Sunday, 25 December 2016

Happy Christmas!!

Can I just take this opportunity to wish all 2017 Manx Telecom Parish Walk competitors, family and friends a very Happy Christmas. Enjoy this festive period, eat and drink plenty and forget about the event for a few days, after all there is still 173 days 22hrs and 21 minutes until the gun goes off on the 17th June!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

African Centurion 2016

Since the 2016 Manx Telecom Parish Walk another attempt at the Ramsey Bakery End to End in September went well with a clear winner in Richard Gerrard with Sam Fletcher 2nd and Adam Killip 3rd a future winner of the longer events like the End to End, Fireman's Charity Walk and indeed the Parish Walk. Karen Chiarello was the first Female home in 4th adding another impressive finish and overall title to her Parish win back in June. I finished the event in 5th one place better than last year.

During October I travelled to South Africa to compete in the Inaugural South African Centurion Walk held on Robben Island. Myself and Christine arrived on the Sunday before the event, being held the following weekend, so had plenty of time to take in some of the sights that South Africa had to offer, these included a colony of Penguins at Boulders Beach near Simons Town, Table Mountain via cable car, and a wine tasting tour. It was after this tour and several local beers too many back in Camps Bay with Richard Gerrard and his wife Kyley, who had also travelled over the same weekend, that I allegedly said I would be willing to write a blog for the 2017 Parish Walk.

The day of the event started with a boat trip over to Robben Island leaving from the Nelson Mandela Gateway in Cape Town. This started well but soon turned bad when the sea conditions worsened and made a few of the competitors and support crew succumb to sea sickness, this of course was funny at first but the more people that fell ill brought on the realisation that it could quite easily be myself or more likely Christine next. Eventually we arrived at the small port and disembarked onto the quayside. From here the group split into two with one group heading to the official support station to start setting up and the 2nd group taking in a tour of the Prison where of course Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of the 27 years he was incarcerated . The tour guide himself had also been incarcerated on Robben Island so the tour not only took in the cells, grounds, toilet blocks and sleeping areas but was described through the eyes of a man that had seen and heard all that went on during his time spent imprisoned on the Island along with Mandela. The last High Security political prisoner's to leave Robben Island made the boat journey back in 1991, Mandela himself had been transferred some years earlier to Pollsmoor Prison on 31 March 1982. The medium security prison remained open until 1996. While many confined there were charged with bogus crimes, others were charged with no crime at all. During the 19th century people suffering from mental illness and leprosy were also isolated on Robben Island, because the climate was considered healthful and because here they could be kept far removed from society at large. Lepers were confined to a community on the island as late as 1931.

Once the shortened tour was completed, shortened due to the race starting at midday and the Ferry not arriving at the island until 10:00hrs, we made are way to where the support station had been set up to prepare for the event itself. The start of the race left from the main entrance near to the prison and began with the longest lap of the race at 6.8 miles. The remaining 21 laps after this were around 4.4 miles. The weather had now improved from a wet start in Cape Town to an almost unbearable dry heat when out of the shade once on the Island. we had been told about the wildlife on Robben Island and within the first couple of Miles had been guided around a snake by the lap Marshall, we had also seen Springbok, Tortoise crossing in front of us, Penguins (Noisy Buggers) and some amazing views of Table Mountain. Once the first of the shorter laps was completed the lap Marshall left us to it. As the sun set the temperature also dropped and as the night progressed the wind became more evident and seemed to be in my face which ever direction I was walking. Around 60 miles into the race I started to feel that the remaining 40 mile could not be achieved, the hot then cold and the road conditions, the road surface was a mixture of chipped and smooth Tar and Block Paving,  had mentally started to take their toll. I mentioned this to Christine who had with Richard and Dave's wives for the last 12 hours supported not only us on every lap but Vinny Lynch and Chris Cale who had also made the journey from the Isle of Man to compete. Christine had suggested I carry on until it at least got light, this sounded OK but the light that came with sunrise was still 6 hours away! The race itself was spent equally as much in the dark with around 11 hours of darkness as it was in daylight. The reward for continuing was the spectacular sunrise, however immediately with the sunrise came the heat once again.

Sunrise from Robben Island, taken by Anthony Long who was supporting Pete Miller on the event.

one of the many spectators on the event........

The African Penguin also known as the Jackass Penguin and Black-Footed Penguin confined to southern African waters. It is also widely known as the "Jackass" penguin for its Donky-like bray

I finished the race in a time of 21hrs 36mins  but more importantly became a centurion for the 2nd time. It was a brilliant performance by all the Manx finishers, taking 6 of the top ten places. Richard Gerrard became the first South African Centurion winning the honour of receiving the first Centurion badge Number 1. The badge numbers ascend with the amount of finishers so a single digit number was the target for me and 5th overall meant I was awarded badge number 5.

