The Bed Race Story – Ay’ ‘Oop for t’ ‘Yorkshire’ Theme for the 2019 Great Knaresborough Bed Race


This year’s Great Knaresborough Bed Race, Saturday 8 June 2019

Knaresborough Lions have announced that all plans and preparations are in place for the 54th running of the Great Knaresborough Bed Race, the fabulous mixture of gruelling athletic contest and majestic, if slightly eccentric, pageant held each year through the medieval streets of this Yorkshire market town.

The theme for 2019 is the county of ‘Yorkshire’ itself, with teams taking their cue from God’s own county – wool to cricketers, famous folk to rhubarb and ginger, Hull to Halifax, Dales to Moors, industry to agriculture, mineworking, inventions, music, food, and the exquisite Yorkshire coastline.

Continuity is king when it comes to Bed Race and matters have hardly changed over the past half-century of one of the finest, funniest and fiercest encounters of the annual sporting calendar. And just as the Russians ensured there was no clash with last year’s World Cup, the organisers of football Nations League have arranged games both sides of Bed Race but not on the actual big day. Thanks to them, say the Lions.

Bed Race day will begin from 9 am in the leafy surrounds of Knaresborough Castle where the teams and their beds gather in their full fancy dress finery to be judged for the Best Dressed Bed accolades. Winners will be announced at noon.

Headed by the overall champion, the teams will parade in all their finery from the Castle via the Market Place and down to Conyngham Hall field, setting off at 1 pm.

At Conyngham, the fancy dress and bed decorations will be ruthlessly discarded – no great sensitivity among bed racers – and stripped to racing trim for the race itself, which starts at 3 pm. As always, there will be 90 teams of six runners and a passenger the full permitted race field drawn from 120 entrants.

The race itself is run as time trails with each team going off at intervals of a few seconds. As always, the fastest go first.

The course is over 2.4 miles and takes in parkland, the glories of Waterside, through the Nidd Gorge, up the almost sheer Castle Ings, through the cobbled street of the town, down Bond End to High Bridge, through McIntosh Park, and finishes with a 35-yard swim through the ever icy and fast-flowing waters of the River Nidd.

The fastest complete the course in under 14 minutes, the slowest in little more than twice that time.

It being Yorkshire, the race is fiercely contested. Last year’s fastest team were G H Brooks, followed by Ripon Runners Men and Knaresborough Striders. The fastest women’s team were Ripon Runners Girls, who finished ahead of Welly Wheelettes and Nidd Valley Ladies.

Junior winners were Tewit Youth Band and JP’s Mini Disciples, and Scotton Scorchers were the fastest junior female team. The fastest junior mixed team were Welly Wheelies. Other awards went to fastest mixed team, fastest non-club teams, fastest new team and, amusingly, fastest emergency service team, won by Ripon Fire Station.

The much-sought after crown of Best Dressed Bed went to First Scriven Scouts and the Most Entertaining Team award was captured by the Knaresborough Silver Band. In recognition of their overall contribution over many years in ensuring that Bed Race goes off with a minimum of problems, an award was made to volunteer communications group, Raynet.

Bed Race is organised by volunteers from the Knaresborough Lions Club and provides a vehicle for money to be raised for charity and good causes. It costs about £30,000 for the event to be staged, which involves road closures, traffic management, crowd barriers, licenses, printing, signage, hire of equipment and materials. Lions look to cover these costs through sponsorship, advertising in and sales of a printed event Programme, team entry fees, and income from spectators entering Conyngham Hall fields (by programme or £2 per adult) plus other charitable contributions.

Money raised over and above costs goes to Lions charities, a minimum of 80 per cent of which is donated to local good causes.

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.

Apart from the 630 runners and riders, there are hundreds more parading, 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 34 Knaresborough Lions.


Knaresborough Lion’s organising committee chair, Richard Hall, 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 businesses.

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


  • First staged in 1966
  • The first Bed Race was held in 1966 and was fated to be run in stormy weather. Nevertheless, the organisers recognised that they were onto a successful idea, which matched perfectly the up-and-down terrain of Knaresborough, its swimmable river and the layout of its medieval streets.
  • By the early 1970s, the idea of adding the extra competitive element of decorating the beds and the runners had emerged. Difficult weather conditions have occurred from time -to-time, but the event has never been cancelled – come hell or high water!
  • From the early days, teams of US servicemen from Menwith Hill and Germans from the Knaresborough twin town, Bebra, have taken part. This has helped spread the concept of racing beds internationally. Today, there are now scores of bed races in North America, Europe, South Africa, Asia and Australasia. In 2012, Knaresborough Lions helped a group establish a bed race in Auckland, New Zealand and in 2016 in Western Australia.

Richard Hall, 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 25 years ago.

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.

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.

Results from 2018

  • Fastest Team G H Brooks
  • Fastest Female Team Ripon Runners Girls
  • Fastest Mixed Flying Pullman
  • Fastest non-club Male Team Half Moon
  • Fastest non-club Female Welly Wheelettes
  • Fastest New Team Ripon Fire Station
  • Fastest Junior Male Tewitt Youth Band and JP’s Mini Disciples
  • Fastest Junior Mixed Welly Wheelies
  • Best Dressed Bed First Scriven Scouts
  • Most Entertaining Team Knaresborough Silver Band

Further details are available on

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