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Could A Human Win a Race Against a Horse?

When Gordon Green of Llanwrtyd Wells overheard two men talking in a pub, he was surprised to hear one of the gentlemen propose that a man could be faster than a horse in a long-distance race. Green was so fascinated by the suggestion that he decided to test the theory! The result was the Man Versus Horse Marathon event which now takes place every year.

Predictable Outcome?

Back in 1980, the first running of the race produced an equine winner. Glyn Jones riding Solomon beat the first human finisher by 43 minutes and this appeared to put an end to any argument about the relative merits of man and horse. But since then, two men have managed to win the race. Huw Lobb triumphed in 2004 and Florian Holzinger in 2007.

The Man Versus Horse Marathon

The test of speed and endurance starts in Britain’s smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells, a former Victorian spa town. The contestants then tackle a 24-mile course over the Welsh hills which features a 4683ft climb, forest tracks and bridleways. This year hundreds of runners and 60 horses took part.

The race is a serious test which presents a challenge to both human runners and horses. The horses have the advantage when climbing up hill but are not so suited to the descents. Nonetheless, is does seem rather inconceivable that a human could beat a horse, even if the horse happens to be carrying a human!

Unlikely Victories

The weather appears to play a role in the outcome of the event. The horses tend to struggle more than the runners when it is hot. Naturally, the result will also depend on the calibre of the participants and that can vary from year to year. The prize money offered to a human winner rolls over until a human manages to win the race. There were no human winners for 24 years and so by 2004 the pot stood at £25,000. This attracted a successful marathon runner, Huw Lobb, to compete and he managed to beat the first horse home by one minute.

Taking Care of the Horses

The horses which take part are checked by vets before, during and after the race to ensure that they are coping with the test. It takes over two hours to complete the course. The race attracts endurance riders and many return year after year. When will the next human manage to beat the horses?


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