Civil Servant Outruns 46 Horses on Foot

Hugh Aggleton fares well in odd British race
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2015 4:30 PM CDT
Man Outruns Most Horses in Odd Race

A civil servant outran nearly all the horses competing against him in a British marathon yesterday. Yes, you just read that: 30-year-old civil servant Hugh Aggleton finished the Man v. Horse Marathon in central Wales at 2 hours and 30 minutes, just 10 minutes slower than the competition's fastest horse. "I might make that a sort of tag line," says Aggleton. "Faster than 46 out of 50 horses." The Welsh race gave hundreds of runners the chance to compete against fifty horses and their riders across streams, along ridges, and past lots of "bewildered sheep," NPR reports. The race—dubbed one of the world's "strangest" by the Telegraph—started in 1980 after a debate between a customer and a local pub owner: Who was faster, horses or people?

The answer seems obvious, but humans may actually be better at long-distance running: "We're essentially the tortoises of the animal world rather than the hares," says Harvard professor Dan Lieberman. Everything from our balancing inner ears to flexible tendons to cooling sweat glands aid us in the long run—while horses, however speedy, can only cool off fully by panting, which is hard while running because their "huge viscera ... slams into the diaphragm with every step," Lieberman says. His research in Nature suggests that early humans may have been able to hunt down animals in the African savanna by outlasting them in marathon runs. "That means if [Aggleton] had lived long ago, he probably would have been able to chase down dinner," says NPR. (More marathon stories.)

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