Friday, 27 February 2009

HSBC Open Meeting Tomorrow

I've probably left it a bit late to be posting this now, but for those of you interested, the HSBC Securities Open Meeting is taking place at the NSC perimeter road tomorrow. The event attracts a quality field not just from the IoM but further afield too, especially Ireland, whose entrants have produced some fine performances in years gone by.

Entries have now closed but if you fancy a sneak peek at the action then the events are taking place pretty much all day tomorrow. The first is at 10am (the 1 mile) and then the distances increase, with the 20k at 12 noon and finally the half marathon at 2.30. Watching the racing might not be your cup of tea but the organisers have issued an invitation for lap scorers, marshals and tea-makers so if you fancy any of that, have a look at the homepage of for all the relevant info.

From a walking perspective there are 5 events: 20k, 10k, 5k, 3k and a 1 mile event - the latter two being the preserve of the juniors. There is a good entry for each event though and I'm sure it will be a good day for all concerned.

From my limited knowledge of him, it seems that the 20k favourite might well be Ireland's Michael Doyle. From memory he was second in this year's Peel to Douglas walk and has I think contested this event before as well, so on paper is the man to beat for me. The field for the 20k, although small, is however very strong indeed and I expect Michael George and Peter Kaneen in particular to lead the local charge. Michael George just seems to be getting better and better of late, having posted some very quick times in the 10k winter league events this season including (I believe) what was his first sub-50 minute time early on in the championships, which was followed up by an even faster one at Andreas about 3 weeks ago around the 48 minute mark. 20k is a different kettle of fish but still a relatively short distance compared to many of the local events. I think Michael also set a personal best over the 50k distance sometime last year, so perhaps 20k will be the perfect middle ground for him.

It's good to see Peter Kaneen taking part and hopefully we'll see him on the start line in June as well. In my opinion he could potentially challenge Sean Hands' incredible Parish record, but I'm not sure whether Peter has been injured over the last few months as he has not contested a great deal of the local walking events. He is however very quick and technically brilliant so there could be fireworks at the sharp end of the field tomorrow.

I'm also expecting Mark Hempsall, Chris Cale and Andy Green to go very well. I'm sure they are all training hard at the moment and at this time of the year, these sorts of events can only be beneficial for honing technique and getting mileage in the legs for June. The Open walk is an important event in its own right though, so I think all three will be challenging hard tomorrow in search of a top 3 place or even better. None of them really need any introduction - Andy Green has a very relaxed, easy-on-the-eye style and has produced some excellent walks over the last 12 months, notably in my mind the End to End last year when he reached Peel in 4 hours 9 minutes. Must be the green trainers. Chris Cale and Mark Hempsall have been consistent performers over the winter too, and I think it will be very hard to split them come the end of the race. I'll be interested to have a look at the results to see how Vinny Lynch gets on - he is getting futher and further in the Parish every year and always goes well in the winter league.

The 10k event is looking very tasty as well, with Sean Hands, Jock Waddington and Dave Mackey all lining up, as does Bethany Clague who incredibly (or perhaps not so incredibly, given what she is capable of) is also entered for the half marathon in the afternoon. It is too close to call between Sean, Jock and Dave so I am going to bomb out and sit on the fence. It should be a cracking race though because you can virtually go all guns blazing from start to finish in a 10k race and I expect that to happen tomorrow.

Over the 5k distance I expect Sinead Kaneen to be fastest - one of the brightest young athletes on the Island at present. Adam Cowin and James Green have both entered winter league events and set very impressive times too, so I hope they get a decent race in as well.

I'm afraid what little knowledge and research skills I do possess does not extend into the 3k and mile classes except for the odd name here and there...but if it's dry tomorrow then I am sure everyone will enjoy themselves.

Hopefully there will be Manx Radio coverage (even if it's a bit sparse) so I can keep half an ear on the radio - if nothing else so I can hear how my close friend and fellow student Ben Lambden gets on in the half marathon. Ben has entered many events in the last few months and is home specially from Uni for the weekend - all the best mate.

Monday, 23 February 2009


Just under 17 weeks to go until the big day and I am still trying to set up a little countdown on the blog, but to no avail so far. The 'add applications' function won't let me add any of the diverse things from Google weather to 'joke of the day' so I will have to carry on trying to keep you entertained with pictures instead.

I'm very pleased with how the weekend went. Managed to get out on Friday night for a 3.5 mile run with one of my housemates. It took about 40 minutes and included some decent hills so I was very happy with that. On Saturday I trained (football) for an hour and a half and then went running again on Sunday - the same route but in reverse this time. Overall then I probably covered about 8 miles or so, including the football, and was active for nearly 3 hours - an improvement on some previous weeks anyway.

