James Bruce, Andrew Davidson, Libby O’Duffy, Dave Coles looking a bit shattered after 24 miles of Man v Horse 2014.
This event has been going for 35 years now and is one of the original and best of the new type of ‘alternative’ races increasingly flooding the running calendar. Due to its clash with Castles Weekend, it is unusual for Les Croupiers runners to take part, which is a shame as it is as special as Castles and one you don’t forget in a hurry.
James Bruce, Libby O’ Duffy, Andrew Davidson and myself made our way up to Llanwyrtyd Wells near Llandovery, not really fully appreciating the enormity of the task ahead. I had run it before, in 2003, but there were only distant memories of muddy fields and hills near the end, and the famous finish through the river just before the finish.
Mystery surrounds the total distance and much of the entry is made up of 3 stage relay runners, averaging 8 miles per runner, or 24 miles for the entire route. I believe there are approximately 60 horses, 250 relay teams and 350 individual runners.
Stage 1 – around 7 miles. As Andrew Davidson’s talented friend, Connor, said, ‘No part of that race was easy!’ – maybe the first half mile on road, then straight in to a very steep hill, interspersed with jungle and bogs, to reach a stunning view on top of the first mountain, with an incredible view – you might just have well been a bird flying it was so dramatic a drop to the end of Stage 1. Enough of a tough run in its own right, but onwards and mudwards for us.
Memories of Stage 2 (around 7 miles) are not that clear, but trails full of running water and mud with undulating trails spring to mind. Very little on road, if any. Less jungle than Stage 1.
Stage 3 was the longest leg and boy did it take a lot longer – this is where true endurance fitness will show or show you up! At times it was barely more than a shuffle and it seemed to last a lifetime, a true test of real tough long distance trail running. A few really tough up hills on beautiful terrain, undulations on road which seemed like hills, more bogs and off road mud baths, then a dreadful right turn in to an ever steepening field which never seemed to end. Then only around a mile to some welcome road, a few more twists and turns, a river to traverse in front of the spectators, then yet another little cruel few hundred metres before the very welcome finish and free cakes and sandwiches – bliss! I managed a tumble on the path towards the finish in front of the crowds, but was so bruised and battered anyway, it didn’t seem to matter. It felt like having been in a tumble dryer for almost 4 hours.
Oh yes, forgot to mention that we probably got overtaken by about 40 of the 60 horses, though to be honest, haven’t checked the results to find out how many Red Rums come storming past.
There is so much to be written about this race, but it must go down as one of the most memorable and satisfying races ever. So much more than just a ‘long run’.
Well done Libby (2nd F40), James, Andrew and Connor – superb day out and a medal actually worth putting up there in the cabinet with the best of them, just for finishing!
Another point of note – Man v Horse is 24 miles multi terrain with 1140m climb, Snowdonia Marathon has 620m climb, so makes Snowdon seem a little less daunting!