A HIGHLY entertaining and exhausting day of trail running and pushing cars around muddy fields ended in great success for Thornbury Running Club at the Doynton Hard Half Marathon on Sunday.

The tranquil village of Doynton, nestled between Dyrham and Wick, was transformed into a carnival of off-road running thanks to Emersons Green Running Club, who meticulously organise their showpiece race of the year with boundless enthusiasm and style.

The weather conditions on the day were horrendous, rain lashed down throughout and a bracing wind blew over the more exposed fields on the course.

The pre-race warm up featured most of the runners and their unlucky supporters pushing their cars on to the makeshift car park, as the field had already degenerated into a mudbath.

Thornbury runners Rob Cowlard and Nick Williams renewed rivalries after their duel the previous weekend at Riverbank Rollick, when Rob narrowly beat his younger team-mate.

The Doynton course was a different proposition, with four extra miles and much more climbing.

Added to that, was an abundance of mud and several water crossings through streams and a ford, the latter reaching waist height and featuring an inflatable crocodile bobbing around in the water.

Nick Williams went straight to the front of the race for the first long climb, throwing down the gauntlet to his more experienced team-mates.

After the first three miles and the three longest climbs on the course, Nick had opened a gap and had the bit between his teeth.

Nick extended the lead in the rest of the race and maintained a furious pace to finish third overall in a fantastic time of one hour 39:12 mins.

Rob may have been beaten by the younger man on this occasion, but had the consolation of finishing sixth overall and was first in the M40-49 age category in one hour 42:04 mins.

The men’s and women’s team prize is decided by the top three finishers by each club, and after Nick and Rob’s heroics Thornbury were well placed to win the men’s competition.

Matt Johnstone rounded off the top three for the club in 11th place overall and was second M40-49 in a time of one hour 45:43 mins.

After a nervous wait at the end, Thornbury were confirmed as winners of the men’s team competition, breaking Bristol and West’s stranglehold of this event.

Rob Watkins had Matt in his sights and was making ground in his customary late charge, overtaking several competitors who were running out of steam in the final miles. Rob finished 13th overall and fourth M40-49 in one hour 46:19 mins.

Jim Godden was next in 28th place and third in M50-59 age category in one hour 53:54 mins, followed by David Beard in 38th place in one hour 57:53 mins and Rob Hopkins in 60th in two hours 4:45 mins.

Jo Emerson was the first Thornbury woman to finish and was in 91st place overall and 12th woman in a time of two hours 11:18 mins.

Lizzie Williams was in 128th place overall and 19th woman in two hours 18:48 mins.

Kevin Cundy and Sonya Bryson supported each around the course and finished in 227th and 228th in the same time of two hours 40:49 mins.

Hugh McPherson likes nothing better than running up a hill, especially a muddy one.

He was in his element on the Doynton course and ran two hours 41:58 mins in 233rd and was third in M60-69 age category.

Maite Roche deserved special praise for waving at all the race photographers, even the ones positioned in the latter part of the course. Her finishing time was two hours 51:10 mins in 290th place. John Grimsey battled round the course and despite a tumble on one particularly slippery slope, finished in 359th place and second in the 70-plus age category in three hours 14:49 mins.

There were four Thornbury runners at three different parkruns on Saturday. Rachael Underwood ran 30:16 mins at Thornbury. Kevin Arnold dipped under 21 minutes for the first time in 4 years at Chipping Sodbury in 17th place in 20:46 mins, with Kevin Wood finishing in the same run in 22:44 mins. Paul Harrod was in town at Eastville park and ran a very respectable time of 20:10 mins in 11th place.