Firstly, the housekeeping: I managed 6k down at the NSC on Thursday evening, all alone which was a bit of a shame but it was a nice evening and there was plenty going on down there to have a nosey at (especially the frustrated drivers in the MacDonalds drive-through queue!)
I was away over the weekend but did loads of walking along cobbled streets in France. I certainly walked further than I would normally do in a weekend if I wasn't on a training walk. I was visiting a town called Rouen, which is in Normandy and about 1.5 hours' drive north-west of Paris. I'm studying there from this September through to June of next year so I went for a preparatory visit to get a feel for the place and practice some french! My feet were really sore after three days of walking virtually everywhere but I'm sure it's all good training. I'm not quite sure how far I walked in total but I reckon over 3 days I managed something like 7 miles.
Yesterday was my final football match of the season. We've got 2 games left but they are not until next week and by then I'm back at Uni anyway. I played the full 90 and felt good at the end - for the last 3 evening games I have had 'breakfast' again before going to play - bowl of cereal and 2 rounds of toast - just to keep me going until I can have something hot when I get home around 8.30. It really seems to have worked and I've been feeling surprisingly fresh even after the whole game. Either that or I am simply not running around enough...it's probably the latter!
Housekeeping over, I'm looking forward to this Sunday and the Sara Killey Memorial Walk, which starts at 8.30 and covers a 30-mile route from Peel to Ramsey (which exactly mimics the Parish course.) I had debated for a long time whether to enter, as I am supposed to be back in Durham by Monday morning, but in the end decided to go for it and enter the walk...giving myself Monday to recover and flying back on Tuesday. Luckily I'm not missing any lectures, it's just revision, and I didn't want to miss out on what will be my longest and best chance to train at something like target pace for the Parish. Plus I can experiment with food and drink to see what's going to work best when I am walking, because I don't really like walking and eating and often don't feel hungry but I know I have really got to eat something even if I don't feel like it. Melon pieces and chicken sandwiches were the favourites in the rain last year but who knows what will happen at the weekend!!
The entry for the walk is really good - I have counted 193 people which is I think about 40 people more than last year if memory serves me correctly. Virtually all the people you would expect to be in contention for top-15 Parish finishes have entered, with a couple of exceptions, but I think it will be a great walk for everyone involved - hopefully there will be a high percentage of finishers with the route having been shortened this year.
Steve Partington, Sean Hands and Robbie Callister are all taking part, and I don't think any of them walked in this event last year. Steve has been in great form over the winter and won the Fire Stations in 2007. He's one of the best walkers the Island has produced and I expect him to be in contention on Sunday if he decides to do the full distance. The new course is flatter than the old one and that will play nicely into his hands. You'd expect most of the finish hopefuls for the Parish to complete the full 30 miles but that's not always the case so there may be one or two surprises.
Sean Hands set a blistering pace in last year's Parish, inside his own 14h 46 mins record, and then won the End to End in September. Since then I'm not sure what he has been up to, but he is without doubt going to be one of the quicker ones. Robbie will be there or thereabuts in Ramsey I am sure - if your house had to go on someone finishing a long-distance walking race in the top 4 or 5, there can't be many better candidates.
Add to the mix everyone else who did compete in this event last year and performed very well - joint winners Jock Waddington and Mark Hempsall, then Alan Cowin, plus others who will be near the front - the likes of Chris Cale, Dave Mackey, Andy Green, Marie Gilbertson, Lisa Motley, Vinny Lynch and other people I will doubtless have missed, it's going to be intriguing at the front. It's great that both Ray Pitts and Sue Biggart have entered and it will be interesting to see if they line up at the NSC in June. Just having a quick flick through the entrants and the internet, where I've been able to find results for the Fire Stations for 2007 and 2008, there are a number of people taking part who finished the event in both years. Hopefully you can all make it a hat-trick in 2009 (unless you finished in 2006 as well, in which case all the best for an even more impressive string of finishes!)
I expect most people hoping to go past Peel in June will be walking at the sort of pace they will want to do for the Parish. This must be a bit frustrating with the race distance being shorter than their Parish will be, but I am sure it's important to try and get everything working on Sunday as it will be in a couple of months, so that you know the pace is good and you feel ok. I've just read Julia's blog post and I know that she is in this boat...I'm sure it's frustrating but I am equally sure it has to be the right thing to do.
I'm quite chuffed that 30 miles is the distance. In effect this will be a mini-Parish for me, but with fewer hills so I expect (and want to) go faster, plus the fact that the Sara Killey is 2 miles shorter which will take about half an hour off the time. I'll walk at the speed I want for June so happily I won't have to try and slow myself down or pace myself - I am just going to go for it and see how it goes. The first section from Peel to Michael is the hilliest so I will use that to get warmed up and into the swing of things before the main part of the walk begins.
Hopefully I will see some of you on Sunday, if there are people actually reading this, so all the best for the walk, especially if it's your first one. I have a friend who has entered for the first time so I'll be looking out for her, plus the guy in whose company I walked from Michael to Ramsey last year (who made things go much quicker!) and a certain gentleman who I always seem to fall into step with whenever there is a walking event on the Isle of Man. Hope to see you on Sunday! :)