Man Vs. Horse
You may of heard of this race, it is one of those races that sounds a little bit barmy and mythical. People racing acing against horses? How can a human beat a horse running?
Born out of a pub conversation in 1980, the landlord of the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells decided the best way to see if a man can actually beat a horse running was to create the event. It has been held annually ever since. Only twice has the horse been beaten. There is a prize pot and the first person to ever beat the horse, Hew Lobb scooped a tidy £25,00 for his brilliant effort.
The race was set over 22 miles or so in the testing terrain of the Welsh hills.
The premise is simple; 50 horses with riders compete against over 400 runners. Horses are released 15 minutes after the runners. First species over the line wins the title
You can run as a team relay or as an individual. I went for the slight softer option of relay with ultra partner Shaun and Caesar’s Camp Endurance alumni Carl Ara.
Christening ourselves Team Neigh Bother, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, the pubs are pretty cheap that way too be honest, and the football was on, and the Welsh hospitality was in full flow. This trio of things meant we may of had a few jars the night before.
The first drink of many got sunk checking in the day prior to the race, in the very pub it all started, the Neuadd Arms. They put on a pasta party for all competitors (probably the best pasta party pasta I have had, it’s normally terrible) A succession of peanut butter based foods (The race is sponsored by Whole Earth Peanut Butter) are also on tap.
Waking up on race day, Team Neigh Bother realised no one had electrolytes to combat the dehydration, we all caught the sun, and staying up past our bedtime in the comfort of the pub over the road was not the best pre-race strategy. It didn’t matter though.. we were there to have fun. It was huge fun already and we hadn’t even put our trail shoes on.
The race organisers ferry the relay runners to their handover points. I was in the middle. Those runners that had returned from last year's race all reported their leg was hilliest. This gives you an idea just how hilly the race is, it is pretty much non stop hills. Waiting for Carl to pass the baton to me – the second leg runners were treated to a view of an absolutely huge hill which the runners and riders come over. I genuinely thought that all the horses would go thundering past the first relay runners and I would not race one. Not so. The rugged terrain, steep inclines, declines, bogs, and water crossings level out the field much more than I had anticipated. The horses also have a compulsory vet stop half way round to check they are OK.
Runners came past first then the some horses. I realised I would be racing against the horses! As Carl passed the baton on it was my strategy to run as fast as I could, which I did. This turned out to not be not that fast. Relentless tricky climbs, shin deep bogs, and side stepping out of the way of the horses slowed me down. However I had a lot of downhill running, something I love. I ran through my final water crossing and passed the baton on to Shaun who sprinted off up and over a ginormous hill.
Ferried back to the finish, Carl and I cheered Shaun over the finish line. The finish area had the pleasant feel of a village fete. It’s all very rustic and charming. Ladies make sandwiches and cakes for all the runners. Trophies are given out. The beer tent and ice cream van were doing great business, horses and runners all mingle with their medals. It had a fantastic atmosphere.
This year a horse won.
However, I’m rather pleased to say that Neigh Bother did manage to beat 25 horses and came 24th out of the 94 relay teams.
I can’t recommend this race more highly. Well organised, tough going but enormous fun. Man V Horse is one of Britain’s brilliantly idiosyncratic races.
Really worth putting a team together or going solo. Could you be the next one who beats the horse?