The reindeer derby: a race across the Arctic Circle

This week, they’re working in tandem but from November to April, the reindeer of northern Finland also compete for the title of Reindeer King

Sports the Olympics Forgot – The Skipping Games

This is an excerpt from the Skipping Games story in the book, Sports the Olympics Forgot

The Skipping Games take place in Skipton on the last Saturday of September. As the name suggests all the events require the contestant to skip rope during the race. The rope must be in use at all times and can never be carried otherwise the contestant will be disqualified.

The Skipping Games began in 1894 when one of the local worm-charmers, Agnes Smith, devised a technique for bringing worms to the surface of her fields by dancing on the spot using a skipping rope to keep a steady beat on the ground with her feet. This was quite a tiring exercise and she used to train by running around the field, skipping as she went. Her two sisters, Anne and Bronwen, used to try to keep up with her and soon a competitive edge was introduced when their father, Herbert, declared that the fastest sister over a 100-yard race would win a pint of best Yorkshire bitter. Anne won the race in 13.6 seconds and that night downed the prize in one go. Her father also had a few pints to drink and by the end of the evening had challenged all comers to a racing contest in his top field the following weekend.

So began the Skipton Skipping Contest.

Argentina still sets the heart – and engine – racing for Emilio Scotto

The adventurer is Guinness world record holder for longest journey by motorbike but loves his home country’s wild spaces as much as anywhere he has visited

The Tunisian Oasis Race – Sports the Olympics Forgot

One of the world’s most gruelling races takes place in the Tunisia desert in June of each year. The official name is the Tunisian Oasis Race although it’s also known as the Tunisian Desert Classic and The World’s Hardest Triathlon. It’s loosely based on an epic Saharan escape behind enemy lines by a British soldier during WWII.

Quite simply, contestants in the race must make their way through 80 miles of desert between Tatouine and Houmt Souk on the island of Djerba. Competitors carry a bicycle in case there’s any terrain where they can ride without sinking in the sand.  There are no refreshments available on the course so the competitors have to climb coconut palms and hack down the fruit, which will provide them with much needed liquid. No running can take place on a tarmac’ed road or the contestant will be disqualified.

Contestants set out at dawn and head northwards from Tatouine towards the Sebkhet el Melah, a large salt sea, where competitors can sometimes use their bikes to ride across the salt-crusted ground. Once the salt sea ends, the racers head to the Mediterranean coast and then swim over to the island of Djerba before running to Houmt Souk. On land the route is marked by a red camel on a black background and inflatable red camels ten yards apart mark the safe swimming channel for the athletes in the Mediterranean.

Sports the Olympics Forgot – Pyramid Racing

This is an excerpt from the Pyramid Racing story in the book, Sports the Olympics Forgot

A basic pyramid race comprises four racers, one for each of the edges. The idea is that the contestants start the race 50 yards from their corner of the pyramid. They stand by an empty plinth and wait for the Starting Judge to wave the Wand of Osiris. Once this happens, they make their way to the top of the pyramid, collect an image of Thoth from a judge wearing an ibis mask, who stands on the capstone, and then descend to the bottom.

The winner is the person who first places the image of Thoth on their plinth.

Mountain Bike Chariot Racing

This event belongs in my book 40 Humourous British Traditions – except this event is real as can be seen in the following video:

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/video/2014/jan/14/world-mountain-bike-chariot-racing-championships-video