Hooves and trainers pounded a gruelling 22-mile course around Llanwrtyd Wells at the annual Whole Earth Man v Horse race.

Hundreds of spectators descended on Britain’s smallest town for its biggest event of the year, which saw over 600 runners rise to the challenge in the hope of becoming just the third person to win the event in its 38-year history.

When the day of the race dawned, it became clear that the weather was very much on the side of the horses, with unrelenting downpours and slippery mud making the already challenging course even tougher.

Despite the weather, the record number of runners took their positions on the starting line in The Square at 11am, outside the Neuadd Arms Hotel, where the idea for the race was born in 1980.

Two and a half hours later, the crowds gathered at Maes y Gwaelod to see the winner – a horse – cross the finish line. This year’s victor was Rheidol Petra, ridden by Iola Evans of Aberystwyth, 20 minutes ahead of the first runner, Owen Beilby.

One of the organisers, Bob Greenough, said: “It was the worst weather we have had in 38 years, it just did not stop. The weather helped the horses this year.

“There have been no complaints, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We had at least 600 solo runners and 148 relay teams of three, and 51 horses and riders.

“A good number of people turned out. At first I was fearing for it, because the first rider was getting close and there weren’t many people at the finish line. But most people had sensibly gone down to the town to wait and timed it well to come and see them coming in.

“It is our biggest event of the year. On the day, it is a massive effort with about 60 to 70 marshalls. Without the locals who turn out on the day to help us, it wouldn’t happen.

“It brings everybody together. It is also good for local businesses – particularly the pubs because everyone was in them sheltering from the rain!”