Every year, on Shrove Tuesday, 25 female residents of Olney in Buckinghamshire have run through the streets of their pretty market town with frying pan in hand, tossing pancakes. They run a short course between the Market Place and the parish church and compete to be the fastest and win a kiss for the church’s verger.
The tradition is said to have begun way back in 1445, although there is uncertainty about its origins. Maybe a harassed householder ran with her frying pan to the church to make it in time for the shriving service (where the congregation would be absolved of their sins). Or perhaps someone tried to bribe the church bell-ringer to ring the shriving bell early to bring on the start of the day’s holiday?
The race begins just before midday and the fastest of 25 runners complete the course in less than 60 seconds. Runners are all local women who live in the village. There are children’s races too, plus entertainment, a pancake breakfast and pancake recipe competition.