Man v’s Horse – 9.6.18

Race Report by Darren Chambers

First time solo and a stubborn wife!

Having done this race as a relay team in 2016 I promised myself to run this as a solo. The name of the race is exactly what this is all about. Can a man (or woman) beat a horse around a 22 ish mile “trail”. Google the race and you will come across its history and it’s prize fund!

It is held in the smallest town in the UK. On race day the runners/riders/supporters outnumber the residents making it a bigger race than London marathon. The race covers about 1800 meters of elevation and ascent with hills that required oxygen, crampons and ropes. We lined up at the start and spotted the celebs taking part (Susie Chan, Sophie Raworth and Iwan Thomas). My wife and I planned to start together for the first mile and then we would do our own thing. As we hit the first hill we said our goodbyes and “see you at the finish”.

The course is a mixture of a small amount of tarmac (just the start), followed by forestry roads, single track trails, a bit of mud, open expanses and amazing climbs giving glorious views. We had to share all this with horse and riders also taking on majority of the same route. By 17ish miles my race was done. The hills just too much. Being a lad from Coventry it is not known for having many hills to train on and you definitely needed to train on these. The last 5ish miles consisted of lots of walking and running only on the gentle descents. The steep descents hurt as much as the uphills! I managed to jog over the finish line in 4hrs 50mins to an amazing finish with the crowds of supporters cheering in every runner and the finish line announcer shouting everyone’s name and running club. A great medal and the free sandwiches allowed me to sit and relax for a few mins. But where was the wife?

A quick txt to say I was done was quickly responded to with a phone call. I can’t write down what she said in case minors read this, but let’s just say she was “tired”. Her determination to finish is always something that amazes me but as the official cut off time came and went (6 hours) my concern began to accelerate. Was she ok? Had she pulled out? Was she injured? With the beautiful, welsh hills not being the best for mobile communication I had to sit this one out until she made contact. A quick calculation of her remaining miles and pace told me she would be somewhere near 6.30 and to see her suddenly appear in the final tree lined section was a weight lifted. I walked down the finish straight with her to still cheers from supporters making the most of the beautiful weather (and the bar) but left her to cross the line to collect her medal. Last but by no means defeated. We had to find two horse riders that she had befriended on the course who were full of admiration for her achievements. Another reason why I love the racing community. So we both finished with an amazing medal, brilliant memories and both vowing to never do it again, but on  reflection………. never say never.