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In This English Countryside Race, the Winner Takes the … Cheese

“Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!” hundreds of people chanted at the top of their lungs.

An eight-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese flew down a hill. Seconds later, a cascade of two dozen people tumbled after it. The first person to reach the bottom of the hill, which is so steep that it is almost impossible to remain standing while sprinting down it, wins.

The cheese-chasing contest, one of the most peculiar traditions in England, if not the world, dates to at least the early 1800s, according to local lore. Though it’s unclear why the race started — some say it had to do with grazing rights on the land, or a fertility ritual — today, people come from around the world to see or participate in the event themselves.

Thousands showed up to Cooper’s Hill in southwestern England to watch on Monday, undeterred after the local authorities deemed the event unsafe for competitors and spectators alike. The winners hailed from as close as Gloucestershire and as far away as Germany, the United States and Australia.

The race draws spectators from around the world.Credit…Craig Bernard for The New York Times

Dylan Twiss, a 25-year-old from Perth, Australia, who won one of the races, said that as soon as he realized he would be in England when the competition took place, he knew he had to compete. “I said, ‘All right, I’m going, and I’m winning it,’” he said.

At the top of the 200-yard hill, said Mr. Twiss, an outdoors instructor, he tried to stay relaxed. As soon as the race began, he was “literally just rolling with it,” running and tumbling as fast as he could. “I’ve got a gash on the knee, but that is a small price to pay,” he said, holding the prize: a large wheel of Double Gloucester.

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