An 85 Mile ‘Walk In The Park’ – How Hard Can It Be?
The Isle of Man nestles quietly in the middle of the Irish Sea but some might ask why its’ people always look for extreme ways to test themselves. The sea faring ways of the Manx still live on, as they seek ‘fun’ ways to wring as much as possible out of life. For 110 years they have held their annual TT motorcycle races, offering the ultimate challenge on two wheels – if you’re fast enough and hard enough. Complemented by stunning scenery, bikes flash past at 200 miles per hour while others find pleasure in walking, but at a more leisurely pace.
While, with no mechanical assistance allowed, the annual Parish Walk has become a firm favourite on the Islands calendar. It’s another June event which relies on marshals and year long, back stage, organisation. It offers a serious test, one where teamwork and Lady Luck is vital. Along with 1400 other hopefuls I’d signed up to do it again, ‘it’ being the 85 mile Parish Walk which has to be covered in under 24 hours while signing in at 17 Parishes along the way. The preparation had gone well, those long dark winter evenings where miles were put in the tank in all weathers. But that was all in the past now as: diet, hydration, pace and a flaky mind all needed to be managed, to show who’s really boss, on the day. Some say “pain is just weakness leaving the body” but mere theorists are like that.
Before I’d set off I knew I was going to have a bad patch – it’s always just a question of where and for how long the ‘patch’ lasts. Mine this year was just before Peel, with hearty apologies if you saw a pavement pizza while out walking your dog on Sunday morning. My dietary fail was conveyed to my Wife by a kindly other competitor. Teamwork is never just a collaboration with those you know.
How was this year different? Well, heat for one and lots of it. Not known for our Sahara like conditions, most reckon it was the hottest ‘Parish’ in years. Brutal sun and no cloud cover up the infamous Sloc did for many pretty early on. What else was different this year? Well, my diet: especially milk, all three pints of it guzzled along the way. Water melon slipped down a treat and lots of that too. As ever, what I thought I needed pre-walk was oh so different on the day, firm food favourites suddenly invoked a gag reflex and changing by the minute. Into the wee small hours it was tea and melted chocolate that really hit the spot and latterly, piping hot tomato soup. Anything bulkier was a non starter.
On we trudged, finally crossing the line in 19 hours 29 minutes, in joint 17th place. ‘We’ being my training partner Steph Quayle – she was strong where I was weak and vice versa. Our Winter miles nagging us to just man up and carry on. Each knowing the other was vital to our joint efforts. Jude and Norm supported me throughout and they too deserve medals. To all who started and to those who finished, well done – next year I might just take a motorbike but not at 200 miles per hour.