GEMMA Knudsen is this week celebrating the biggest success of her athletics career, writes KEVIN FAHEY.

Overall victory in the Wiltshire Road Race has capped a tremendous year for the 31-year-old member of Avon Valley Runners.

Personal bests galore, her first Wiltshire county honour and now the prize as the top woman in the annual league – and, of course, not forgetting marriage to AVR club-mate Ed Knudsen – add up the best period of her fledgling athletics career.

“I am delighted but I wasn’t expecting that at all,” said Knudsen, a maths teacher in Warminster.

“I did a few races last year with Ed and some Parkruns but mostly I was just pottering about as I wasn’t training properly.

“So, this year I decided to focus on the league and see what I could do.

“But I never thought I could go on and win it.”

Fortunately, Knudsen made the astute decision last year to join AVR and hook up with experienced coach Steve Williams, and her results have shown the benefits of a more structured training plan.

That was evident in the first race of the league programme when she finished third overall and second Wiltshire woman in the Chippenham 10-miles race on Good Friday – just one week after getting married.

“I had been away on honeymoon, chilling and eating too much chocolate, so to come back and do well in that race was amazing,” added Knudsen.

It set the tone as Knudsen then reeled off consistent performances, with four successive second places in the Shrewton 10k, the Broad Town 5k, Melksham 10k and Headington 5k, with the Broad Town race also earning her a second Wiltshire county medal, having won a bronze in the Corsham 10k.

That put her in pole position in the overall league positions, and when she then finished top county runner in the Colerne 5k, followed by another second place in the Chippenham half-marathon, victory was all but guaranteed.

“It has been a really good season for me,” said Knudsen.

“I have run personal bests in the Headington 5k, the Corsham 10k, the Broad Town 5k and the Chippenham half, while in the latter I also represented Wiltshire for the first time in the South West Inter Counties match.

“It has been a very nice surprise and now I am looking forward to racing the cross country for the club.”

Runner-up in the women’s event was AVR club-mate Jennifer Marlow, with Highworth Running Club’s Charlotte Olver third and another AVR athlete, Holly Newman, fourth.

Leading man was confirmed as Chippenham-based Team Bath AC runner Gary Dunstone as he did just enough to hold off Michael Gilbert, of Calne Running Club, with AVR’s Daniel Miles third.

Dunstone said: “The aim this year was to make sure my training was just enough to get through the season and race consistently enough to win the title and it worked very well.

“I think I have won the V40 title before but not the overall title, so it has been a good year for me as I have also run PBs at 5k, 10k and the half-marathon and represented England in the British Masters International.”

Team awards are based on combined men and women’s scores, and in a very tight contest, Avon Valley Runners edged out Calne Running Club to retain their, title with Devizes Running Club third.