'Ready, Steady, Slow' and off they go! You've heard of car races, horse races, maybe even camel races....but how about a race featuring one of the planet's slowest creatures - Snails! Can these slimy slugs 'move at a snail's pace' and still compete against one another?
Well anything is possible if you set your mind to it - Just ask Tom Elwes who has been hosting the World Snail Racing Championships in Norfolk, England since the 1960's. Since then, all sorts of snail races have been organized and 'speed' records set. But how does one race, snails?
The snails are set in the middle of a circular track. From there, the first snail to inch towards the perimeter of the 13 to 14 inch circle wins. Contestants are painted with numbers or given little marathon-like runner tags to tell them apart.
This year's World Championship Snail Race, held on July 18th, was won by a speedy snail named Sidney, who finished the entire course in 3 min 41secs. While the Speedy Gonzalez gastropod left the rest of its competitors in the dust, he was unable to break the 1995 record set by a snail called Archie, who completed the same course in 2 minutes flat!
However, Claire Lawrence, its trainer/owner did not care - She was proud of her little pet, rewarding him with some well-deserved lettuce, crisped to perfection.
While all snails can be raced, the most popular 'competitors' are the common snails, Helix Aspersa. Originally native to Europe, they can now be found all over the world. Don't want to travel all the way to North England to race your snail? No worries - Just organize your own.
Simply create your own 'race track' on a poster board. Then look for some competitors in your backyard and mark each one so that they can be easily distinguished. Place each snail in the middle, and see who makes it to the edge first! And remember, after you're done, release them back into the garden and let them continue their life peacefully at . . A snail's pace!
sources: bbc.co.uk, snailracing.net,wikipedia.org