DETERMINED runners went slip-sliding away in the mud and sludge of the third annual Prospect Hospice 10k yesterday.

Around 170 runners took to the course, setting off from Nationwide HQ pavilion at around 10.30am, and times varied between the professional and the amateurs, who dug in deep to raise as much cash as they could.

Almost to a man, the field had personal reasons for running, including eventual winner Neil Smith, who came in with a time of just over 40 minutes.

“I was running it for my dad who died of prostate cancer four years ago, and Prospect were wonderful for him,” said the 44-year-old, of Wroughton.

“It is the first time I have run this course, and have been training for an event in France in the summer, in which you run alongside dogs in the French Alps.

“It was extremely muddy today, and very slippery. I came prepared with the right shoes though.”

Following hot on the heels of Neil came a familiar face for Swindon Town fans, as the retired Rockin’ Robin of 13 years service showed he still had the stamina to compete.

Tom Hartley, 30, of High Wycombe: “It’s just a great charity and a really worthy cause,” said the former mascot.

“I haven’t run in quite a long time but I have run the London Marathon dressed as Rockin’ Robin back in 2010.

“I actually hold the unofficial world record for running marathons as a mascot.”

The 30-year-old from High Wycombe admitted the course was a new challenge for him, more accustomed to road races.

“I have never run cross country before, so it was quite a challenge and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.

“I didn’t see the first steep hill coming up but I just had to push through it.”

The first woman across the finish line was 38-year-old Geri Taylor, of Priory Vale.

“It’s a Sunday morning, so what better reason for a run?” she said. “I haven’t done this course before but it was nice and muddy. Prospect is definitely a wonderful charity to support, so I am hoping for a good donation.”

Sheryl Crouch, head of fundraising at Prospect Hospice, thanked all the runners for turning out on a grey day in February.

“It is a muddy and dirty old run, and getting muddied up is half the fun of it,” she said.

“We have had a fabulous morning. Everyone that turned up has really been on their game. There are some great amounts people have raised and people doing it in memory of their loved ones, so there are lots of emotive reasons to take part.

“Lots of people have really gone outside their comfort zones for this. It is a tough run, but an exhilarating one. It never ceases to amaze me the level of affection people have for the hospice, and as a consequence of that we see the best support from the local community.”