Team Manx

From Left - Pete Miller, Suzannah Corkill, Robbie Callister, Janette Morgan, James Quirk, Dave Walker, Vinny Lynch, Richard Gerrard. Colin Townsend is pictured far Right, missing from the picture are Phillip Vermeulen and Chris Cale.

Sunday, 18 December 2016


The training for the 2015 End to End walk, held only 5 weeks after the Castletown Centurion, started immediately after I had returned from a week’s Holiday. This was planned as an added incentive to finish the 100 mile event. The legs still felt quite tired and it took another couple of weeks to start to see and feel any kind of speed returning to the training sessions.

During the 100 mile event it was required to have your own support situated at a fixed feeding station with food, water, additional clothing and any medical items that may have been needed over, what could potentially be, 24hrs of walking. I had convinced Christine that it would be good if she did it and for the most part this worked out ok. I say the most part as sometime during the late evening around 10 hours into the Walk, it started at 12 o'clock, Chris phoned my daughter to arrange, something other than the huge amount of food we had transported to the event, to bring to Castletown something for her to eat and drink . My daughter turned up sometime later, however, I'm still not sure wine and carrot cake was the best idea as it ended in Christine leaving her duties as my soul support to go and crash out (intoxicated) in the back of the van we had used to ferry everything down to Castletown. My daughter Emily and Ray, who had retired from the event sometime earlier after covering a distance of 54 Miles, stood in. Christine did wake up sometime later and regained her role of support.

The Ramsey Bakery End to End was to be the first event since starting walking were I was to have mobile support at every mile or so along the route. With Christine not keen on assisting I enrolled the help of a work colleague, Colin Gilbert, himself a Parish Walk regular with a first time Parish Walk finish in 2015. The event went really well, the support was spot on, and a finish time of 7hrs 17mins in Joint 6th position with Adam Killip was recorded. The advice I had been given regarding support and its frequency had really paid off.

Another winter was spent competing on the Manx Harriers Walking League improving technique and speed to finish the League 3rd Overall with a 10k PB now at 57mins 06secs. The 20k and 10k Championships were next up during March and times of 1hr 57mins for 20K and a new PB of 56mins 32secs posted on the 10k event brought training and competing nicely onto the next event, The Fireman’s Charity Walk, this was previously the Sarah Killey but had taken on a name change only, the distance and route remained the same.  Colin supported me again and the race ended in a time of 5hrs 12mins and 3rd overall. Dave Walker won the event along with Sam Fletcher who caught Dave in the closing miles to finish jointly at Ramsey Fire Station almost 10 minutes ahead of my 3rd position.

The 2016 Manx Telecom Parish Walk was now only 7 weeks away.

Dave Walker had managed to sign an exclusive sponsorship deal with The Caff (Home of the Big Boys Breakfast) for are training group, we eat their on Saturdays after are stroll. After getting back to training and then tapering down the mileage the week before, I turned up on the morning of the event at the National Sports Centre in my Team Caff T Shirt along with the other team members.

From left - Andy Dawson, Ray Beattie, Myself, Jock Waddington, Dave Mackay, Dave Walker, Richard Gerrard and Sam Fletcher.

