Sunday, June 13, 2010

Two legs good, four legs better: horse beats man … again

Grant Collinson

13 Jun 2010

While football was in the spotlight in South Africa yesterday, in some quieter corners of Britain some very peculiar sports were the order of the day.

Yesterday saw the start of three strange and most extreme endurance races: the Man v Horse contest (which features people on foot racing against horses across Wales), a 1000-mile bike ride from John O’Groats to Lands End and a 24-hour double marathon along the West Highland Way.

The Tennents Caledonian Challenge 2010 – a 54-mile, one-day trek across some of Scotland’s most beautiful and difficult terrain – got under way in Gairlochy near Fort William yesterday.

Now in its 14th year, the endurance challenge is organised by the Scottish Communities Foundation (SCF), a organisation which distributes funds to worthwhile causes across Scotland.

The course runs from Gairlochy to Strathfillan across the undulating hills of the Great Glen and West Highland Way footpaths.

Alistair Reid, 39, is taking the challenge this year. Speaking before the start, he said: “My daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia two years ago so since then we’ve been raising quite a lot of money for charity.”

The SCF hopes to raise £1 million from the 900 competitors taking part.

However, that challenge, gruelling though it is, pales in comparison to the annual Man v Horse Marathon in Llanwrtyd Wells in Central Wales.

The brainchild of a local hotelier, hatched over a drink 31 years ago, the race sets out to prove who would win over a long distance, a man or a horse.

Over a course of varying terrain, designed to keep the competition fair, yesterday 253 runners raced 44 horses over 22 miles. This year victory went to equine challenger Sly Dai, with Llinos Jones, 24, a primary school teacher, riding, in a time of 2.07.04.

Marathon runner Huw Lobb became the first man to win the event in 2004.

For those preferring two wheels, yesterday also saw around 500 cyclists start the 1000-mile journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.

The new event will see the riders travel across Britain over nine days, covering an average 114 miles a day through stunning scenery including Loch Ness and Lake Windermere.

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