We wouldn’t be surprised if he could. Popular wisdom has it that humans can outrun horses in the marathon, since though horses can sweat, they are not as efficient at cooling themselves as humans in hot weather, and will become exhausted before a person will. But at the annual Whole Earth Man v. Horse Marathon, which has been going on in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales since 1980, hot weather is not usually a factor, and this theory turns out to be mostly horsefeathers–a human has only won twice in 39 years, the last time in 2007. Still, we wouldn’t bet against American ultrarunner Michael Wardian, who will toe the line at this year’s race for the first time on June 8.
The Man v. Horse course, which is actually 35K, not 42.2K, is mountainous and involves river crossings. Horses are ridden by human riders. The 650 human entrants have a strong incentive to keep trying, which must be what keeps them coming back–the prize purse increases by £500 each year until a human wins. This year’s prize is £3,000, or about CDN $5,130.
Besides the 650 individual humans, there are 150 relay teams, and 60 horses and riders. Human runners are given a 15-minutes head start so as to avoid being trampled at the start. Relay teams consist of three or more individuals, and results are calculated based on the fastest aggregate time for teams’ first three racers.
Wardian is a highly versatile competitor, racing every distance and style of race imaginable. Yesterday it was a Spartan Trail race in Texas. Two weeks ago he participated in Hoka One One’s 100K world record attempt, Project Carbon X. Earlier this year he ran the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, mere days after setting an FKT of 10 days, 16 hours and 36 minutes on the Israel National Trail.
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So ecstatic to finish my first @spartanrace SUPER (app 8 miles) I got over some obstacles that I thought were unachievable & definitely did my share of burpees (think around 200) but I didn’t quit and finished & it was awesome to share the day with some many incredible athletes. Tomorrow is going to rock for @spartantrail #strengthtraining #running #trailrunning #trail #relentless
Not only has a human only won this race twice, but horses have taken the top three positions in four out of the last five years. (Last year the race was won by a relay team.)
Llanwrtyd Wells is also known as the smallest town in Britain, with a population of 600.