Having spent the last 3 or 4 posts solely on my own training I think it's time to spark off a topic of more general discussion, that of i-Pods in the Parish (and of course other events too.)

As a preliminary point I know that in the race regulations it does state that walkers are discouraged from having personal music players. The regulations clearly state that: "the wearing of headphones is inadvisable as it increases the risk to the walker's safety." (Reg 5.)

Clearly this is not an absolute ban on wearing headphones, but I think everyone can see where the organisers are coming from in cautioning against wearing them. This is particularly evident I believe in the earlier part of the race where you often need to hear instructions from marshals when crossing roads (NSC, Union Mills, Marown, Oatlands Road etc.)

There are many people who do choose to listen to music during the Parish, and one argument which I find it hard to disagree with is 'provided I take my headphones out at the obviously dangerous places, like crossing roads, where is the harm in wearing them?' Add to that the fact that usually until at least Santon (depending on how near the front you are) there is nearly always a big group of people around you anyway, and very little risk of you coming into conflict with any traffic, it seems that there should not be an issue with music.

Where I think the pro-headphones argument really comes into its own is for those who are hoping either to finish, or at least continue walking into the evening and night. I'm sure it can get very lonely in the northen parts of the course as the field becomes more and more strung out and the darkness begins to set in. Music can be a great motivator and it is surprising how you can eat up the miles without really thinking about it, once you have a good tune on the iPod. Of course, night walking brings added danger for those with headphones because not only is it more difficult to hear the traffic, it's harder to see it as well...but perhaps more importantly it is harder for you to be seen.

My own personal view is that anyone who wants to listen to music should not be prevented from doing so, provided that they are sensible and are prepared to take out those headphones at crucial times during the day. I think this is reflected in the regulations - the organisers want everyone to enjoy the day as much as possible but have to be mindful of safety considerations as well. I guess the best way to sum everything up is: do what works for you - music or not - but take care.

I've never had an iPod for the Parish itself but I do like to have it with me when I am training (and this includes road walking too, not just pavements.) As long as it is quiet enough for me to be able to hear the whoosh of traffic, I feel safe, particularly as walking on the right hand side allows me to see oncoming traffic from a reasonable distance and adjust my position in the road if needs be. Not that walking in the Manx countryside is ever boring, but some favourite tunes can make the whole thing even better.

I actually went as far as to plumb the depths of iTunes and create a 'walking' playlist (not very difficult, but my first playlist nevertheless.) Prior to that all the music was just 'there' and I would stick it on shuffle and get going. Eventually I got fed up of some of the random songs coming on time and time again, so I decided to tailor the selection so that I would theoretically never have to hit 'next' every 5 minutes.

As well as personal favourites, I also searched for songs with a decent beat that were more or less in time with my walking pace, and added them too. This has been great because it keeps me in a good rhythm and has also reminded me of some songs I would probably not otherwise have on the iPod. Here are a few links to some of them - even if the song is not to your taste (as not all of them are to mine) they are great for keeping in time. Not sure if the hyperlinks will work but if not, copy/paste into your browser should do the trick.

Canned Heat - 'On the Road Again' -

Brilliant beat. The singing can get on the nerves after a while though.

Booker T and the MGs - 'Green Onions' -

...if you don't mind the voice-over for the first 35 seconds!

The Committments - 'Mustang Sally' -

No introduction needed

Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons - 'Walk Like a Man' -

Appropriate indeed

The Ventures - 'Walk Don't Run' -

Even more appropriate!

Madness - 'Baggy Trousers' -

Bit quick maybe, but harmless fun

So next time you're out for a walk, just imagine yourself cruising along to a bit of Booker T or The Ventures...and maybe give it a try.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


After a week of general non-activity I am now feeling much more motivated to get some training done. Luckily the match this afternoon got the go-ahead as it has been relatively dry in the last few days. I played the full 90 mins and probably touched the ball more times with my head than feet (I play in central defence, in a distinctly average league) but the good news is that the knee felt fine, so with some more hot water bottles/ice packs (I never know which is best?!) it should be ok for a decent walk come the weekend.

I want to try and get out either tomorrow or Friday, and then again on Saturday, to try and keep things going and hopefully build some muscle strength. I'm also thinking about circuit training instead of just football and walking all the time - I think it can be easy to fall into the trap of concentrating too much on the legs, when in actual fact a good all-round level of fitness will be important for the Parish. We've got a decent circuit regime at the club I play for back home (one of the players is a personal trainer) so I will just steal everything from that. It includes press-ups, sit-ups, short sprints etc and provides a decent workout if you have 8 activities, doing each for a minute followed by a minute's rest, and then an repeat circuit at a higher intensity for 30 seconds each.

