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Holey Swiss: Man Breaks Record in British Downhill Cheese Race

cheese
The champion cheese chaser, brie-umphant. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Some heroes wear capes. Others fling themselves down hills in pursuit of an 8-pound wheel of cheese.

As the BBC reports, a British man has set a record for the most cheeses won in the annual downhill cheese chase that takes place in the English county of Gloucestershire. Chris Anderson has won 22 races in the past 14 years; this year, he won the first and third of the three men’s races.

Anderson said his strategy was to “just run and try and stay on your feet,” according to the Press AssociationFor his efforts, he will get to take home the double Gloucester cheeses that he successfully chased.

Unfortunately, Anderson only likes cheddar.

It is not entirely clear when Gloucestershire’s unusual sporting event, which takes place in the village of Brockworth, first began. According to journalist Fraser McAlpine, the tradition could go back as far as the 15th century, possibly evolving from a “Beltane-style ritual of rolling burning bundles of wood.” In a 2014 article, the BBC reported that the earliest reference to the race was found in an 1826 message to the Gloucester Town Crier, but it seems to have been an established tradition by that point.

The rules of the game are simple: participants must chase a ball of cheese down Cooper’s Hill, which is so steep that it’s practically impossible to run down without tumbling over.

And tumble the contestants do. In 1997, a record 33 participants were injured—some even broke bones. Over his storied athletic career, Anderson has broken his ankle and bruised his kidneys.

cheese
Can you chase a ball of cheese down Cooper’s Hill? (Public Domain)

In 2010, officials cancelled the race due to safety concerns, but rogue fromage fiends have continued to stage the event regardless. The BBC reports that “thousands of spectators” turned out to watch the most recent installment of the games.

This year, the race got dirty—and even weirder than usual. ”[T]he kid next to me was pulling my shirt all the way down,” Anderson told British media. His spotlight was also threatened by an Australian who showed up to the race wearing nothing but a swimsuit stamped with the words “budgie smuggler.”

But ultimately, Anderson prevailed. “I’ve got nothing to prove now,” he said of his record-breaking win, according to the BBC. “I’m happy.”

SMITHSONIAN.COM
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