Well, it's all over for another year. I'm back in Ulverston, piles of washing over the floor waiting to be sorted washed and put away for the next race. (After 85 miles some of the gear was so high it could have walked home on it's own!) It's accompanied by the comedown following the race, but that is tempered by the high associated with a satisfactory performance. Something that stays with you forever and experienced now by many new Parish finishers. The feeling you get at just over 84 miles as you come round the final bend at Port Jack onto the final stretch on the flat (phew, no more climbs) and down the prom towards the finish line is one that money can't buy. That buzz is the thing that keeps you coming back for more, and in my own case, looking for new challenges.
Photo from the Isle of man Examiner. I almost look as though I know what I'm doing...
Apart from the 8 page supplement in the Independent tomorrow which will be pored over and safely stored away by finishers to be looked at in future times, plans will start for next year. Hopefully others will be motivated by stories of exploits by friends and work colleagues to try themselves for the first time. Some might be put off by the sight of colleagues in work suits and flip flops limping in with dressings around blistered feet, but these heal, the pain goes away, and all that is left is a fitter better person, with more motivation and a keener eye for a challenge. The thought "I've walked 85 miles, so this should be no problem" to challenges in your life help you in all aspects of your everyday life, your personal ambition improves. what were major worries become minor.
I honestly look at this photo and think, "How am I stuck here in the middle of so many of my heroes, legends one and all" It makes all the work in training worthwhile, and is going in a frame in a quiet corner of the house to make me smile on dark days.
So to next year. As soon as the presentation night is over, organisation starts for the Scottish Widows parish walk 2012. Many, many thanks go to Race Director Raymond Cox, Secretary Liz Corran, and the rest of the committee who work tirelessly to keep the race on the Calendar. Thanks to Murray Lambden who keeps the website going, seemingly without sleep to keep everyone informed with his facts and statistics. And (I know you shouldn't start a sentence with "and", but here it's fitting) for asking me to do the blog back in September last year. This blog has been my personal motivation, a reason to train on those dark winter days, and a reason to train and research to keep the blog from going stale. Murray, thanks, this blog kept me going and got me, and apparently so many others who followed me, our personal goals.
Thanks to the NSC and the Manx sporting associations who give us wonderful facilities and help with training and preparation throughout the build up.
The main sponsors, Scottish Widows, with their help and association the race would not be any where near as successful as it is.
The emergency services, police, ambulance and coastguard amongst others who make a safe environment for the athletes.
The Manx government who actively promote the race and allow the island to become one huge race track for 24 hours a year, road closures and one way systems make a great difference.
The media, radio, tv and press for their coverage. I have a manx radio feed which keeps me in touch with what's happening, and gave me some warning when a microphone was going to be thrust under my nose. (although can someone tell the presenters that Peel is 32.5miles, it's a basic which most people know. A little research can go a long way.)
The Marshalls. Volunteers all, often rushing round to keep up with the race, all with a very pleasant smile and a "well done" to help you on your way. Many thanks.
The support crews. A good support crew is worth it's weight in gold, and often are happy to stand back while the walker gets the glory. It's a very tough job and without them we wouldn't have a race. I'd like to say a personal thanks here to Pauline and Will, my other team members who went above and beyond the call of duty to keep me fed, watered,cool and warm when necessary, and happy.
The local businesses who set out and stock feeding points with water, bottled sports drinks, bananas, mars bars and all the other bits and pieces to keep the walkers refreshed and walking.
The special villages which make it a highlight of the year as the race passes through their normally peaceful and idillic communities, with marquees, barbecues and offers of help to the seemingly endless stream of participants making their annual visit to their neighbourhood. Maughold and Andreas stand out, but the likes of, amongst others Peel and Bride also provide welcomes that help us along.
The people living on the route who set up trestle tables, from the small with a plate of oranges and some jelly babies, to the large where the kids are eagerly holding up cups of water and bowls of sweets waiting expectantly for a Parish walker to take their offered assistance.
And finally the spectators, along the entire route, to the people standing at their gates with a programme in hand to offer verbal encouragement by name to all who pass, to the crowds lining streets applauding, standing outside pubs with a beer in the evening sunshine, to the night owls lining the prom offering motivation on the final stretch. The bands that play as the walkers pass, the groups in fancy dress, like the clowns at Kirk Micheal, the passing motorists who beep their horns (or as the night comes and the passengers imbibe some falling down water, hang out of the windows and scream encouragement).
If I've forgotten anyone, apologies, and hopefully I'll be reminded. Everyone, literally thousands, who make the Parish Walk so special, Many, many heartfelt thanks, for giving me and all the other competitiors memories that will stay us me for the rest of our lives.
One final, final thing. (honestly)
Many thanks to the people who clicked on the blog. When Murray asked me if I wanted to do it, I was flattered, and decided to write the kind of blog that I wanted to read back in 2007 when I was an unfit couch potato, a heart attack waiting to happen, not the super fit athlete (not my words, the words of the Manx FM reporter who watched me approach Maughold and expressed astonishment that I had breath left to wave and give a cheery hello.) and sub 16 hour Parish walker. I started out at 21h 30m 7s. A good first time, but about average for a finisher. I did the research, put in the training, and eventually got good enough to start making a name for myself. I wanted to prove I could do it, and if I could, anyone could.
A special thanks to all who not only read my blog, but followed the tips, techniques and encouragement, then came to me after the event and thanked me for helping them finish for the first time. Probably not true, anyone with the right mental preparation can do it, but one of the finest memories I'll take from this years Parish is the thought that quite a few people feel that if it wasn't for me they wouldn't have even finished. I was asked by a few people if I would leave the blog for them to read next year? Can I publish it? So, what I'm thinking of doing is to work over the next couple of months and tidy up the blog. I'll add plenty that I've either forgotten or have found out since. Let some experts read it, tell me it's rubbish and start again, and add more, bulk it up a bit with stories and snippets that I've picked up over the last few months, other walkers motivations and stories, a guide to being a support crew, and publish it as an e-book. Minimal cost, and if it makes any money it'll go to my charity, Macmillan Cancer Support. But hopefully one useful guide to training for the Parish 2012. If anyone has any ideas, suggestions or contributions for the e-book, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I'll reply to all, and any good motivational stories or funny anecdotes from the Parish will hopefully be in the book.
See you on the start line next year.