Although my training has been haphazard so far to say the least, I'm taking comfort from the fact that it's much earlier than I have started in previous years and I feel what I have done has been more beneficial, especially the short 45 minute/1 hour sessions at high speed. I am missing being able to do that with company, but happily I've got 5 weeks at home over Easter (when I think my training will be peaking) to concentrate on technique and speed on the flat. One thing I do need to learn is how to go up hills reasonably quickly without dying...hopefully I can glean some ideas when I am home.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Was that really nearly 6 years ago?

I was browsing the site a couple of days ago and noticed there is a new featured walker, Gordon Corran. I had a scan through his profile and was amazed to see myself in one of the pictures! It was taken by Murray at the Round Table in 2003...the first time I ever did anything for the Parish. I am standing by the road sign wearing the blue and black jacket (which is still lurking in the wardrobe, but is effectively in retirement)and yellow marshals' bib.

Back on point, the last 10 days or so have been rather poor again as far as training is concerned. I had football training on Wednesday but the pitches were so sticky that I ended up trying to turn body to go one way, but my legs stayed rooted in the ground and I twisted my knee quite badly. Fortunately that was the last action of the session, so I was able to get back home and get some ice on the knee pretty quickly.

I could feel quite a lot of pain on Thursday and Friday but I found that the more mobile I was, the less pain I could feel. It was only when sitting still for long periods that the pain started to come back. Come Saturday I felt pretty good and was tempted to take part in training again but it was called off until today. In the event the knee was still sore this morning so I decided discretion was the better part of valour and stayed at home to eat bagels instead.

I don't think it is anything serious. I was able to run back from town today without any pain, so I expect to play 90 minutes on Wednesday in one of the many games re-arranged because of the snow. I've got lots of work for the first half of this week, but either Thursday or Friday I will get out walking because with one thing and another it has been far too long since my last decent walk.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Snowed In

Once again another relatively unproductive week, so not very much to report unfortunately, apart from the snow. We had quite a lot of it fall on Sunday night and into Monday morning, and even now there is still some lingering in the shade round the back of the house. That has made even walking around town quite treacherous because every night the snow keeps freezing again and you really have to watch your step on the cobbles and the hills.

Last Saturday we did manage to get a football match played, before the cold weather took hold. I played 90 minutes against the 6th team from the same college as me - a local derby you might say. We managed to win, but not very convincingly, so I was given a fair runaround and was glad of the final whistle. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were wiped out with evening committments but we trained on Wednesday, although all the grass pitches were waterlogged so the session was limited to 5-a-side on the netball courts in college. There is supposed to be another game tomorrow, this time against the team 2nd in the league, which will be tough if it goes ahead but the forecast is for -4 degrees overnight and the sports staff are notoriously protective of the pitches so I'm not holding out too much hope that it will get played.

I'm off to Preston tomorrow night until Sunday evening so I won't get chance to get any walking done over the weekend. The plan is to hopefully get out either Wednesday or Thursday next week, even if for just 45 minutes, just to get going again.

I'll be sorry to miss the Winter League at Andreas on Sunday. I had hoped to be home this weekend for an 18th birthday, which would have been ideal to coincide with the walk, but it hasn't worked out because of the Preston trip so I'll have to wait until Easter and the final round before I get another go at a 10k race.

I've recently read on that the Fire Stations Challenge will be taking place this year...for a while there was some doubt as to whether it would happen at all. The date is Sunday 26th April (the day I am supposed to be back in Durham to start the summer term) so it's not looking likely that I will be able to do it, which is a big shame as I enjoyed very much last year even with the sleet and snow in the morning.

Apparently the route has been revised so that instead of the previous 50-mile course from Port Erin via the 7 fire stations to Douglas, the walk now starts in Peel and follows the Parish course to Ramsey, which is 30 miles because it includes the detour to Jurby, Bride and Andreas. Obviously it won't be a '7 station' challenge any more but I reckon the organisers have got it spot-on for the reasons they have mentioned: 1) the quieter roads in the North and 2) the proximity of the Parish Walk. There wasn't a great number of people who even attempted to complete the whole course last year, although I suppose a valid argument is that for those who want to do 50 miles, the option should be there - especially when you consider it's not even 3/4 distance of what they will be doing in June. I'm sure that it will be a great event though and valuable training time for everyone, regardless of their targets for the Parish Walk.

There will apparently be more info coming up soon on but if you fancy the walk, it might be worth keeping tabs on the forums on the Manx Athletics site for the official word:

Have a good weekend, especially if there is still some snow on the Slieaus.