This is a somewhat quirky race that has been going for just over 40 years through the hills of mid Wales. It started following a discussion in a pub as to whether a man or a horse would be quicker over a 20 mile hill race. Over the intervening time, the conditions have been refined for enhanced horse, runner and spectator safety. The horse have to ‘pass’ a vet check at the midway mark and the finish ; they have to be checked for soundness and HR must be below a set level. This very much favours the runners in the hot, dry conditions we encountered this weekend as the horses’ HR takes extra time to drop and they can’t continue or finish until that HR is achieved.

Clearly the runners can and do finish in all kinds of distress but that’s permitted. You can now enter as a team of three, completing approximately 7 miles each, which is a very good way to introduce yourself to the terrain.
I’ve taken part every year since 2006, with Covid breaks, and its appeal never wanes.

People come from all over the world to take part, if only once to say they have done it, not unlike the Cheese Rollers. The organisers lay on a pasta party on the Friday night at the local hotel, and a live band the following night after the race, all of which adds to the race atmosphere and spirit of camaraderie.
This year was a little more challenging for me, as it was only 6 days after the 113 and so my preparation wasn’t ideal. That said, my fitness has improved and nutrition/hydration strategy way better than previous years thanks to all the TTG advice prior to 113. Also running in 24 degrees was unusual for this race and for Wales in general.

I lined up with Todd from Pittsburg and gave him all the wise words necessary to make him doubt the sensibility of his decision to enter in the first place. His only comment about Wales was, ‘the roads here are sure very narrow!’ Sophie Raworth and another female ultra runner talked us through the final 10 minutes before joining the start line. Needless to say, I never saw them again.

Taking the race much more carefully this year, I walked anything that looked like an uphill longer than 20 yards, and ran the flats and downs. Horses dripping sweat seemed to canter past me on all the narrowest tracks which involved a forced detour into the heather, bracken or tree line. No quarter asked or given. Several people and horse retired due to the heat, but the dry conditions made the tracks at least consistent throughout. In a wet year, you can be wading through the numerous bogs up to your knees.
It’s a very friendly race and you can chat to people on the many uphill sections if you have any breath left.

The level at which I find myself these days is with all those runners just pleased to be able to finish. The course is very well marshalled so way markers are not provided except in the denser undergrowth. Water points are frequent and locals also come out with extra help along the way. Teas, coffees and sandwiches are all provided by the large number of friendly local volunteers at the finish. Crowds of supporters are there to cheer you in and especially loud if you are racing a horse to the finish line or if you are being carried over the finish line by the marshalls (usually a result of cramp setting in on the downhill finish).
Times are a little irrelevant even if the course remains unchanged from year to year, which is not always the case. Weather, ground conditions and course alterations to avoid flooded rivers will all affect your running time. I was nearly 20 minutes slower this year (4 hours 16 min) compared to last year, but enjoyed the run more and didn’t get cramp or hypoglycaemic for the first time ever. It’s a hard race but I’m so used to it, it feels like an old friend and I’ll go back every year until THE END!