occurs near the end of May, where many runners and spectators gather on the grassy slope.

The cheese-run rules are straightforward. Whoever makes it to the bottom the quickest, wins the massive wheel of cheese and, of course, ultimate bragging rights. Runners gather at the top of the hill, where the announcer counts to four. Upon promptly reaching three, the cheese launches down the hill. On four, the runners may commence down the side of the hill.

A mob of runners hurtles down the hill, tripping and rolling as they go. Even the spectators aren’t safe as they border the edges of the hill. On top of many runners’ injuries, many spectators are also injured by out of control, flailing runners. Paramedics are on standby at the bottom of the hill, ready for immediate care for the runners.

Cooper’s Hill is a steep slope that begins with a plunging angle of 70 degrees, then flattens slightly to 50 degrees before becoming utterly horizontal at the bottom of the hill. The length is approximately 250 yards of uneven grassy terrain.  Volunteer rugby players tackle the out-of-control runners at the bottom of the hill before they skid to a stop.

While cheese-rolling seems like a silly event, it does have ceremonial past, dating back over 200 years. The Romans had a fort at the top of the hill and often rolled ceremonial bundles of brushwood down the hill’s side to represent the new year after winter. The Romans were credited for using Cooper’s Hill to their advantage by rolling things down the plummeting slope. Arguably, rolling things down the hill could have been used as a defence mechanism to prevent intruders from reaching the fort. Boulders or a nine-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese hurtling down the pike can do some severe damage. The rotation of cheese can gain up to 110km an hour down the hill. Many spectators have to keep a sharp eye as the bounding cheese will often veer off course right at them.

While the event has caused brutal injuries to the contestants and spectators, nobody has ever died participating in the Cheese run. However, an old folk tale tells of one of the contestants dropping dead at the end of the race. Because such intense injuries have occurred during the cheese-roll, it had been officially banned in 2010. However, local volunteers and lovers of the event have kept it alive.

Despite the event resulting in maiming and multiple casualties, the Cooper Hill Cheese-Roll continues to attract ranges of racers and spectators each year. The event is not for the faint of heart, but the opportunity to win an enormous wheel of cheese proves to encourage runners of all ages.

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