COAL-CARRYING councillor Willie Sullivan had his training schedule for a showdown race against a political foe interrupted - when a thief nicked his bag of coal.

The 50 kilo sack had been left on a quiet country road while the Labour councillor went back to get his car and a mysterious white van man sped off with it.

The 43-year-old Labour councillor is working hard ahead of the Scottish coal carrying championship race in Kelty later this month and has been out on the roads in preparation.

He is set to come up against Lib Dem MP Willie Rennie, who has already finished the race on two occasions and so is extra eager to put up a good show.

However, a recent training session came to an abrupt end when his heavy duty load was swiped by a light-fingered opportunist, who obviously thought his luck was in when he came across the full bag of coal lying abandoned in the middle of nowhere.

The Dunfermline councillor said, 'I"ve been running on the back road to Saline which is uphill and I had measured out a kilometre course.

'I ran with the coal, put it down then went back for my car and drove up to get the bag.

'When I got there, a white van came screeching around the corner and I thought he was going a bit fast for a wee back road.

'Then I realised why - he was away with the bag of coal! Luckily my mate"s a coal man so he was able to provide me with another bag.' Councillor Sullivan said, 'Willie Rennie has given me a few tips about how to prepare for the race but I"m not sure if they were meant to help or hinder me.

'Anyway he"s agreed to sponsor me and will double his money if I beat his best time.' Willie Rennie inflicted a huge political blow on the Labour Party when he won the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election and believes he can make it a double on the streets of Kelty.

He has already taken part in two Kelty races finishing second in 2003 and third in 2006.

'I"m hoping to take part again this year and make sure Labour don"t win it,' said the MP.

'I"m sponsoring Willie Sullivan and have been happy to give him some advice. The main thing is to keep a steady pace. Some people will rush off at the start but before long you see them starting to wobble, their legs go and they end up falling over.

'You have to keep going at a steady pace, concentrate on keeping balance and make sure you don"t trip over anything. Your head"s down so you can"t really see where you"re going.

'I jiggered my back training at Lochore Meadows one time. I lost the balance and I felt my back go. You have to be careful when you"ve got a hundredweight of coal on your back.' Willie Sullivan added, 'With politicians so unpopular at the moment this is an ideal opportunity to make your local councillor suffer while also making a contribution to very good local work carried out here in Dunfermline.

'Home Start train volunteers who have been parents to befriend and work with other parents who need support so that the children get the best possible family life.' The race, over a kilometre undulating course, takes place on Saturday 27th June. Competitors have come from as far off as the USA and Canada for previous races.