THE stunning Elan Valley will play host to the 40th edition of the Rhayader Round the Lakes Race this weekend – but did you know it was inspired by the first-ever London Marathon?

The London Marathon – one of the world’s most iconic – was first run in 1981. Three years later, a Rhayader landlord thought a 20-mile road race in the mountains of Mid Wales would make a good race to lead up to the marathon and be a winner for tourism in the Radnorshire town during the colder, quieter early months of the year.

The race, which today offers runners a 10km and a more arduous 30km route, takes place on Saturday (March 2).

“The Round the Lakes Race, using the beautiful Elan Valley route we more or less still use today in 2024, was the brainchild of an enterprising Rhayader publican, John Mosen, who ran the Lamb and Flag pub, still thriving today – like our race – 40 years on,” said Peter Anderson, who is part of the current organising team and has been researching the race’s roots.

“John wasn't a runner, far from it, but he did have two daughters, one of whom, Kevena, was a keen athlete.

“Kevena sowed the seed and John was also very interested in ways to attract more visitors to the town – especially during the early time of the year when not much was happening.

“This was at the time when there was a huge renewed interest in marathon running following the big success of the London Marathon, which started in 1981.

“John thought, quite rightly, that a 20-mile race around the valley, some weeks before 'The London', would be a winner and bring visitors to the town.

“Well, it was a winner, but not immediately. Thirty runners lined up for the first running of the race in March 1984 and many of them did PBs (yes, the course was short).”

John, who paid for the prizes himself, wasn't deterred and within a few years over 500 runners were lining up at the start, this time following a precisely measured 20 miles meandering through the beautiful Elan Valley.

Peter added: “John, who sadly died a few years ago in Australia, would have been the first to acknowledge that the race could never have survived the years without the army of local volunteers who turn up every year to support the race.

County Times:  The seed for Rhayader Round the Lakes was sewn by the London Marathon, which started in 1981. The first Elan Valley race ran in 1984. The seed for Rhayader Round the Lakes was sewn by the London Marathon, which started in 1981. The first Elan Valley race ran in 1984. (Image: PA)

“Three women in particular deserve a mention; Angela Arthur, Pat Davies and Barbara Lawrence, who all did the lion's share of organising the event for 30 years each.”

A race spokesperson said: “This year both the 30km (500 runners) and 10km (200 runners) races sold out before Christmas for the first time so I think it’s fair to say the race is gaining in popularity all the time.”

This week’s cold weather had briefly threatened to overshadow the 40th anniversary race, with organisers announcing on Thursday night that cancellation was possible as they feared for the safety of runners, volunteers and spectators. But, upon inspection of the course on Friday morning, the race was given the green light.

Both distances start and finish at Rhayader Rugby Club. The 30km route take runners out of town and around the beautiful Elan Valley dams and the 10km race takes runners up to the Elan Valley and back.

The start time for 10km race is 11.15am and 11.30am for 30km race. For more details, visit the Rhayader Round the Lakes Race Facebook page.