Less than half a century ago, the mighty marathon was seen as the ultimate sign of strength and ability – with only the very brave (and fittest!) competing in this test of endurance.
Nowadays, while still a tough distance to complete, marathons are very common events– thousands run them each year, with the millionth runner crossing the London Marathon finishing line in 2016.
So it’s not surprising that an increasing number of runners are taking part in new, bolder challenges, ranging from fell running to endurance races that see people running across deserts in stifling heat for over 150 miles at a time.
But what if you’re done chasing personal bests, or want to take part in a more unusual test of endurance, where the challenge isn’t necessarily just the distance, temperature or altitude, but actually an animal?
Set in what claims to be Britain’s smallest town in the incredibly beautiful and quaint hills of Powys, Wales, is a challenge like no other – one that attracts runners of all ages and abilities from across the globe who want to attempt one thing.
To outrun a horse.
The Man v Horse competition has been taking place in Llanwrtyd Wells for over 30 years, after the landlord of a local pub overheard two men discussing who would be faster over a certain distance – human or horse – and decided to put the bet to the test.
Over 700 runners, riders & horses now take part every year, but is it really possible for a human to outrun a horse?
Running across rough Welsh terrain including mountain climbs and descents into bogs, over a distance just short of a marathon (21 miles) is no easy feat, for runner or horse.
Runners get to set off from the town square by the pub just before the horses – a 15 minute head start of sorts.
There are also vet checks along the way where riders have to pull up their steeds and have vets examine them to ensure they’re fit to continue – but no such luck for the runners, who have to continue on up steep paths and marshland, hoping to claw back some precious time.
So has anyone beaten a horse? Since the race started in 1980, only two people have beaten horses – Huw Lubb was the first in 2004, beating the best horse by 2 minutes in a fantastic finish of 2 hours 5 minutes.
He was rewarded with prize money of £25,000 – which had accumulated over 24 years.
It then took 3 more years before a second runner beat a horse – German runner Florian Holzinger successfully ran the course in 2 hours 20 minutes.
Since then, no one else has beaten a horse and after 10 years, it’s about time another runner takes the crown from the mighty steed.
Could it be you?
If you’re keen to have a go, the next race is in June 2017 and takes place in Powys, Wales. There’s a real community feel about the race, despite many coming from across the world to attend, with events the evening before and of course celebrations in the pub where it all began – the Neuadd Arms.
More info can be found here: http://www.green-events.co.uk/events.html?id=54