December 23 2014 Latest news:

When Mrs Ashby suggested a dirty weekend in the country, I wasted no time booking us both a place in the Rough n Tumble cross-country race near Marlborough, Wiltshire, writes Justin Ashby.

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Just over 10 miles of ‘mud, sweat and hills’ is how the event organisers bill the race. One cannot accuse them of mis-selling!

The delightful village of Milton Lilbourne is where the race is based, a village which prior to Wednesday was cut-off by floods, thus putting the event in jeopardy. Thankfully, conditions improved and 500 runners lined up at the village hall, scanning the Pewsey Vale Ridge in the distance. This chalky ridge would have to be ascended twice.

This was one of those races where any concerns about getting your feet wet were swiftly dealt with; approximately 90 seconds after starting the race, we tackled the lane out of the village to find it ankle-deep in water for quarter of a mile. The lane had turned into a stream!

After a brief respite the runners were shepherded to the top of the ridge where they were greeted with absolutely no views whatsoever as the mist had come down and it was difficult to even see the person next to you! This made puddle-avoidance somewhat challenging but the next three miles allowed us to find a bit of rhythm and settle in position.

After a tricky and technical descent along a narrow, chalky footpath (Justin’s new La Sportiva trail shoes are HIGHLY recommended) we then faced the non-runnable and near-vertical second ascent of the ridge. To be honest, at this point it was a welcome break to stop running and hike up the hill – good practise for the Four Trigs!

With half the race done and the worst hills over, it was time to stride out across the soggy fields and trails until, at last, the village could be spotted again.

A good crowd had gathered to cheer the runners home, all of whom were very muddy and just as sweaty. They deserved the excellent post-race cakes, courtesy of the Milton Lilbourne WI!

Race results: Claire Ashby 249th, 1:47:05; Justin Ashby 5th, 1:12:36, 1st M40

This followed on Justin’s 10th place finish in Exeter’s First Chance 10k the week before. The only damper on that occasion was the amendment to the course because of flooding which invalidated his record time of 34.46.

On the same weekend Jason Drew also battled difficult conditions at Killerton in the South West Cross Country Championships.

His fourth place in the U17 category, though, guaranteed the team prize for Devon and for him personally a probable place in the South West team for the Virgin London Mini Marathon.

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