IT may come as a surprise to some that over a long enough distance, human beings can outrun any creature on earth, including horses. What we lack in breakaway speed, we more than make up for in endurance, capable of covering vast distances after other animals become winded and unable to continue.
In the Falkland Islands inaugural Man v Horse race on Sunday, which was roughly based on that held every year in Wales, four horses triumphed, however the first (Skye ridden by Lisa Watson) was only eight minutes ahead of the first runner Dominic Smith (First Field Squadron) and six people in total managed to outrun three of the horses entered in the race. Second and third places overall went to Tennessee ridden by Sarah Cooper and Dixie ridden by Sharon Jaffray.
Organised by the Stanley Running Club and the FI Horse Owners Club (primarily by Roddy Cordeiro and Emily Hancox) the 10 mile cross country race attracted an excellent turnout, comprising 30 runners and seven riders.
In order to avoid the chaos of hooves and human legs the riders started up Wireless Ridge five minutes ahead of the runners (this time was taken into account). Taking some last minute inspirational advice from (unfortunately injured on this occasion) local marathon runner Richard Short, Sharon Jaffray (on Dixie) and Lisa Watson (on Skye) decided to make a fast start in order to create what they hoped would be a demoralising distance between horse and runner. Also riding strong horses Diana Aldridge (Sparks) and Sarah Cooper (Tennessee) maintained a strong pace in behind while Brian Aldridge (Twister) Emily Hancox (Moonshadow) and Natasha Elbakidze (Major Elite) made the decision to hold their mounts at a relatively gentler but steady pace.
The runners however had no intention of making it easy on the riders. Maintaining the five minute lead and attempting to add to it was an extremely difficult task over the largely soggy terrain, and super fit athletes Dominic Smith (1.16.08 and winner of the Stanley Running Club 10k the week before) Christian Hulme (1.16.39) Hugh Marsden (1.16.48) and Tom Blake (1.16.56) plus a host of others not far behind, made absolutely certain that the riders and horses could not relax for a single moment. Forces Triathletes Penny Grayson and Nicola McNamee were first and second women with the superb times of 1.32.23 and 1.36.34 respectively with Islander Sally Robertson third woman in 1.38.48.
The terrain was mixed and while the uphill start might have been to the advantage of the horses’ muscular legs, the downhill peat bogs that followed favoured the lighter step of the human runners. However both horse and human would have struggled through the soggy spots that followed the Murrel Inlet checkpoint 6 where the athletes turned back towards Stanley.
Long grass, swamp, small holes and wet ditches characterised bits of the course but on the whole both riders and runners agreed that bearing in mind the type of terrain available around Stanley, the organisers had done a fine job in choosing a safe, suitable and also rather scenic route. Ultimately the whole event was about promoting the superb sports of running and horse-riding, and combining the two gave an alternative and colourful format that it is now intended will be an annual competition.
Mr Cordeiro told Penguin News: “It was very rewarding to see such a good field of competitors of all levels; four and two-legged alike. Hopefully this year’s success will encourage more runners and riders to take part when we hold the next one. Some of the horse times were pretty convincing and it will be hard to narrow the difference down over that distance, but that should give runners something to aim for.”
Miss Hancox added: “Big thanks to all the competitors, spectators, marshals, helpers, sponsors (CFL for the trophies, FIC for the water, Chandlery for the Mars Bars) and also to Szymon and Steve for providing medical and veterinary cover on the day.”