E4environment took part in this year’s Whole Earth Man vs Horse Marathon, held on Saturday 13th June in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. We had 2 teams competing in the relay, The A Team (Mandy, Jane and Hannah) and Team 1 (Deb, George and Erika).

The A Team completed the course in 4 hours and 5 minutes, whilst Team 1 completed the course in 4 hours and 39 minutes. It was a very challenging course with hills, rivers and boggy terrain to contend with, so well done to both teams!

The teams are raising money for 3 charities, Cuan Wildlife Rescue, the Young People’s Environmental Trust and the William Penny Brooks Foundation. If you would like to make a donation, please click here.

Our runners gave us some post-race blogs about their experience of Man vs Horse. Click the names below to expand and read the posts.

George

After many weeks of training, sore feet and mild shin splints we are finally here. It was time for MAN Vs HORSE!!! The event is what can only be described as an eccentric one where quite simply runners race against horses over a 20 mile course with the sole aim of completing the course before the first horse finishes. The event allows for solo runners who run the entire distance or relay teams who split the race into legs. We opted for what we thought was the “easier” option. As it turned out it wasn’t easy, and it was actually pretty tough! I was running leg one. The beginning of the run eased us in for the first mile with a gentle road ascent. That’s about where nice ended and difficult started, the first incline was a steep and long drag taking us off road and really got my legs screaming. After about 10 minutes of trying to run, the hill eased off and we were into the woods for a much welcomed descent. Still no horses in sight. It would be another mile before we saw our first horse on another drag of a hill and were greeted by the cheery comment of “I don’t know how you can run this”, not the encouragement I wanted! I finished the leg in around 1.10, and handed on the rather (by now grimy) baton in the form of a sweat band to Deb for her to tackle the second leg.  A great race and a great experience!

Deb

Finally the day has arrived; no more training, bandaging or sensible eating can help. I’ve just got to do my 6½ mile relay leg of the 35th Llanwrtyd Wells Man vs. Horse Marathon cross-country run. The fact that torrential rain has now given way to a midge-filled drizzle is good news. The coach journey to our relay point is quiet – there’s a lot of thinking happening! And then we’re waiting – 155 people (plus various personal support crews) waiting for their No.1 runner to complete the 6.2 mile first leg.

Fifty or so minutes later the elite runners start racing past us – not passing on the baton to any relay teams; these folk are running the whole 21 miles. Impressive is all I can say! Somewhere in the midst of nearly 700 individual runners and riders I take over the baton from George and I’m away. Running feels good – I get wetter and wetter but at least I warm up. Then the hill starts – and 2 miles later it tops out. Yep I’ve walked some of it and been passed by loads of horses but the toughest bit is over I reckon. Oh but then there is the mud – no one can run; it’s more uphill and running means you simply slide backwards faster!

But 6.something miles later I get to hand the baton over to my leg 3 team mate Erika and she’s off. I can stop and get the coach to the finish for beer, peanut butter sandwiches and to cheer everyone home. The return journey was a lot noisier with tales of woe and achievement in equal measure – all told from adrenaline-filled, happy people.

It was tough and I’m already planning how to better my time for next year! An excellent day – thanks E4 teammies.

Erika

The day had finally arrived. We had agreed to arrive in Llanwrtyd Wells at 8.30am. After registration we had a quick briefing and then the leg B’s (Mandy/Deb) got on their buses to take them to the first changeover point. The remaining team members and the support crew headed to the start line to wait for the race to begin. As soon as they started, we headed up to the collection point for Leg C.

The bus journey only took about 10 mins or so where we dropped off at a couple of old farm buildings with the changeover up the bank (excellent news as this meant the first stretch of my leg was downhill!). The rain started to get worse so we headed back to the outbuildings for shelter as we knew most of us would be waiting for a good hour/hour and a half. By 12.20(ish) the first runners came through with the first horse not appearing for another 20 minutes. After that there was a steady stream of runners so we headed back up the top of the bank to cheer everybody on and await our team mates. Mandy was first to appear so Hannah was off leaving me to wait for Deb. She soon appeared and I was desperate to get going just so I could warm up. The rain started easing off at this point (either that or I didn’t notice it). The first stretch was on the road but soon I was off up a rocky track. There was a steady uphill along some forestry tracks which was very misty but the sound of approaching hooves kept me going! Everyone told us that the last leg was all downhill but there were definite uphills as well. Thankfully the weather and the route were similar to that of my training runs so wasn’t too much of a shock – I just knew I had to keep going. Eventually around a mile from the end I could hear the finish line down in the valley below. But before this there was a final stretch of road and a river crossing.

