Like most things in life, being your own boss has many sides and while you may occasionally hear me bemoaning missed training sessions and cancelled evenings out, last Monday certainly showed how rewarding it can be.
Taking advantage of a quiet Monday morning at work, I had scheduled an 18 mile walk with Mark Hempsall and with the weather as fantastic as it was, I suggested something a little different.
The morning frost hadn't even begun to thaw as we set off from Vicarage Park towards the N.S.C., me like a cross channel swimmer after my lack of lubricant on Sunday, we then cut through the Nunnery grounds out onto the Kewaigue Road and up Douglas Head.
Despite my usual trouble with Reynard's syndrome (I lose the blood supply to my fingers even in quite mild weather,) the sun was heralding a truly glorious day and there are few more beautiful places to be than Marine Drive.
For those of you who have never walked up there, it is on the east coast of the Island, chiselled out of the the sea cliffs with undulations that make it a great test for walking, running and cycling.
Depending on your point of view, the fact that part of the roadway collapsed during the seventies, causing the closure of the route to vehicles halfway along has made it one of the best traffic free zones on the I.O.M. and ruined the possibility of anyone ever making a go of the pub/restaurant facility at Port Soderick (though I personally think that if the right people owned and ran it with the right financial package they'd carry it off.)
After the descent towards the bay, we headed inland, past the Railway Station and laboured up the steep hill back to Old Castletown Road. The ascent up by Crogga is also hard work and by this time, we were grateful for the cool air preventing us from overheating.
Following the Raad-ny-Foillan (road of the gull,) we then turned off towards Meary Veg and eventually ran out of tarmac as we neared the sea once more. Although not quite as spectacular as the sheer drops on the Marine Drive this too, is a very pretty place to walk. Unfortunately, racewalking is not really an option on such rough terrain and I had to resort to a jog behind Mark who is really powerful. Indeed I haven't decided yet which technique to use for the hills during the race.
Many people recommend not to expend too much energy and have suggested that I walk normally as I did last year while climbing the Sloc and Cleaynagh Road but I did lose heaps of time while Robbie Callister and Ray Pitts were able to use their much practised action. In fact I didn't use racewalking(uphill) until I was desperately and unsuccessfully trying to catch Ray on the East Coast.
There were areas where the path was more of an obstacle course and we had to negotiate overgrown gorse and fallen trees.
Despite all the dry weather we have had recently, it was still extremely muddy in places underfoot, especially around the river in the Ballasalla area. My foot actually 'plugged' at one stage and I now have a slightly pulled muscle where I tried to lift my leg but it was sucked down.
There was a ewe blocking one of the styles and despite our efforts to persuade her to move, she was going nowhere. We had to climb over her which worried us immensely, as sheep are normally extremely timid. After crossing farmland towards the Airport, we popped into the office at Kniveton's to ask them to ring the farmer as we were sure she was pregnant. We would have asked, Ray Cox, Race Director to join us had we known because it shouldn't happen to a 'Vet,' nor a Parish Walker for that matter.
We then crossd under the proposed new runway and wondered what provision has been made for the path when it is constructed. Anyone out there know?
Finally, we once again regained the road and I found it releasing to be able to use my technique once more, though poor Mark was knackered having taken the harder option by continuing his usual cadence.
The plan had been to go and have a look at Mr. Clarkson's house to see what all the fuss was about but our intrepid explorers unfortunately advised by yours truly took the wrong fork and ended up on Fort Island instead.
We headed back along the seashore, then when we passed our 18 miles, we jogged and cut through King Williams College grounds to catch the bus on the main road.
As far as I can remember, that was my first time on that soil since June 1981 when I ran down the Drive, aged 15, having completed my last 'O' Level .
I can thoroughly recommend doing a similar training session or even the very same as it can become a little boring at times, plodding along the roads and not always very pleasant with the volume of traffic on the Manx roads these days. All in all, I think we did about 10 miles off tarmac and 8 on.