IT'S a unique event in Scotland that has tested the strength and endurance of competitors and put a West Fife village in the spotlight.

For 21 years, it provided a modern, if bizarre, link to its rich heritage and affiliation to the pits – and this year, it's back.

Plans have been announced that the Scottish Coal Carrying Championships, which were first held in Kelty in 1995, will return for the first time in six years this August.

Organised by Michael Boyle, the event is one of only two known coal races in the world - the other, the World Coal Carrying Championships, takes place in Gawthorpe, West Yorkshire - and, COVID-19 permitting, will be held on August 28.

Held over 1,000 metres through Oakfield Street and Main Street, competitors - which in the past have included MSP and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie - carry a 50kg bag of coal on their backs in the men's race, and a 25kg bag in the ladies' event.

Recognised by the Scottish Parliament in 2013, the "true test of both athleticism and endurance" comprises a course on both an incline and flat, which many of those taking part have failed to complete down the years.

After the last race in 2015, a lack of sponsorship in the following four years, and the outbreak of the pandemic 12 months ago, saw it fail to go ahead but Michael has been thrilled by social media interest since confirming it would be back.

And he has also secured celebrity endorsement, with everyone's favourite fox, Basil Brush, giving his backing in a video message before beginning his own training for the race.

There are already at least 21 entries between the men's and women's races and Michael is hopeful that the interest will help raise vital funds and sponsorship that will enable it to go ahead this year and beyond.

"Willie was phenomenal; he was fifth one year. He said he's got a bad back because of it but I've told him time and time again there's no compensation getting paid out to him!," he laughed.

"The coal race is meant to be quirky, it's meant to be fun, it's meant to be odd.

"It's one of the odd events in an events calendar anywhere; it's up there with bog snorkelling and cheddar cheese rolling.

"It's got that USP (unique selling point) that folk will go, there's no Covid, it's a Saturday, I'm going to see this thing and see what it's all about.

"I think it will go back with a bang."

As well as men's and women's races, there will also be events for kids, mascots, stalls and entertainment, while medals will presented near Kelty Community Centre on Bath Street.

Organisers are also holding outdoor bootcamps – including shuttle running and core work – to prepare anyone brave enough to take part, but also to encourage people within the community to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

"I've already had two sponsors approach us already on the news saying they want to help, and it's probably that community spirit that surrounds Kelty and West Fife I might say that makes it special for me," Michael continued.

"When I hear that people want to help, that drives us on to make it bigger and better as an event.

"We had 21 good years, so it's really nice for folk to back us, but we want that sustainability built in so we're not pleading with people for money every year. It should come naturally.

"We don't want to be in the position of it being stop-start."

A crowdfunding page set up on Friday has already raised £185, and can be accessed at

For more information on the event, find the Scottish Coal Carrying Championships on Facebook, or visit