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American Big Cheese Wins Ancient Race, Inspires A Million
An American in full Stars and Stripes costume has defeated all-comers in one of Britain's oldest and weirdest sporting contests. Kenny Rackers, 27, a realtor from Colorado Springs, CO, has won the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake (otherwise known as the Gloucester Cheese-Rolling), held May 27, 2013. He tells The American how he did it – and about the big idea that inspired him. And there's more on the history of this amazing race after our chat with Kenny.
I didn't suffer too many – just a little sore, I guess.
How did you know about the race?
I first heard about it when I was doing a school project when I was in college about six years ago [Kenny attended the Military Academy at West Point] and I heard it was the craziest race in the world. I put it on my bucket list – not just to participate but to win it.
And you did win, by a mile – not just the downhill race but then the uphill one as well. How did you win so easily?
Mostly because I trained very hard. I also did some practise runs before the race.
Have you ever done anything similar?
No, but I've played a lot of sports – I've played American Football, ran track & field, and other than that I'm a skier. I never ran up and down hills before this!
Have you visited England before?
No, never. But I got to spend the day after the race in London, see the sights and went to a music concert. It was a good time – minus the weather, it was raining all day. I went to England, some 4,000 miles, specially to do the race.
What did you win in the race?
I won the Double Gloucester cheese, which is an eight or nine pound cheese. I got to take it home, but they lost my bags and I haven't got it back yet – I'm a little worried about Customs!
I hope they don't blow it up at the airport.
Yeah the goal is to bring the cheese back to America and have a big party for all of my fans and supporters.
What inspired you to attempt this crazy race?
I have a project, One In A Million, that's about inspiring one million people worldwide to pursue their dreams. You can find our about it at my website (americancheeseracer.com)and Facebook page (facebook.com/americancheeseracer). I'm filming a documentary about it (www.youtube.com).
You won the uphill race by a considerable margin too – was that harder?
It's more gruelling, it makes your legs burn, but I was confident because I've been a very good athlete my entire my life and I knew especially I was in control of that race. I didn't really give anybody a chance in the uphill race because I had trained so hard. I live in Colorado at high elevation, in the Rocky Mountains, and for practise I ran up and down ski slopes. I knew most people wouldn't be practising like I was. I watched all the videos I could and tried to figure out the times I needed to run for my goals. I'm 100 percent confident that at least in the last ten years no-one has run uphill that fast. Actually I ran faster times when I was by myself than in the races.
Will you defend your title?
I'd love to. At this point I'm continuing work on my documentary about inspiring one million people, and I'm going to celebrate the win and think about it. [If Kenny does decide to come back and defend his crown, The American will let you know beforehand.]
I met a lot of great people. I didn't think the local people would be so supportive of me – to them I was probably another 'loud American', I was never rude, but I have 'American' red, white and blue hair and wore American clothing. Everywhere I went people wished me luck, except right at the beginning of the race when a lot of my fellow competitors were like, “You have no chance, American!” I knew they were wrong, shook their hands, wished them luck and let my actions do the talking! It was amazing to have all the local support. And surprisingly there were at least 200 Americans there – I pretty much shook all their hands.
More about the the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake
This historic event (www.cheese-rolling.co.uk) was, until the 1970s, a local affair, until Irish comedian Dave Allen featured it on his British TV show. It is an ancient tradition, with known history back to at least the fifteenth century and possibly emanating from a pagan fertility rite. A large round Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down a hill so steep that it is said no-one can run down it without falling. Women, men, girls and boys compete for it in a variety of races. Cooper's Hill is outside the village of Brockworth, near Gloucester in the Cotswolds region of England.
In 2013 the competitors chased after a foam copy of the heavyweight cheese in an effort to make the event safer. A local police inspector warned Diana Smart, the 86 year-old cheese maker, that she could be held responsible for any injuries sustained in the races and the Chief Superintendent of Gloucestershire Police added, "If you are an organiser in some way or some capacity you could potentially be held liable for something that took place at that event." Luckily – and pluckily – the competitors and organisers carried on regardless.