Tuesday, 29 January 2008

It used to be the best walking event in the British Isles

Most of the people reading this blog will surely believe that the Parish Walk is the best walking event in the British Isles. Apart from exceptional international events, I do too. But I didn't used to.

I used to think that the best event was the Bradford 50km, or "the Bradford" as it was always known. In the days before the London Marathon, which attracts seven figure crowds, the Bradford probably attracted the biggest crowds of any road race in Britain. Yet there was never a massive field. Usually the crowds gathered outside the pubs along the 31 mile route on a Spring Bank Holiday Monday to see just fifty or sixty hardy souls.

I took part in five Bradford Walks between 1978 and 1982 and was very proud to win three of them from 1980 onwards. In 2004 I spent some time writing my recollections of those five years and the article can be found here.

The reason I am writing about the Bradford Walk this week is because on Saturday I flew to Leeds/Bradford airport for the first time and returned to the Island from the same airport on Monday morning, staying the previous night at the Travel Lodge next to the airport.

The Bradford course goes past the airport near Yeadon and is at one of the highest points on the course. As soon as I drove away from the airport on Saturday I recognised the course that I had not visited for 24 years (I had been to Ottley in 1984) and could not believe how steep the hills were. On Sunday evening I diverted into Ottley to refuel and then drove to the airport. If Pool Bank had seemed like a big hill when I walked it then it was more like a mountain now. What an incredible course it was.

I walked around those roads in 4.26 in 1981 when I was supposed to be holding back (and had a dose of what Steve Partington and Michael George do best!) and yet I was only to walk 4.20 on a flat course.

Although I never did my justice elsewhere, I am so glad that I did spend those years plodding around the Yorkshire countryside and became known as "that lad from Isle of Man".

Just how the Bradford Walk, now more than 100 years, has continued to exist with small entries on what are now such busy roads I don't know. What I do know is that, for me, it was the best walking event in the British Isles.

Things and times change.

In 1978, although I won the Parish Walk as a 21 year old, in between walking the Plymouth to Dawlish 42 miles and my first Bradford in a mad four weeks I made up my mind to train. The training took me to many places around Britain and Europe but the Bradford was my favourite.

Since that time many of the other walks have gone or in the case of the Bradford is only a shadow of its former self.

Meanwhile, there is one event that is 10 times bigger than in 1978.

It didn't use to be the best walking event in the British Isles - but it is now.


Michael said...

Hi, Murray.

With such steep hills did the bent knee rule apply?


Murray Lambden said...

Yes it did Michael. But there were suggestions that some walkers "got away with it" - hopefully not me!

Ava said...

Well written article.