Thursday, 12 December 2013


Those who have had a go at building flat-pack furniture (I'm particularly aiming at the blokes here) will open the box with a confident swagger knowing full well that therein lies a challenge hardly worthy of the term "challenge". A cursory glance at all the neatly arranged parts of the three drawer dresser/wardrobe combo (with the added complexity of a full length mirror and slow-closing hinges) spread out on the floor promotes a wry smile, the wearer of which is confident in the knowledge that this will take perhaps 50 minutes maximum of his Sunday afternoon. This will be followed by footy on the telly and praise in abundance from his better half. The enclosed instructions are tossed aside as irrelevant: after all, this was going to be easy.
The confident DIY enthusiast thus begins his journey into the exciting world of furniture construction.
This analogy was essentially my feelings on the run up to Parish Walk 2004.
I had no 'instructions' on how to tackle what lay ahead and I had what I thought was the correct tools and mental approach so, although I had only been training for less than four months, I was supremely confident that I was going to finish on Douglas promenade within the 24 hours allowed to complete the challenge. The training I had done had gone well and I had boundless enthusiasm. I couldn't wait to get going.
[Approaching the Round Table on my maiden Parish Walk]
On the morning of the race, I walked the ½ mile to the National Sports Centre. I remember being stunned at the sheer volume of people gathering at the start line. Before I knew what was happening, 8 o'clock arrived and we were off! I was sort of in the middle of the pack and I remember getting very frustrated that I couldn't go faster due to the sheer volume of people filling the NSC perimeter road and on to the TT access road. There was absolutely no space to move into and it remained like this until we made our way out onto Peel Road near Braddan church (the first of 17 churches) approximately 2 miles from the start.
As the first few miles disappeared behind me, the congestion eased a bit and I was able to speed up and I felt happier that I was going at I speed I was comfortable with. I remember constantly sipping on the Camelbak of isotonic drink on my back. By the time I reached Malew church (number 4 of 17) 15 miles from the start, I had finished the entire contents of the Camelbak. I had started to feel a bit ropey which was due to drinking an isotonic mixture which was too concentrated (my logic told me to add an extra scoop of powder per litre of water for extra energy!). Ironically, my plan for added energy was having the opposite effect- it appeared my body was losing water with every sip as it tried to dilute the mixture I was feeding it. I didn't drink any water either until I had run out of the isotonic stuff which, unknown to me, merely added to what was rapidly becoming my downfall.
By Rushen, I had slowed right down however, I somehow made the next 13 or so miles to Peel but by the time I arrived there, I was virtually on my last legs. Everything ached. It was a feeling I hadn't experienced before and I had absolutely no idea why it was happening. At Peel, I could have easily called it a day as every part of my body was screaming at me to stop. I was determined not to stop at Peel though because, in my competitive mind, "everyone" stopped at Peel and I therefore decided to continue to Kirk Michael and stop there. After all, it was only six miles away.
It may as well have been sixty.
As I struggled painfully on towards Whitestrand just north of Peel, I spotted two guys about 200 metres ahead of me. I had no idea who they were, however I could see that they were a bit older than I was, probably in their fifties. Rallying myself, I decided to catch this pair and show them a clean pair of heels. I pushed on but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't close the gap. In fact, they pulled away from me and after a couple of more miles, I never saw them again.
On this coast road, one can see the church at Kirk Michael when you are still miles from it. This is really annoying especially when you are feeling as rough as I was at that time! It just doesn't seem to get any closer. By the time I checked in at Kirk Michael nine hours after starting, I was totally done-in and I was glad I could at last stop. I was mentally and physically exhausted and couldn't have taken another step.
Although I was glad for the relief of stopping, I was absolutely gutted that I had to give-in as, quite simply, I hadn't achieved what I had set out to do. The Parish Walk had beaten me and I felt so disillusioned for a few days after. Over the coming days and weeks, I tried to determine just what had gone so badly wrong when I was convinced I would finish.
In all honesty, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was merely an enthusiastic amateur with high ambitions but without doubt, the most dangerous part of my 'race strategy' was the over confidence in my own ability. I learned a lot from that day as it was quite an eye-opener and have never taken any race for granted since. Enthusiasm will only get you so far.