I didn’t have much energy left to do a sprint finish but when I crossed the finish line, I was quickly greeted by the two teams and of course the support crew.

There were lots of marshals throughout the route and I was very thankful for their upbeat words of encouragement. You always know you’re near the end when they start telling you how many gates/miles you have left!

I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to complete the whole race, I was very pleased with my small section. I feel a little deceitful for not completing the whole race, maybe next time……….

Jane

It started at 5.30am – really should have thought through the logistics…with a very wet, winding and undulating drive to Britain’s smallest town Llanwrtyd Wells… again should have thought through eating big bowl of porridge and beetroot smoothy before setting off…stop the car I am going to be sick…..

Once there straight to register then coffee…the local coffee shop next to the bridge settled my stomach and gave us the low down on the celebrity runners, who had been using the café that week. I only really knew Ewan Thomas, but my husband knew Gareth Thomas and the moto GP chap – according to the coffee shop chap he was the one to put your money on for a win.

A quick warm up jog with George, another espresso, beetroot shot, and a couple of ibuprofen and I was good to go…thankfully no drugs tests for my eclectic mix of potentially performance enhancing substances….Erika and I have been keeping the beetroot industry going over the last few months.. spurred in by GB Olympic team and interesting article in Runners World. Smoothy recipe below worth a try… but not at 5am.

George and I ended up next to the celebs for the race briefing – they are big blokes, and according to a chap who had been in the pub the night before with one of the BBC camera crew (rather convoluted..) – they were all rather nervous about the run, he expressed it slightly differently…

Before I knew it we were off, the first part very slow as pretty congested and then the hills started – a good drag up, then some more hills but also my favourite “muddy puddles” I was glad to be off road and into proper cross country territory.

No sign of a horse until about 4 miles in then they just cantered past – not much of a contest as I huffed and puffed up the hill. The final downhill was great – arms flailing at speed… could see Mandy – our team’s next runner but almost forgot about the “baton” change over in the moment.

Back to the finish area to wait for the rest of the team, beer and free peanut butter…what is not to love…so a big thank you to all the E4 team, Green Events and Whole Earth peanut butter……I may need to lay off the peanut butter now…

I loved it and can’t wait to do it again – I have already said ‘out loud’ I want to do all of it next year…so now I am going to have to put some effort in…..big time..

Oh and a lasting memento – my legs are covered in bites, the welsh midges couldn’t believe their luck with all that fresh flesh to have a go at – the chap I saw covering himself in mud at the start – local knowledge!

Smoothy:

1 ripe banana

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 heaped tbsp oats

Some honey

Lots beetroot – I went for in vinegar -as like a tang and once read something about pickle juice stopping cramp

Milk or almond milk or yogurt

1tbsp chia seeds

Blend it all up – it is a wonderful colour

Hannah

This is the first off-road race I have ever done and it won’t be the last! Although the uphill parts were pretty stressful, the rest of the course was interesting and made a change from the usual road running. I almost fell face first into a river, and wasn’t particularly keen on the mud-up-to-shins shenanigans but overall it was exhilarating to do something different. Credit to the people that ran the whole thing (21 miles or so) and to the elderly lady who overtook me looking like she’d barely broken a sweat.  Got some free peanut butter at the end and a nice t-shirt too. Already looking forward to our next challenge!

Official George resizedOfficial Deb resizedOfficial Erika resizedOfficial Jane resizedOfficial Mandy resizedOfficial Hannah resized

Photo Credit: Equinepix

E4environment is an environmental consultancy providing professional, practical advice and expertise to both the private and public sector on a wide range of environmental issues.