It probably wasn't too wise of me to forget to mention Allan Callow in my last post who measured the course, put out all the signs, picked them up again and spends so much of his time coaching and advising any of us that care to ask him.
And another who I forgot to mention in my original post is Jock Waddington who beat his time in the previous round by almost a full minute and set another P.B. by 43 seconds. I had a word with Jock before the start and he seemed disappointed that he wasn't training enough. I think he's training too much and I'm looking over my shoulder. A sub 50 minute time is surely beckoning if he could just get out a little more or I don't trip him up.
So back to 2004.
Fortunately, Barry Bridson had managed to get as far as Maughold the previous year and was equipped with such necessities as a torch which would have been wonderful had I not lost him at Andreas.
For those of you that are new to the Parish, Andreas is the best place on Earth! I couldn't believe the atmosphere when I arrived that 1st time. Everyone seems to be having a party, there are tents, music and countless offers of alcohol to ease the pain. The only drawback of being one of the faster contenders these days and also probably because the race now sets off one hour earlier is that I have left before the fun has begun.
My trainers were very cheap 'Pumas' but funnily enough had served me better than some of the more expensive shoes I was to purchase later on and I had to stop to remove what I thought was a stone and to put on some more clothes because I was getting cold. Two minutes later, I had to stop again in one of the tents and discovered that the 'stone' was actually a blister.
More worryingly, I had lost Barry and the trek up to the Church in pitch black along the stones and gravel was very difficult with no light but the camaraderie of the competitors helped me out and luckily for me, I met Edward Marshall who really helped me through the next few miles when I reached my low point.
As you've probably gathered if you've been reading my blog for a while, modesty has never really been one of my more obvious traits but on this occasion it was very nearly my undoing. Responding to the 'Call of Nature,' I briefly marched ahead of Edward to look for relief. There were a few other walkers around us at that stage and I edged further behind the hedge I was using to protect my privates from the proletariat and the next thing I knew I was lying at the bottom of a three foot ditch!
The next hour or so was pretty much a blur for me and both my back-up who by this stage included Stuart & Liam Murphy as well as Barry Needham, not to mention my wife Irene who I mumbled to on the telephone were extremely worried about me as I must have been suffering from shock. Fortunately, I had re-attached myself once again to Edward and with the extra help from his support who were using their headamps to help us see. I also vaguely remember getting a bollocking from a passing police car somewhere around the Ginger Hall area, although I felt the pavements were far more likely to cause me injury than any passing vehicle.
Until I was given a real lesson in hill climbing last year by Robbie Callister and Ray Pitts, I always considered it to be my strength and it was on the ascent to Maughold that I eventually regained my composure and started to feel that I just might finish the race. Now we were three, having rejoined with Barry Bridson. As all the finishers amongst you will know, it's feels like a long way from Maughold back to the main Ramsey to Laxey Road with the last really major challenge of the Parish being Ballajora. Barry especially was buoyed by having passed his previous furthest and Edward was just always quietly confident and very good company. We were now starting to pass people and a sorry state some were in too, particularly one gentleman who was a previous finisher (you can tell by the low number on the back) staggering all over the road. To this day I don't know whether he completed the lap but he assured us of his health if not his sanity.
When you do reach the main and you're still feeling in half decent shape, you really do begin to believe that you're definitely going to succeed, although even now I believe that there is an extra mile or so of tarmac put betweeen Glen Mona and the Dhoon and another couple put between Bulgham and Menorca especially for the Parish.
It was at Laxey Village that I slipped into another gear. I had stayed with Edward & Barry until then but I suddenly just wanted it all to be over and pressed on for home. For the underprepared and uninitiated though there are still surprises to be had and most of them on the Parish Course aren't pleasant ones. For some reason, I'd always assumed that Lonan Church was the little one at Baldrine and climbing that hill up back away from Douglas came as a real shock and I'd also thought it fairly obvious that we'd cut through the little lane from St. Peter's to Royal Avenue.
I'd sent my back-up off for a sleep sometime around Dreemskerry but it was here in Onchan that Barry Needham who had gone to pick up Irene rejoined me. That was a real boost. I also phoned my Mum who I think thought I'd gone completely off my head and had no idea I was still walking.
Coming down on to the Promenade, the feeling was fantastic and I was absolutely delighted. To cross that finish line for the first time was unbelievable, though this was somewhat tempered by the fact that he who thought he was so fit hadn't even managed 4 mph in 22 hours 20odd minutes* and actually ended up in 66* place which was behind the total number of finishers in the previous year.
I sat down on the bench and had a beer wrapped in a blanket (that was me not the beer.) I think I waited for Edward and Barry to finish and wanted to stay there until the whole 24 hour
s had elapsed but for some reason this plan didn't go down to well with Barry N. and Irene on this chilly June morning....
....... and I'd be buggered if I was walking home.