Eight weeks ago I got picked to be part of Team Whole earth and to take on Man V Horse on the 13 June in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. I was really excited to be chosen as one of the 6 members of the team and I was looking forward to what the next 8 weeks of training. Over the next few weeks I spent a significant amount of time at Boxhill, as it is the only hill in Surrey, running up and down as many hills as I could. I loved training on the hills and the trails and found it a lot more enjoyable than the roads mainly because of the awesome views, change in pace and challenge of the mud and rocks underfoot. The week before the race training was going well I had begun my taper and then I got a chest infection, I was pretty annoyed but little did I know this was a blessing in disguise!
Race weekend arrived and I made my way to deepest darkest rainy Wales to race some horses across the hills. On the morning of the race I nervously opened my curtains expecting torrential rain; there was only a little bit of drizzle, I was very relieved by this although I would have preferred glorious sunshine!
Once we got to the race start I went and did a little warm up and my chest felt ok so I was pretty happy that I was going to have a good race! The atmosphere in the town was incredible, so many people had come along to wave us off and cheer us on as we ran down the country lanes and disappeared into the hills. I felt pretty good running the first mile, then we started to climb and to say my chest was having none of it was an understatement. At this point I decided that I was going to just enjoy the race, take in views and not care about what number I finished. After all we all on the same crazy journey with the same medal waiting for us at the end!
After the first coupe of hills I got a bit of a reality check and realised that Boxhill was not a hill but merely a bump in the Surrey landscape, these bad boys were hills. At the 4 mile point the first two horses flew past me at a blistering pace, I didn’t realise they would go quite that fast. It was pretty incredible to watch and I knew that this was not going to be Man’s year. We started to climb a very steady hill and I found myself standing still on the side of it staring at the absolutely amazing views through the valleys. I was stood with 3 other guys completely in awe and staring into the distance for a few seconds before we snapped back into reality and realised that we were actually racing and needed to get a move on.
The course continued to twist and turn up and down the hills until we reached the Tunnel of Death. I am pretty sure the devil had a hand in making this. It went on for what felt like 20 miles but I reckon was actually about 1.5 miles. I couldn’t get a grip on the ground and continued to slip and fall resembling Bambi on ice. Looking for any bit of solid ground I could find, there was pretty much none, I continued to stumble, slip and fall my way through this part of the course. I did loose my sense of humor slightly as it was relentless and I have never felt so happy to get out of the horrible mud and run up a massive f*ck off hill at the end!
I started to make my way down a rocky hill and as I was about to cross a little stream when I could hear a horse stampeding (literally) towards me. I thought that I was going to get trampled by a horse and die on the Welsh hills (I may have been being a tad dramatic at this point). Luckily I managed to hurl myself out of the way in the nick of time to allow the horse to breeze past.
In the last 5 miles of the course there were some awesome downhill’s where you could just let your legs run away from you, it was so much fun mainly as it didn’t hurt my chest and I felt like I was flying. The finish was drawing nearer and there was just one more river to cross, I was so tempted to swim across it as it was remarkably refreshing but decided this may result in me getting washed away downstream and might not have been one of my best ideas, so near to the finish. Finally the sign for the last 200m appeared and then the finish line. After 3hours and 27minutes of running Man v Horse was over and I had loved every second of it – ok not the tunnel of death but the rest of it was amazing.
The real hero’s of the day were the marshals who stood in bleak wet and windy locations cheering us on and all with huge smiles on their face! The race couldn’t go ahead without them and it was amazing to see the whole town out in force to support this event. Another huge thanks to Whole Earth and Mad River whom without I would probably never of had an awesome weekend racing horses in the pouring rain in the Welsh Valleys. If you are looking for a fun, slightly different, pretty cheeky challenge then without hesitation do this race next year! I am definitely going back!