Christmas is just around the corner and the SCS relay takes place on Boxing Day. I am having a go in a team of four along with Vinny Lynch, Richard Gerrard and Dave Mackey. Two team members run one 3 mile lap each whilst the other two do two laps each. As hangovers may be high on the agenda that day, no-one was that keen to volunteer to do a two-lap leg so we had to go to the pub last night to watch football and draw straws to decide who did which legs. Dave Walker (who was sober and therefore trustworthy) was the official adjudicator which is just as well as the fairly simple process of drawing straws gained added complexity after numerous beers. Anyway, Rich and I are doing 2 laps whilst Vin and Dave M are doing one. I have never seen Vin and Dave looking so happy! Let's see if they're still laughing on Boxing Day.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Ok, where to start?
I suppose every story has a beginning and I have been asked quite a few times why I was tempted to enter the Parish Walk for the very first time.
As briefly mentioned in my last post, I was a late developer as far as sport is concerned: until 2004, I did no sport or physical activity whatsoever. I was a common or garden couch potato but it was a work in progress and I was fairly good at it with a number of years' practice under my belt.
I was aware of the Parish Walk but it held no interest for me and I didn't know many people who had attempted it. The thought of walking 85 miles in one go perplexed me as I couldn't comprehend why anyone would want to do it.
In February of that year, my best friend, Rob Greatbatch, very sadly passed away after fighting illness for some time. He was 39.
Up until that point, I had been living day to day with absolutely no focus or ambition whatsoever. Rob's untimely death brought me down to earth with a bang.
A mutual friend and fellow couch potato asked me that March if I'd like to join him in having a go at the Parish in that June in memory of our friend who had himself walked the Parish to Peel some years earlier. The plan was to raise money through sponsorship for two worthy charities.
I immediately said 'yes' without really thinking about what I what I was about to get into.
So, training began in an old pair of fashion trainers, swimming shorts and cotton t-shirt. I had no idea what I was doing (some would say that's still the case) but I now had a focus and a hitherto unknown need to finish something I had started.
I remember one of my first training walks was from home, just off Peel Road, Douglas to Marown church and back - a distance about seven miles. I did this and felt completely brilliant. This walking lark was easy! I had never walked so far before and I wanted more.
Over the next couple of months, I mostly trained alone and, by the end of May, I was regularly walking up to 15 miles at a good old pace.
As June approached and Parish day loomed, the conviction in my mind that I could complete it on the day was unwavering. After all, I had been training regularly for almost four months. Surely more than adequate preparation for what lay ahead?
Someone leant me a Camelbak (literally a bladder in a rucksack into which you can store liquids which has a tube attached to drink the contents) which I sensibly filled with some sort of isotonic powder/water mixture. Being ├╝ber sensible, I decided to ignore the manufacturer's directions and add an extra scoop per litre of water using the logic that more is better and my body will welcome the extra nutrients as it powers on towards the finish line in Douglas a mere 85 miles from the start.
Finally, the day arrived and I was well excited. I had done literally squillions of miles in preparation (in 4 months!), was wearing suitable sporty clothing (the same old fashion trainers, etc.), had my three gallons of isotonic rocket fuel and boundless enthusiasm. And some sandwiches.
I was as ready as I could possibly be!
I'll reveal how my debut event went next time.

Friday, 29 November 2013

What is the Parish Walk

Welcome to my Parish Walk blog which is my first concerted effort into the world of blog. I had a little go last year for the End to End Walk web site with the intention of adding news and updates however, posts were few and far between as there wasn't a great deal of race related info to pass on.
Writing a blog is easy for some and more of a challenge for others. I hope to fall somewhere in-between the two camps and will have a good go at supplying some interesting info, fact and fiction, hints and tips.
Time will tell, I suppose but I am looking forward to writing it.
And so, to the title of this first post. The Oxford dictionary doesn't list the "Parish Walk" so I broke it down and received the following:
Parish (noun) - a small administrative district typically having its own church.
Walk (verb) - move at a regular pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once.*
Fairly straightforward, then.
In 2010, the then main sponsors, Clerical Medical, brought the British Olympian and Commonwealth Games athlete Roger Black to the island to promote the Parish Walk to a wider audience, to host motivational talks for competitors and to be the face of the Parish Walk.
Having never been to the island before, when he was originally asked if he would be willing to be involved, he imagined the Parish Walk to be "a Sunday afternoon stroll with the vicar around the parish followed by tea with scones and jam." When he came over and saw just what the Parish Walk is all about and how challenging it is, he realised how far off the mark his original impression was.
So, although the event is a walk and it goes through 17 parishes, to the uninitiated, the name conjures up just such an image.
To date, I haven't had a scone whilst going round.
Joking aside, a great many people do decide to have a go at "the Parish" without fully understanding exactly what it is they are getting into. I fell into that bracket in 2004 when I put on a pair of old trainers one sunny Saturday morning in June. Bolstered by literally tens of miles training between March and June, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I couldn't get to the finish line. How difficult could it possibly be?
Prior to 2004, I wasn't sporty in any capacity save for watching footy on television and/or walking to the pub. That was my sole involvement in the world of sport. Since entering the Parish Walk in that year however, I have learnt a great deal about, not only myself, but about the Manx walking community in particular and I have met and regularly train and compete with a whole new circle of friends.
OK, so first post over and fairly painless (although I have spent hours messing about with the layout and so on as its a nightmare to administer as there are myriad of options!).
Don't be too traa di looar and get your entry in early!
* (part of)  IAAF Rule 30(1) which is fairly relevant.