MUD, glorious mud. That was what welcomed Wiltshire runners Mike Dooley and Themis Bower as they celebrated the start of a new cross-country season, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

Recent heavy, prolonged rain had seriously softened up the course at Wotton-under-Edge Park, turning parts of the course into a mud bath fit for a pig.

After a summer spent on the road and track, this was a harsh baptism for the Team Bath runners, especially Corsham-based England masters international Dooley, who has only just recovered from a nasty bout of shingles.

“There was so much mud that your legs ended up caked in it and it kept you nice and warm,” said Dooley.

“It was a really imaginative, challenging course and the mud just added to it. But I love the mud and I think most of the team did as well.

“It was proper, old-fashioned cross-country.”

Dooley certainly coped better than most, finishing 36th overall of the 203 finishers and top veteran over 50.

“I am happy with that and I am feeling about 95 per cent now but it has taken me about a year to get over this illness,” added Dooley.

Marshfield runner Bower just missed out on a top-20 place in 21st but helped the Team Bath squad finish third behind defending champions Cheltenham & County Harriers and the University of Bath students.

Team Bath coach Paul King said: “Cheltenham are always very strong but the team wanted to beat Bath University as we have a friendly rivalry and enjoy some good banter with them.

“But it was a good day out for everyone and hopefully we can improve as the season progresses and we get runners back.”

The club actually finished two senior men’s teams and three women’s teams, with Lizzie Wraith leading the A squad to ninth place as she finished 11th overall.

Chippenham-based Ellery Cole was top junior man and Lottie Silverton was sixth in the U15 girls’ race.

Chippenham Harriers’ Callum Cole was 13th in the U17 men’s race.