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Battle of the species: a marathon with a difference

Lane Sainty will probably never run a marathon of any kind

Humans have trumped horses twice in the somewhat coveted history of the race. Source: Zuma Press
Humans have trumped horses twice in the somewhat coveted history of the race. Source: Zuma Press

Once a year, humans are pitted against riders on horseback in a fierce contest known as the Man vs Horse Marathon. The 22 mile race is neither sensible nor technically a marathon, falling just over four miles short of the required distance.  However, none of this has hindered the highly unusual event from taking place over the past 32 years.

Unsurprisingly, the Man vs Horse marathon originates from the United Kingdom, home to a disproportionately high number of ridiculous sports.

The race is run yearly in the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells, which is as picturesque as it is unpronounceable.

The idea for the Man vs Horse Marathon was born in local pub ‘The Neuadd Arms’ in 1980. Owner Gordon Green overheard two men discussing whether a man or a horse would be faster over a long distance. It is unknown how many alcoholic beverages either man had consumed.

It is also unknown why Green’s first thought was ‘What better way of settling this than organising a race?’ Of course, the better way would be to acknowledge that a horse is faster than a human, and move on with life. But apparently things are not so easy, nor so logical, in Llanwrtyd Wells.

Source: DirtyDingus

Green proved a determined man, and in 1980 the first Man vs Horse marathon was run. It marked the beginning of 24 long years during which horses proved to the human race that they are better, faster and stronger than we could ever hope to be. The course was altered in 1982 to include terrain that was more difficult — and probably more dangerous — for the horses. This gave humans more of a fighting chance, if not an opportunity to actually win.

In fact, it wasn’t until 2004 that male runner Huw Lobb won the race, the first human contestant on foot to do so. Lobb won £25,000 for his efforts, as each year the £1,000 prize money for a victorious runner had been set aside, steadily accumulating until Lobb achieved the unthinkable. Since his victory, one other human has won the race, with Florian Holzinger taking out the top prize in 2007.

If nothing else, the Man vs Horse Marathon is a prime example of why drunken arguments should never be taken seriously. Surely, three decades after the creation of this bizarre race, all possible points have been proven. The accompanying streak of insanity is all that remains.