The event started at 0800hrs and the first 3 miles or so to Marown church seemed to go quite quickly. I was walking for the first few miles with Alan Teare, another previous multiple Parish Walk finisher, 8 finishers and a PB of 18hrs 51mins and Juan Readshaw a 6 times finisher with a PB of 17hrs 58mins. I had set myself a target of 2hrs to Santon (11 Miles) and arrived at the church in a time of 1:57.30 so I was happy with my early pace. Malew, Ballabeg and Rushen church's came and went and it was then up over the climb from Colby to the Round table and the drop down into Dalby. It was at the bottom of the steep hill dropping into to Dalby I felt my right calf tighten. I was sure I had pulled something but as I got closer to Glen Maye it turned into cramp. Andy Dawson and Jeanette Morgan both suggested taking in some Salts, however, I had not thought of salt tablets before so it was something Christine was not carrying in the support vehicle. Christine had kindly agreed close to the event to support me as Colin was taking part and then supporting his wife Sophie after first walking with her the 19 miles to Rushen. Andy's support, his wife Christine, gave me some of his salt tablets and once through Peel the effects of cramp was starting to ease off. Around 45 miles in on the way to Jurby church I started to feel unwell, the training group had been out the Thursday before the event for a meal and unfortunately most of the 16 people that attended had in someway been effected by dodgy stomachs. I ended up in a few fields between Jurby and Bride 'down loading' most of what I had taken on in food and drink during the first 50 miles of the event. A Shorts change was also required during this time, I will leave the reasons for this to your own imagination, and brought on the thinking that I may not finish due to how my stomach was feeling. Andreas church was next up and on the way Alison Kenyon, herself an excellent walker being a 3 times Parish Finisher with a PB of 19hrs 57mins in 2015, was parked up offering refreshments which typified the support you receive on this event not only from official feeding stations but from friends and strangers alike who appreciate the effort that goes in to taking part. On the way towards St Judes Jock Waddington, who had walked his Niece Becca Great batch to First Under 21 Female Finisher at Peel in a time of 6hrs 58mins passed me. Jock went on to finish an excellent 5th O/A from being 50th through Peel. Stew Jones another training group regular also past me at this point, I kept Stew in sight through Lezayre and Ramsey and on the long winding run through Maughold eventually caught back up with him and walking for several miles together until The Dhoon where Stew left me once again. At this point I was again starting to feel a little unwell but carried on through Laxey with the knowledge I was going to finish unless my legs fell off. My younger daughter Annalise had now joined her mum as support and company but it also helped the issue of Christine having to park up and get out each time I was getting near, this was not so much of a problem for her in the daylight but once dark she was finding it a little disconcerting. Lonan and Onchan churches had now been passed and the walk down Royal Avenue to the finish on Douglas promenade was made a little quicker than I had planned by Bridget Kaneen informing me if I wanted to get under 18 hours I better push on. Bridget was judging the event but had stopped at the bottom of Royal Avenue to see me through. I saw Bridget again half way along the promenade section toward the War Memorial finish line and was delighted to see her at the end to thank her for her invaluable support and advice.  I eventually crossed the line in a time of 17hrs 54mins in 15th position winning the Fastest First Time Finishers Award and also winning the Team Award along with Richard Gerrard, Dave Walker, 1st and 2nd overall respectively, and Paul Clark, a work colleague of Dave Walkers from Nobles Hospital and another First time finisher with an overall time of 22hrs 52mins at his First attempt.

Sunday, 11 December 2016


After turning up at Bridget's coaching sessions on a Saturday regularly, working shifts I found I was now taking holidays from work so I could attend (this was getting serious) Bridget mentioned club nights on a Monday and Thursday at the National Sports Centre. Monday was track based and Thursdays was held on the perimeter road, meeting at the Harriers clubhouse. It was during one of these Monday sessions I met Ed Walter and Andy Dawson, both multiple Parish Walk finishers, who attended. I continued with these sessions over the winter months but would still meet up with Ray on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to walk from the NSC, along Douglas promenade and up to Groudle where we would stop and return on the reverse of the route back to the NSC.

Talk between us on these training walks turned to the Sarah Killey Walk (31 miles) which takes in 99% of the Peel to Ramsey part of the Parish route in April. During the training sessions I was told about eating and drinking during longer events and the importance of having support, something I had now learnt had played a big part in the way I was feeling after the previous years Ramsey Bakery sponsored End to End, I had not eaten anything on that event apart from the odd Mini Mars Bar (other chocolate bars are available) and definitely hadn't drank enough.
April and to the event soon came round and I rolled up to the start at the Peel Fire Station with my nephew employed as support driver with a car boot stocked with water and homemade Flap Jacks. The event started well with my nephew meeting me at Devils Elbow, around 3 miles outside of Peel, and then again at Glen Wyllin and Kirk Michael village. by the time I reached Ballaugh It was fair to say I was sick of flap jacks and bored of water so ate and drank now less frequently. I carried on to finish in a time of  5hrs 44mins and 18th Overall, feeling a lot better than I had on the End to End 6 months earlier, this could only be put down to walking now with a better technique and eating and drinking more often along the route.

I still wasn't convinced about entering the 2015 Parish Walk!

In the weeks after the Sarah Killey Ed Walter suggested, after one of the Monday NSC Sessions, I should come up to Bikestyle on a Tuesday evening for additional training with himself and a group of Parish Walk regulars (calling them mere regulars is a little of the mark, they have numerous wins, Parish walk records and top 3 results between them) including Jock Waddington, Dave Walker, Richard Gerrard and Vinny Lynch. It was after this first outing with the group I was re-introduced to the feeling of wanting to curl up on the bathroom floor all over again! being told the session was a steady one was a shock to the system as it was a quicker pace than I had previously trained at. It was now I realised that all the advice and coaching I had been given over the last 8 months had helped me stay somewhere within sight of the group when not only out on that first Tuesday but also what had now turned into regular Tuesday, Thursday evenings and Saturday morning training sessions.

