Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Don't go too far too soon (like I did!)

Ban him! A 17 year old approaches Malew in 1974. The Ford Anglia belonged to the late Arthur Jones and the Mini Clubman to my parents.

For many years there has been an age limit of 21 for men to walk beyond Peel in the Parish Walk and indeed, until recently, for women to go beyond Rushen.

As someone who forged their age and entered the event as a 17 year old in 1974, I am probably not the best person to say that there are good reasons for these rules – but there are!

You’ve got your whole life ahead of you when you are 18, 19 and 20 and, as has been demonstrated so many times in recent years, you don’t have to be young to win.

Find your feet (so to speak) in your first three years, try and develop a good technique, try and get used to the pain but, most of all, don’t do too much too soon and risk missing out on the golden years because you do yourself long term damage.

Not only did I enter under age but I went as far as Kirk Michael when I was 17 but my best anecdotal tale comes from the following year in 1975.

It has to be said that the standard was at its lowest level in that era. I walked to Peel with my school friend Allen Moore but he retired in his home town. I pushed on after that, overtook one or two people and caught the three leaders (I think) between Kirk Michael and Ballaugh. Local man Steve Gardner was with two Leicester walkers Ted Warner and Bill Roe. They were stopping and starting quite a bit and I ended up going ahead of them.

I was still feeling good past Ballaugh Old Church but it seemed a bit irresponsible to be leading the race at 18 years of age and not using the experience of three aforementioned walkers. So I decided to turn back and walk in the opposite direction until I met them! I had forgotten that I had done this until I was chatting to Steve Gardner at Dermot O’Toole’s book launch a couple of years ago and he said that he could still vividly remember his disbelief at seeing me walking the wrong way back towards Ballaugh.

Soon after, I pushed ahead for a second time but fatigue set in around the Lhen and, after my first taste of that seemingly never ending road to Bride, I called it a day at Bride. I was proud to tell my school friends on Monday that I had been leading the Parish Walk when I retired but I didn’t tell them that I had added a bit to the course.

I completed the whole course the following year (second to John Cannell) but I recognised that it was unrealistic for someone under the age of 21 to stand a chance of winning, even if at that time they were allowed to. My family donated a modest trophy to be awarded to provide some recognition to future youngsters. Maybe its time to increase the award but definitely not the distance.

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