Ok, so entries for the Parish don't open until midnight on Sunday - and for those of you ultra-keen to get your names down, you probably won't get a chance to read this until then at the very earliest. Just to 'kick-off' the blog though, I thought I'd share with you some of my best (and worst) Parish memories, to break things in gently and build a bit of excitement as the entries start to trickle in.
Unfortunately I'm not old enough to remember anything pre-2003, as you'll guess from the little 'profile' section on the right hand side! That said though, there have been plenty of memorable performances and talking points in the last five years.
My first contact with the event was as a marshal at the Round Table in 2003. Together with some friends I had a brilliant day soaking up the atmosphere, looking out for walkers I knew (seeing school teachers in pain was a particular highlight, if a bit cruel) and generally trying to lend a hand wherever I was needed. Lasting memories were of blow-up palm trees, Mann-Vend guys dressed as butlers and of course the brilliant view all the way back to Cronk-ny-Arrey-Laa - we could see the walkers rounding the sharp right-hander at the very top of the Sloc 15 minutes before they got to us.
For 2004 and 2005 I was out and about supporting for mum and her close friend. This gave me a chance to get a better feel for what people go through during the walk - where, when and what they like to eat, what sort of conditions they prefer and how to be a good support crew without driving your walker mad with constant comments like 'Are you ok,' 'do you need another banana' etc etc.
2006 will I'm sure always be remembered for Sean's incredible record - and not forgetting Robbie in 2nd, beating Derek Harrison's long-standing record too. I remember deciding in the afternoon that I was definitely going to watch the finish, then in the evening realising that I couldn't face going out...and regretting it massively in the morning when I read the news on the website.
2007 was my first crack at the U21 mens' race, with the goal being to reach Peel. Prior to the race I had done a reasonable amount of training and also read the forums on the manxathletics.com site in the hope of gleaning tips on things like food and race pacing. Depending on whose views you read, between 70 and 90 % of the Parish is 'in the head,' although it didn't feel like it on the day! (100% was in the legs!)
I'd averaged a steady pace from the start until the Round Table (something like 4.2 mph I think) but then must have gone down the other side into the dip a little bit too fast, because I 'hit the wall' at Eairy Cushlin with cramp in both hamstrings. It was a massive shock, because I hadn't felt any twinges or discomfort until then - the muscles just 'went' and I knew I was in trouble.
After some Deep Heat and a bit of stretching I carried on in quite a lot of pain - not just in the legs but the shoulders too. After a while though, on the descent into Dalby, I began to feel better and thought for the first time 'I can actually do this.' The climb out of Glen Maye was a killer, I was walking like a robot trying to keep my legs straight to prevent the cramp hitting again - but once back on the flat I really perked up and was able to get past a few people on the way into Peel. I finished in 7.27.22, shocked and pleased to have come 4th in the U21 mens category and dying for a chinese takeaway and a hot bath!
2008 was a strange year in many respects. Firstly the weather - it's virtually inexplicable unless you were a walker, marshal, support crew or member of the public who happened to be out following the race, and I probably escaped the worst of it, restricted as I was to finishing at Peel. Some of the footage on the Sky highlights programme from Jurby, Andreas and Lezayre (I'm thinking Michael George and Sue Biggart approaching Ramsey, for those who watched it) was unbelieveable, the way the rain was bouncing off the road. Everyone knows it was the wettest Parish in history so there's no point me whingeing about it further...but I think we really did have all 4 seasons in one day (well maybe 3, there wasn't much sunshine!)
This year with a better and more strictly-followed training regime than 2007, new-ish trainers and course knowledge, I was confident of beating my previous effort and hopefully improving on 4th place. Somehow I managed it - despite the driving wind and rain on the Sloc - getting to Peel in 7.12.25 and coming 2nd (admittedly only just) in the U21s. Maybe I could have cracked 7 hours in better conditions but it was the same for everybody, and anyone can claim ifs buts and maybes! 2008 will stick in the memory for a very long time, for the efforts in particular of Chris Moon (whose achievement at finishing was remarkable) and Jock Waddington, who proved a lot of the pundits wrong and produced a great performance to see off the threats of the rest of the field. It's a shame that Sean was forced to retire when going so well but hopefully this year's End to End result went some way towards alleviating the disappointment of the Parish for him.
That, I'm sure, is enough for the first post. I'll try and post again sometime in the middle of next week once a few people have got their entries in.