ALAN SHONS declared the 2014 Meon Valley Plod a ‘major triumph’.
But the Portsmouth Joggers’ race director revealed it was moments away from being a disaster.
With heavy rainfall causing floods in the local area, the anticipated 350 entrants fell to 270 at the start line, as many feared a wet-weather washout.
But the hearty masses who donned their spikes to brave the conditions were greeted by a dry – if cold – 21-mile battle over challenging terrain.
Little to their knowledge, though, Shons was fighting a battle all of his own as two 4x4 jeeps had blocked the course at a fallen tree.
A rope, chainsaw and sense of panic all played their part in clearing the area in question – mere seconds before eventual race winner Stuart Holloway arrived en-route to an impressive 2hr 31min 35sec finish.
It was Stubbington Green’s Andy Simpson, though, who caught a relieved Shons’ eye as he battled to a second-placed finish in 2.38.38.
Veteran runner Simpson earned local bragging rights over previous race winner Julian Manning, of Denmead Striders.
Manning finished in fifth place with a time of 2.44.49.
Shons said: ‘Thankfully, the weather was much better than last year – when runners were met with bitterly cold conditions, including hailstones and ice on the ground – and 70 pulled out!
‘This year we only had five pull-outs which is quite exceptional.
‘There was a hairy moment, though, when I came across some uninvited 4x4 jeep drivers on the course taking a chainsaw to a fallen tree.
‘I tried to impress upon them that I had about 300 runners coming through in five minutes which helped motivate them. You couldn’t have got a rabbit through there!
‘Thankfully, though, they cleared the area and as I turned my back the first runner arrived 60 seconds later!’
While Holloway went on to claim race honours, it was Simpson who earned notable praise from Shons.
He said: ‘Andy doesn’t do too much cross country and used this as a training run – so he did extraordinarily well.
‘He came in looking very fresh, so I almost sent him out for a second lap!’
And an appreciative Shons, who is now planning a summer plod in July, added: ‘I’d like to thank the marshals, helpers and 1st Clanfield scouts who all made this event a major triumph.’