The Great Knaresborough Bed Race of 2019

The annual Great Knaresborough Bed Race was held a few weeks ago in England.  As usual, a lot of fun was had by all.

The event was born out of the enthusiasm of the newly-formed Knaresborough Round Table in 1966, an organisation looking for a major charity fund-raising push. They came up with the idea of a time-trial in which teams would follow a pre-determined course pushing beds around the town.

It could have been a chariot race, a tug-o-war, a raft race on the river, a soap box derby or any of a hundred other ideas. But they plumped for a bed race, and somehow that unique combination with Knaresborough’s almost perpendicular climbs and cobbled streets, the swim across the Nidd and the fancy dress pageant have worked together to make this such a huge and successful community event.

. . .

The teams gather at Knaresborough Castle on the morning of bed race day to be judged for the ‘Best Dressed Team’ accolade. So good have the designs become that in addition to first, second and third positions, others win special commendations for their endeavours.

From 1 pm, led by the winning decorated team, the teams parade in all their finery through the medieval streets of Knaresborough to Conyngham Hall. Each team is allowed up to 20 supporters to parade with them also wearing in fancy dress, and this is often the first Bed Race experience for many youngsters. Making up the parade are marching bands, troubadours, dance groups and others. Awards are made for the Most Entertaining Teams.

At Conyngham Hall Field the decorations are stripped and the teams prepare for the race itself. The Knaresborough Lions make an estimation of who is fittest, based on past year results, and the teams go off in race order with the fastest first in gaps of about 10 seconds.

The course is wonderful and, apart from one stretch down an almost vertical drop now deemed too dangerous, follows exactly the same course as that in 1966. The course is challenging and hard.

It takes the teams up a steep grassy bank and through parkland, along the scenic Waterside. Then they pass through the dramatic Nidd Gorge, up the steep Castle Ings, around the cobbled stones of the Marketplace, down the High Street and Bond End, and across High Bridge. The last stretch is on the rough ground of McIntosh Park before the notorious 20-yard swim across the fast-flowing Nidd.

There is no doubt that the real hero of Bed Race is the dramatic topography of Knaresborough itself.

The fastest teams do the course in around 14-minutes, sometimes quicker, and the slowest come in well under 30 minutes. Runners have to fit, fanatical and frankly a bit mad, while the passengers have to be light, be good swimmers and be able to shout loudly!

There’s more at the link.  Here’s the official video from race day.

Of course, Knaresborough isn’t only known for the Bed Race.  Like Scarborough, it’s been immortalized in song.

Now, if the song had been written about a woman in the Bed Race, floating past underneath the bridge . . .



  1. Hehehe, interesting… There is also a bed race in Honolulu, but that one is on regular streets, and the scenery is 'really' good there. 🙂

  2. A sign that there's still greatness left in British civilization. Part of being a great civilization is to be absolutely silly because you can. You know, when you're not busy conquering and junk.

  3. Silliness in a good cause is always fun. Absolute silliness is absolutely fun. Does that explain the Germans? 🙂

    We had a similar race/drinking contest for charity in college, until it was stopped by administration for badthink. Aside from a handful of serious runners with high-functioning livers, most of the contestants were dressed like this or odder. Since this was usually (snicker) the first warm weekend of spring, costumes could get … interesting. All in the interest of fun and charity.

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