Unique far northern wheelbarrow race raises substantial funds for charities
The Great Wheelbarrow Race, the iconic athletic event of the year hosted by Mareeba Shire Council, has attracted 250 competitors this year who tested their stamina over the 140 klm gruelling run to the historic mining town of Chillagoe.
The wheelbarrow symbolises miners who pushed their worldly belongings on heavy contraptions through shanty townships dotted with hundreds of mine shafts yielding copper, lead, silver and gold 120 years ago.
Thirty teams left Mareeba Friday morning accompanied by their support crews blessed by Mareeba’s renowned mild May weather and the thermometer hovering around mid-twenties.
The rules of the race stipulate an empty wheelbarrow be pushed along the road between Mareeba and Chillagoe with a maximum of ten team members participating in a relay system.
Substantial prizes are on offer ensuring a competitive spirit among the teams ranging in age from pensioners to high school students. In past events over its 22 year history many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for numerous charities.
Covid took its toll on the event which saw a two year gap, leaving organisers unsure how it would recover, but 2022 generated 30 teams and it came back with a vengeance.
The Bourke Developmental Road route to Chillagoe travels through some beautiful green countryside, vibrant after a long wet season with fat cattle, abundant kangaroos and other wildlife feeding in paddocks along the way.
Seasonal creeks, streams and watercourses are still flowing through the granite hillsides and marble outbreaks, from which small mining operations produce some of the world class monumental marble found in buildings across the country and overseas.
The Wheelbarrow Race looks set to become a major northern event yet again after attracting a team from Nudgee College in Brisbane joining other regional runners from across the north.
Contact Mareeba Shire Council if you would like to create and enter a team to participate in next year’s event.
The country’s longest serving, outspoken federal politician the indefatigable Bob Katter asked for a ride to the mining fields but the girls said he was a handicap because all the other barrows were empty and he would probably talk too much. Bob was a miner and is a great supporter of the Atherton Tablelands and the Kennedy electorate which just re-elected him with an increased margin.