ONE of the most unusual events in the equestrian calendar takes place next weekend over 22 miles of the most picturesque scenery Mid Wales has to offer.

It's a race in which 50 horses take part - along with 50 humans. That's right, the humans race the horses. Officially it's known as the Man versus Horse Marathon, but in fact quite a few of the two-legged runners are female.

Among the happy throng this year will be Victoria Sims from Peopleton, near Pershore, and her father Gordon, who lives in Malvern.

Victoria, sensibly, will be riding a chestnut mare called Hazel, while her father will be foot slogging. And it is some slog, across moorland and hillside, along farm tracks, footpaths and forestry road, plus a few short distances over asphalt.

Gordon and Hazel, with Victoria on board, will race each other over the course for their chosen charities - 90 per cent of the donations will go to St Richard's Hospice and Acorns Children's Hospice, both in Worcester, and the remaining 10 per cent will go to World Horse Welfare, formerly known as the International League for the Protection of Horses.

The charities have been chosen due to Gordon and Victoria's involvement with the hospices and apparently the final charity was Hazel's choice. Victoria said: "Since she is taking part and enabling us to do this challenge, it is only fair that she gets to choose a charity too.

"The reason for doing this came from an idea I'd had in my mind for many years. Dad ran the London Marathon for his 60th birthday a couple of years ago for St Richard's.

"I was 30 this year and decided it would be nice to also do something for my milestone birthday and I managed to rope Dad in too."

While some 63-year-old dads might blanche at the prospect of running more than 20 miles across the wilds of Wales, Gordon Sims has always been a bit more adventurous than most - no doubt harking back to his days in the 1970s when he was a top motocross rider.

"Our training began in January," Victoria said.

"Hazel has had a variety of work. First to get her up to fitness and then up to the distance. A mixed training keeps her life interesting. We go to jumping classes once a week and hack out before or after my work during the week.

"We have also been doing 10-mile cross country rides and recently a small one day event. On weekends we meet with Dad, who runs during the week, and train for 20 miles up and down the Malvern Hills to get the distance and the climbing under our belts".

Fitting in the many hours training has been quite difficult for the team.

Last year Gordon retired from engineering, which gave him a few spare hours, but Victoria, a graduate in engineering and law, works full time as a commercial manager in intellectual property for technology company QinetiQ in Malvern.

The Man v Horse Marathon dates back to a chat in a pub between a group of friends in 1980. The then landlord of the Neuadd Arms Hotel at Llanwrtyd Wells, Gordon Green, overheard the men discussing the relative merits of men and horses. The enterprising Gordon, never one to miss an opportunity to promote Llanwrtyd Wells and improve business at his hotel, decided to put it to the test and so began this unique race.

The course was changed in 1982 to provide a more even match between the man and the horse, resulting year on year in very close finishes, sometimes with the horse winning by only a few seconds. It took 25 years before a man finally beat a horse, Huw Lobb won in 2hrs and 5mins beating the fastest horse by two minutes.

"I don't think we'll be anywhere near that," laughed Victoria. "I think three to four hours is more realistic for us."

The father-daughter Sims team will be supported by a back-up crew of mother Jane and son Colin, who will be providing water and other encouragement along the way in this extraordinary charity event.

* Anyone can support Victoria, Hazel and Gordon by donating online at or send a cheque payable to Victoria Sims to Man v Horse, Fundraising Manager, St Richard's Hospice, Wildwood Drive, Worcester WR5 2QT.