When you’ve finished cutting the grass on a balmy summer’s day, does a part of you just want to keep going? And when you step on the gas to drive your lawnmower back into the garage, does it rev a little harder than usual, as though it wants more?
If so, you and your mower might consider competing in next year’s “12 Hour Endurance Race,” an annual extravaganza in which lawnmowers show their speed and humans prove their gumption. The most recent one happened just this past weekend, on August 12, in West Sussex, England.
The 12 Hour Endurance Race is the flagship event of of the British Lawn Mower Racing Association (motto: Per Herbam Ad Astra, or “To the Stars Through Grass”).
As they detail on their website, the BLMRA was born in 1973, when a rally car racer named Jim Gavin grew tired of athletic commercialism and decided to invent a motor sport that would be immune to sponsorship. Forty-four years later, they host a series of races every summer, all over the United Kingdom.
Unlike other lawnmower-loving speedsters, BLMRA members are not permitted to modify their vehicles’ engines. They can change the gearing, though, and a skilled driver on a good machine can reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour. (Before you ask, the blades are also removed.)
This year’s Endurance Race drew around 50 teams, which first had to prove their worth with a few speed laps along the twisting dirt track. Those who qualified then rumbled from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., counting laps as they went.
Some elements of the competition—the decorated helmets; the ever-ready pit crews; the colorful trackside commentary—will be familiar to anyone who has taken in a more traditional car race.
Others are more unique. After a few rainy days, the track was “quite soft, [and] covered with a lot of actual grass,” as commentator Jake Sanson put it. A lot of the racers got some pretty good air. The winning team—“Northerners Kick Grass,” who brought home their fifth consecutive trophy—completed 363 laps over the course of the race, totaling about 318 miles.
But the best summation of what makes all this special came just before the start, as one of the racers waxed poetic to Sanson. After describing the dirt and the noisy atmosphere, he backtracked briefly. “I mean, you know,” he said. “They’re just lawnmowers.”
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