It may come as a shock but I still didn't fancy the Parish Walk and in the end I did not enter the 2015 event, much to the surprise of the group I was now training with and much to my own frustration as the event got closer and was all they were talking about. Ray Beattie had entered, as he had planned to do 8 months earlier, and finished in an excellent time of 18hrs 51mins and 27th overall, winning the Best First Time Finishers Shield, proving again that attending the walking coaching sessions, competing on the 10K Winter League and Sarah Killey but also training with a quicker group had paid off, Ray had also joined the training group on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday not long after me.
I attended the Presentation evening, held at the Villa Marina, supporting Ray and clapped as each of the 174, 2015 Man Telecom Parish Walk finishers, went on stage to collect there awards. I also joined Ray and the rest of the training group at The Woodbourne pub for celebratory drinks after Presentation, it was at this point I hated the fact most that I had not taken part!

 The next event being discussed between the group now was the 100 mile Centurion event (100 miles in 24 hours) being held in Castletown in August, again the distance was of a concern but I was entering no matter what, the feeling of not competing on the Parish was still raw and I could not help thinking how I would have done had I taken part. There was the option to do a 50 mile walk on the event but I was convinced to take on the challenge of the full 100 miles by Jock Waddington, the thinking being, if I got to 50 miles and felt ok I could not continue, where, if I entered the 100 miles I could walk 50 or keep walking till I either dropped or crossed the finish line, the Entry Fee was the same in any case, so in went the cheque and entry form and the training continued with this event now the focus to hit every training opportunity and build up the mileage. I am happy to say it was the best advice I could have been given as I became a Centurion (C1140) after crossing the line in 22hrs 04mins and 8th Male overall.

The event itself was brilliantly organised and will hopefully return back to the Isle of Man in the near future.
Walking had by now become my main focus, I was starting to enjoy the challenge of the longer events and the training required to prepare for them, so the upcoming 2015 End to End, 2016 Sarah Killey, but ultimately the 2016 Manx Telecom Parish Walk, could not come round soon enough!

Sunday, 4 December 2016


As already said in my first post it was the challenge of the 2014 End to End walk that got me off the couch and back into what I thought at the time to be hard training. I spent most of my evenings leading upto the event walking the short distance from Belle Vue Park in Peel down to the Marina and progressively built up over time the number of laps I completed of East and West Quay and over the foot bridge before heading back along Peel Promenade and up over the Headlands home.

When it came to the day of the event I felt I had done more than enough Training mileage to complete the full distance, which, after some encouragement around Dalby from one of the Islands leading Female Walkers Steph Quayle (5 PW Finishers with an 18hr 05min PB) I did, in a time of 8hrs 8mins and 22nd Overall. It was during the latter part of the race, when I could feel through chaffing (my shorts had become one with my groin area) and later, during the journey home (lying on the back seat of the wife's car with my legs locked with cramp hanging out the passenger side window) I decided that anything longer than 39 miles was just mental! The way I felt another attempt at the End to End Walk in the future was more likely never going to happen, Christine (the Wife) confirmed this later when coming to check on me found me curled in to the Fetal Position on the bathroom floor, a physical and mental wreck!

In the days after (the shorts had now parted company with my groin but the results of chaffing remained) I sent an email of congratulation to a fellow walker, Ray Beattie, who I had walked the last 3 miles of the event and crossed the line with a few days earlier. We discussed our own issues during the race and how we had been training beforehand and decided to meet up and start doing a few walks together, this is where I now feel the importance of a training buddy early on is essential as it keeps you motivated and committed to planned sessions as it feels you are letting the other person down if you bail. Rays firm plans before the event were to finish the E2E Walk and to carry that forward into taking part in the Parish Walk 2015 to gain his first full distance finish. I did not let on at this point that the thought of 85 miles to me was still hideous.

During October 2014 I decided I was going to take part in the Winter League 10K series to keep on top of the weight loss and fitness I felt I was benefiting from. I missed the first round due to being on Holiday but competed on the 2nd round at Ronaldsway Industrial Estate posting a time of 64 minutes. I learnt a short time after the race that Bridget Kaneen held a coaching session in Peel on a Saturday morning to focus on Technique which in turn would develop speed. I attended the first session the Saturday after the 10K and was immediately given encouragement and praise for what I had achieved on the 10K the week before, however this was followed by the honesty that my stride was to long and my arms where all over the place. the session lasted for around 90 minutes, after my first coaching session I walked home thinking that this walking lark could be for me, all of a sudden it became not just walking, but trying to develop a good technique to bring on speed..... I was hooked!

For those that maybe interested Bridget still gives up her time on a Saturday morning to coach Technique, meeting at the House of Manannan at 10 o'clock. Looking back now the progress I have made over the last 25 Months can only be put down to the help and advise I have received from a handful of people but without Bridget's help and encouragement initially it would not of been possible. These type of coaching sessions and the Winter Walking League are massively beneficial for anyone thinking of entering the Manx Telecom Parish Walk for the first time in 2017.