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Stand by for the 2016 Great Knaresborough Bed Race

This year’s Great Knaresborough Bed Race will take place on Saturday 11 June 2016 with the theme ‘Cities of the World’

Preparations have been completed for the staging of the 51st Great Knaresborough Bed Race, the mother of all bed races, which will be held on Saturday 11 June. Countdown begins at around 9 am as the beds gather in the leafy grounds of Knaresborough Castle and are dressed in all of their in this year’s theme ‘Cities of the World’.

By midday the judging for the Best Dressed Bed award will have been finished and the 2016 winners announced. Headed by the team judged Best Dressed Bad, the 90 teams will start the Parade from the Castle, to the Market Place, down High Street and Bond End and into Conyngham Hall fields.

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Here, the beds are stripped to racing trim and the teams of six runners and passenger discard their fancy dress for the main event. Teams set off at 10-second intervals from Conyngham Hall to charge around the 2.4 mile course. This takes them through the Conyngham parkland, onto Waterside and through the Nidd Gorge.

Next is the steep ascent up Castle Ings, around the Market Place, down High Street, Bond End and across High Bridge. They proceed at pace through McIntosh Fields before the final act: the 35 yard swim through the icy River Nidd, runners, passengers, beds and all. The fastest complete the course in under 14-minutes, the slowest in little more than twice that time.

Knaresborough Bed Race

It being Yorkshire, the race is fiercely contested. Last year’s fastest team, Planet Steel, edged out second-placed Harrogate Harriers by 0.3 of a second. Everyone has someone to beat, even if it is they themselves by besting their previous year’s time.

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Bed Race is charity time

Bed Race is organised by volunteers from the Knaresborough Lions Club, competed in by amateurs and provides a vehicle for money to be raised for charity and good causes.

It costs about £20,000 for the event to be staged, which involves road closures, traffic management, crowd barriers, licenses, the printing of the programme, signage, hire of equipment and materials. Lions look to cover these costs through sponsorship, advertising in and sales of the programme, team entry fees, and income from spectators entering Conyngham Hall fields (by programme or £2 per adult). Money raised over and above costs goes to Lions charities, a minimum of 80 per cent of which is donated to local good causes. (See below for typical Lions-supported activities in 2015/2016.)

Teams use the event to raise money for their own charities. Local groups assist with marshalling from which they receive a stipend, and run stalls at the event to raise funds. Through all groups it is hoped that a total of £100,000 is raised for charity.

Apart from the 630 runners and riders, there are hundreds more paraders, young and old, supporting the teams, as well as dance groups and marching bands. It is believed that another 1,000 people help in decorating the beds and stitching the costumes. Some 250 volunteers turn out to marshal the event and provide other support to the Knaresborough Lions.

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Knaresborough Lion’s organising committee chair, Carole Reid said:

It is a real community effort to organise and participate in the great Knaresborough Bed Race.

It typifies the wonderful spirit in the town and is a massive event for Knaresborough’s town centre businesses.

But the event is also marked by warm and welcoming spectators, who help make this a strong family day for everyone concerned.

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First staged in 1966

The first Bed Race was held in 1966 and was fated to be run in stormy weather. The organisers recognised that they were onto a successful idea, which matched perfectly the up-and-down terrain of Knaresborough and the layout of its medieval streets.

By the early 1970s, the idea of adding the extra contest of decorating the beds and the runners had emerged. Difficult conditions happened again but the event has never been cancelled by wind or rain, although the river crossing has been abandoned twice when the water level swelled to dangerous depths.

From the early days, teams of US servicemen from Menwith Hill and Germans from Bebra, the Knaresborough twin town, have taken part. This has helped spread the concept of racing beds internationally. There are now scores of bed races in North America, Europe, South Africa, Asia and Australasia, and in 2012 Knaresborough Lions helped a group establish a bed race in Auckland, New Zealand.

Carole Reid said:

We don’t know if bed racing started here but it was in Knaresborough that it took off.

Because it has spawned so many other events, it began to be called the Great Knaresborough Bed Race around 20 years ago.

As far as we can, what we have that others don’t is the spectacular topography of Knaresborough itself: the Gorge, the Castle, the steep ascents, cobbled streets and the River Nidd.

The town of Knaresborough is the real hero of Bed Race.

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A striking feature of life in Knaresborough in the months leading up to Bed Race day is the sight of teams running through the town in the evenings and at weekends with their beds, preparing for the momentous challenge of Bed Race.

And if you venture down to Conyngham Hall in May you will chance to see a dedicated team or two merging dripping from the River Nidd after having practiced their technique for the river crossing.

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Results from 2015

  • Fastest Team Planet Steel
  • Fastest Female Team Ripon Runners Girls
  • Fastest Mixed Flying Pullman
  • Fastest non-club Male Team Guardian Alarms
  • Fastest non-club Female Welly Wheelettes
  • Fastest New Team Striders Ladies
  • Fastest Junior Male Harrogate Rugby Racers
  • Fastest Junior Mixed First Scriven Scouts
  • Best Dressed Bed St John’s Juggernauts
  • Most Entertaining Team Knaresborough Silver Band
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