Aths: Ale-inspired Welsh marathon pits humans againsthorses Aths Horses
By Katie Allen
LLANWRTYD WELLS, Wales, June 4 Reuters - It allstarted as a joke over a few pints in a pub in Britain’ssmallest town, when the landlord maintained a man couldoutrun a horse in a marathon.
More than two decades later runners are still tryingto prove the publican’s point.
On Saturday eager athletes will again line upalongside horses and riders in Llanwrtyd Wells,mid-Wales, for the world’s 24th Man versus HorseMarathon.
Landlord Gordon Green, now retired, explained theorigins of the race: We had a conversation with thelocal huntsmen and I said a runner would be faster thana horse over distance,'' said Green, 68. After a few beers we decided to put it to thetest.’’

The first race was run in 1980 and so far onlythree-man relay teams and mountain bikers have beatenthe equine challengers.
But the solo runners are determined to go on racingthe annual 35-km cross-country event until they beat the horses.
When you have started something you want to see itthrough,'' said Green, who also invented bogsnorkelling, where competitors swim in a marshy trenchwith flippers and a snorkel. The sludgy sport was also inspired by beer drinkingand Llanwrtyd Wells was now home to the world bogsnorkelling championships, said Green, sipping a pint ofale. For Saturday's event he expects some 200 runners, 60relay teams and 40 horses to descend on the tiny Welshtown. Britons and Germans have entered this year butAustralians and Kenyans have joined the race in thepast. Victory was well within man's grasp, said Green. I don’t think there’s any question. If you hadenough really good runners, then they would beat thehorses,’’ he said.
Indeed, had a group of Kenyan athletes not gone offcourse in a recent race, one of them could have beatenthe fastest horse, he added.
This year, the organisers invited women’s marathonworld record holder Paula Radcliffe.
Graham Sharpe, spokesman for the race’s sponsors,bookmakers William Hill said: I think she has otherthings to worry about at the moment unfortunately. But Ithink she would have a good chance.'' The race that began as a pub challenge is now seriousstuff. Bookmakers are offering STG24,000 ($A59,339) poundsfor the first human winner. The prize money would hopefully attract some top-classathletes, said Sharpe, himself a regular participant inthe race. They would have a good race. It’s a unique course… and you have got the chance to create a little bitof sporting and athletic history,’’ added Sharpe, whodescribes himself as a straggler.
The longer it takes the runners to prove they can doit, the richer the pickings will be. The prize goes upby STG1,000 ($A2,472) a year and if no-one claims thisyear’s money,
But the horses also have an incentive to prevail.
The winning horse and rider get STG600 ($A1,483) anda very nice horse blanket, because obviously we don'twant the horses turning up and letting the runners beatthem,'' Sharpe said. Retired landlord Green's best chance to prove hispoint probably rests with British Marine Mark Croasdalewho came within one-and-a-half minutes of the fastesthorse in 2000, said Sharpe. Just back from serving in the Iraq war, Croasdale willbe making his way to Wales again this weekend to take onthe horses. Behind the top contenders are the merely curious andthose who enjoy a good run through the mountains. Llanwrtyd resident Paul Biggs is running the race -slightly shorter than the traditional marathon of 42.2km- for the first time this year. I’ve always wanted to run a marathon but not theLondon marathon,’’ said the 44-year-old Biggs.
``The Man versus Horse has always been my ambition.’’

The varied terrain and chaotic mix of horses andathletes were part of the attraction, said Sharpe.
``There’s nothing like finding yourself runningthrough a Welsh field on a narrow strip of rather wetturf and all of sudden, behind you, you hear this faintdrumming that gets louder and louder and someone shouts:`Horse to your right!’,’’ he said.
Reuters md