The Great Knaresborough Bed Race 2019
Nerves jangling, excitement brewing, hysteria spreading. There’s only one event that can bring about this accumulation of emotion; The Great Knaresborough Bed Race!
On the 8th June 2019 Knaresborough welcomed back the annual Bed Race in which 90 enthusiastic (and a little bit crazy!) teams readied themselves for 15-30 minutes of blood, sweat and tears. Each team consists of 6 runners and a passenger who sits on the top of the bed. The teams follow a marked-out 2.4-mile course through the market town along varying terrain from road to grassland to cobblestones; which isn’t comfortable for the passenger on top I can assure you.
The origin story of the Knaresborough Bed Race begins in 1966. A newly formed charity group called The Knaresborough Round Table were looking to create a charity fund raising event that got the whole town involved. After many discussions, they decided on a time trial across the town that involved pushing beds from start to finish whilst incorporating a 20-yard swim across the River Nidd to conclude. Miserable weather meant that in its first year only four teams entered the competition and a disappointing number of spectators turned up. This was a huge contrast to the year after where great weather saw 10,000 people come to support the 21 teams in the competition. Thus, The Great Knaresborough Bed Race was born!
The 1990’s saw a change of organisation for the Bed Race as due to falling membership, the Knaresborough Round Table sought out help from another organisation. The Knaresborough Lions Club became joint arrangers in 1993 and eventually took over the whole event from 1998. All the members of the Lions are volunteers who, like their predecessors, stage the event for charity. They have a policy where at least 80% of money raised goes to local causes. It is thought that the total raised for various charities each year is between £80,000 and £100,000.
Since its formation, the course has remained relatively unaltered with it starting and ending at Conyngham Hall. To begin, the teams must push their beds up a steep bank which is a tough challenge. Runners continue to the picturesque Waterside and then through Nidd Gorge. Once the scenic part of the route has concluded, teams must then face the dreaded steep incline of Castle Ings Road. After reaching the top, participants get a little respite when going around the level but cobbled streets of the Marketplace, then down the High Street and Bond End, and across High Bridge. The last stretch is along a path through McIntosh Park before the infamous 20-yard swim across the River Nidd. Only twice has the river cross had to be cancelled. Torrential rain in 1972 and 1998 caused flooding to the river deeming the crossing unsafe. But as can be expected the determination of organisers and participants alike resulted in the Bed Race going ahead anyway.
As has become customary to The Knaresborough Bed Race, the 90 teams involved must dress their beds in designs relating to the theme decided by the organisers of the event, The Knaresborough Lions. Last December, it was decided that the theme for the day would be “Yorkshire” as the Bed Race epitomises the determination and never give up attitude of the Yorkshire people. On the morning of the event the beds must gather at the Knaresborough Castle grounds where they will be judged for design and decoration. The winner of the esteemed “Best Dressed Bed” accolade is announced, and the winning bed are given the honours of leading the beds in a parade through the town. It wasn’t until the eighth Bed Race in 1973 that saw the creation of the award for the best dressed bed but nowadays, because the designs have become so creative, there are first, second and third place prizes as well. The beds are accompanied by music from local bands, marching and drumming as they walk down to Conyngham Hall to strip down the decorations in preparation for the main event.
The Bed Race has attracted international interest as well as national. Our twin town in Germany, Bebra, first took part in 1975 and have sent a team across ever since. The acclaimed event has also had various TV appearances throughout the years. The Bed Race was featured on the ITV programme ‘Game for a Laugh’ in 1981, BBC’s ‘Duncan Dares’ in the late 1980s show and in 1990, Roy Castle turned up to film the race for his BBC TV programme Record Breakers. Channel Four’s ‘The Big Breakfast’ also gave the race a mention in 1993.
This year’s event saw some of the worst weather conditions in quite some time. Nowadays the event has grown so big that organisers do whatever they can to ensure that the show goes on. Come rain or shine, the race will start at around 3pm where teams set off one at a time at 10 second intervals to avoid congestion. Despite the downpour however, the people of Knaresborough didn’t let it dampen their spirits and the great turnout showed just how important the Bed Race is to the county of North Yorkshire. Whilst the rain was pouring down over the castle courtyard, I spoke to a runner called Darren from team Six Pack (bed number 22). After finding out that this would be his 8th Bed Race, I asked if he thought the rain would have a significant impact. Darren said “It shouldn’t make that much of a difference I don’t think. The only place where I think it may become an issue is when entering and exiting the river where the muddy banks will become very slippy. Other than that, it’ll be quite refreshing having the rain to cool us down for once instead of running in the boiling heat!”. It’s great to see people finding the positives in what were quite frankly terrible weather conditions.
Even with the poor weather conditions the winning team, GH Brooks, still came through with an incredible time of 13:40.9; about 1 minute ahead of second place! No matter where the teams finished or whatever time they got, they should all be extremely proud of themselves. The Bed Race isn’t easy in the best of conditions so to see the determination out on display today was impressive to say the least.
This year people really embraced the theme of Yorkshire. We had everything from farmers to miners to monks and even vampires from Whitby. Congratulations to Richard Taylor Runner’s for winning the best dressed bed and a big thanks to everyone who really outdid themselves this year and helped make the day as brilliant as it could possibly be.
Lastly, a huge congratulations to everyone involved in the 54th Great Knaresborough Bed Race this year. From The Lions for organising the event to the participants for completing the gruelling race and to you, the spectators, for making the day all worthwhile. The people of Knaresborough have spoken; we’re going to need more than torrential rain to stop us!
We took over 4,000 photos on the day! If you’d like to look at a selection of the best from the day, check out our photo gallery!
The Great Knaresborough Bed Race 2019
article by Harvey Burton
video by Elliotte Jordan