ATHLETICS: DAVE Mitchinson is relishing the prospect of the English Cross-Country Championships in a little over two weeks after surviving a mud-bath in Italy.

The Lyenham athlete had the honour of finishing first British runner in the Cinque Mulini Five Mills race, near Milan, at the weekend where heavy snow had made the course treacherous.

"I had been warned to take road racing shoes because the course, which is cross country is normally hard and really fast like a road race," said Mitchinson.

"But I noticed from the weather reports that they had suffered heavy snow falls in the past week and sure enough the course was a mud-bath and snow was piled up to waist height around the roads.

"At least it was a good run-out for the English Championships, which is two weeks on Saturday, as that can also be very muddy."

In a field packed with world class athletes the Africans dominated with Olympic star Paul Koech leading a Kenyan clean sweep.

Former Swindon New College student Mitchinson did well to finish in 18th especially after suffering an embarrassing blunder at the finish.

"I made a bit of a schoolboy error my mis-judging the finish," added Mitchinson.

"When I thought I was in the last 500 metres I started sprinting and overtook three other runners only to hear an official ring the bell to signify another lap!

"I couldn't believe it and while I felt completely wrecked I don't think it cost me too much - except for the three guys I had just overtaken!

"But apart from that it was a great experience and I'd love to run it again."

RESULT - 1 Paul Koech (Ken) 30:31; 2 Brimin Kipruto (Ken) 30:33; 3 Joseph Fabians (Ken) 30:48. 18 Dave Mitchinson 32:14.