Forty years ago the landlord of the Neaudd Arms Hotel , Gordon Green, was sat having a pint (or three) with some locals at his bar and the conversation, as it does, chanced upon who would be fastest over a long distance, a runner or a horse…. and so was born the Man v Horse (v Bike) Marathon.
The history of it is right here and all over the internet, worldwide newspapers and international blogs. Its a phenomenon.
These days it attracts over 2000 visitors to the UKs smallest town, almost tripling the population for the weekend and making it the most vibrant and lively event on the Green Events Ltd and World Alternative Games calendars. It started small, back in the 1980 with less than 100 participants and included cyclists as well. For the first 25 years it was sponsored by William Hill, who put £1000 per annum into the prize pot to encourage a runner to beat a horse and rider over the 22.5 mile mixed terrain course. By the 25th year it was attracting highly experienced fell and marathon runners from around the world and it was in this year that Huw Lobb came along and finally the fastest horse was not as quick across the course as the fastest man. In 2004 Huw became champion and received a cheque for £25,000. (His time was 2hrs 5mins and 19 secs)
After that William Hill pulled out. Their job was done. And for a while the event didn’t have a sponsor but had grown into a flag ship event for Llanwrtyd Wells attracting 40+ horses and crews and 600+ runners and relay teams. It attracted runners and press from around the globe; and remains to this day an event run by volunteers from the Llanwrtyd Wells community for the enjoyment of the masses and the benefit of the town.
Two years later an Austrian by the name Florian Holzinger came strolling over the finish line before the fastest horse. He’d been training in the Alps and looked like he’d just strolled over from the carpark rather than running 22.5 miles in the summer sun. He bagged the prize pot of £2000.
This year was the 39th Man v Horse and for the last 5years has been sponsored and supported by the very fabulous Whole Earth Foods. the event has, quite literally been peanut fuelled!. They have proven to be fantastic sponsors and partners, bringing another dimension to the event. Being very generous with lashings of peanut butter treats for all the competitors and volunteers; attracting even more entrants and media AND annually running a competition in which 6 runners get to become Team Whole Earth.
And this year was huge! The entries opened on 5th January, by 6th it had reached capacity and there were huge reserve lists being drawn up. It is now the biggest horse race in the UK, It attracted 90 entrants this year, is capped at 60 (the Grand National is 45) and generally around 50 end up running – fitness issues tend to rule some out before the day or at the initial vet check – the organisers take great pains to ensure the safety and well being of the horses.
This year there were also 170 relay teams of 3 and 640 individual runners. The weather was incredible so the fields and campsites around the town were filled to bursting and the pubs and caffi gardens were overspilling. It was one hell of a party.
Susie Chan, endurance runner, regular at man v horse and blogger was here running with record holding 400 meter sprinter and Man v Horse veteran (well he’d done it once before!) Iwan Thomas. And Sophie Raworth , news anchor, journalist and experienced marathon runner was here to start and then participate in the event. I was here doing my usual thing, being the “Mrs Gobby”, I basically fill airspace for 2 hours prior to the event and then 2 hours over the prize giving at the finish line. I love it – talk talk talk, making a tit of myself, rah rahing the town up (which is easy because its great) and offering snippets of interesting and (sometimes accurate) information about the event and runners/riders; it also gives me, on behalf of the organisers, the opportunity to thank all the marshalls , sponsors, volunteers and community. Did I say I love it?
So next year is the 40th anniversary. I hope we will still have our partnership with Whole Earth, they’re a lovely company, the team they send to Llanwrtyd are delightful and they really do help to make the event the great weekend that it is.; I hope in the 40th year a runner might again beat the fastest horse (…. there was only 23 seconds in it this year!); and I truly hope the sun shines , the numbers grow and the party is bigger and better than its ever been before. Come and join us its a blast!
Photos by event photographers Peter Barnett; Craig Tompkins and Whole Earth Foods
For more photos from the event please follow this link – Peter is happy for you to use them free of charge but please credit him