In 2005, I was in Mr. Never Again mode. Although I didn't train to race walk, I had managed to break the hour for 10k on April 3rd in a Winter League race but I still really didn't see the Parish as a race I'd ever really contend. As I'd finished in 2004, this year I was just going to walk to Peel with Irene, enjoy the day and hopefully, watch Robbie break the record at the finish.
To my mind(obviously I knew even less then than I do now,) Sean Hands would never beat Robbie Callister and it was a near certainty the best ever time would be set that day.
Everything went pretty much as expected and we even managed to walk down to see him just miss out once again, with Sean not too far behind giving a hint of things to come.
In August 2005, I ran a Marathon for the first time with two laps of the circuit around Ramsey. I had no conception of whether I would last the distance or what it would be like and the only plan I had was just not to try and go off too fast. Steve Partington obviously didn't have too much faith in my athletic prowess because as I passed him and Peter Kaneen (they were in serious training to try and be selected for the Commowealth games 50k, I believe at the time,) I heard him say words to the effect of "There's one we'll be catching later."
I got myself into a nice rhythm and started gradually to chip away at the runners in front of me who seemingly had begun a little quickly. After Bride Hill, on the second lap, I managed to catch a tall chap wearing a bandana and went past him quite easily. However, this seemed to galvanise him and he in turn caught me and we spent the next few miles chattering away.
It's really one of the great things about long distance events. They can be very social occasions when friendships can be formed. Unlike many situations in normal life, if the topic or the person doesn't interest you, you can speed up or slow down to bring the conversation to a close without appearing rude.
He turned out to be Ben Scott whom I knew by reputation but had never met. Soon, we drew alongside another gentleman, a certain Dave Young, known to most as 'Doc' for some unimaginable reason and it became a three way talking shop.
In the press, John Watterson described it as 'An exciting triumvirate battle for the lead' but I honestly had no idea that we were all neck and neck in the Manx Marathon Championship rather than just out for a pleasant jog around the Northern Plains.
On the interminable Burma Road, we passed my wife, Irene who was doing the 1/2 marathon walk and also finally dropped Dave Young. Still unaware that we were really in a race, I managed to stay with Ben until the 25 mile marker when my lack of training finally told and I hit 'The Wall.' Mind you it might have been the flat, warm coke mixed with orange juice that he gave me that really did me in. Don't try it. It's disgusting!
I was quite proud to finish in around 9th place overall and 2nd 'Manxie' in about 3:14 something and I collapsed into a heap on the Ramsey AFC pitch and stiffened in the beautiful August sunshine. There was a great photograph taken of Ben Scott, Dave Young and me which the Doc has apparently had blown up and hung in his surgery. So if you've ever been unlucky enough to be ill and had to visit him, you'll probably have seen my ugly mug grinning down at you.
Organising any race is a massive undertaking, particularly the long road events and so if there are ever any mistakes made, the organisers have my sympathy. I have to say it is horrible when it happens to you though. Some friends that had been staying at the Hotel and our kids had turned up to see Irene and me at the finish. The 'Awards Ceremony,' always takes quite a while to set in place (certainly a justification for the way they do them at the Parish and EtoE) and therefore, to help hurry things up a bit, I went and stood right next to the table, so my limping slowly to receive my prize wouldn't hold up proceedings. They called out the all finishers but somehow missed me off and gave second place to Doc Young, leaving me up there like a bridegroom left at the altar.
Worse things have happened at sea but it was rather embarassing at the time. The Marathon had given me a taste for the long distance races and so after walking the End to End with Irene (her first full finish,) I decided that in 2006, I was really going for it.
Back to 2008 and you have to feel sympathetic towards the £100 million red noses. Well I'm trying to anyway. Perhaps when I stop laughing.