Thursday, 29 May 2008

Parish Walk wins bring fame

1990 Parish Walk winner Gordon Vale (red top on left) was photographed outside the GB team hotel in Valancia in May 1982. Also in the picture are Brian Adams, Phil Vesty (yellow t-shirt), coach Julian Hopkins (back) and possibly Steve Barry (photo ML).

There was some debate on the forum at about the ranking used in the numbering system for the race.

I think that it was the late Arthur Jones, who was race secretary for so many years, who started allocating the lowest numbers to the more serious walkers although he used to list the team entrants before the individuals so if you weren't included in a team you were more likely to have a number in the 70s or 80s (of the 100 odd entrants) in the years of the 70s and 80s.

I was heavily involved in the early 90s and with CMI's sponsorship in the bag introduced the programme in the form that has changed very little since. I thought that if we could increase the circulation of the programme to all entrants and also make them available to people around the course it would reflect positively upon the sponsor. The programme needed as much information as possible so with statistics at my fingertips, I introduced the idea of listing the years that entrants had previously finished the walk.

The idea has been continued and developed further although it has been necessary to summarise some of the finishing information, such as David Collister's years of finishing.

I thought that it would add status to the top walkers by drawing attention to their previous successes.

If this is so, then it is probably more likely to apply to the lower finishing walkers than than the top two but I think they all deserve it. I don't think that there is an exact science in allocating the numbers but I hope that the system is maintained.

Among the men, Sean Hands, Robbie Callister and Peter Kaneen, who have dominated for the past decade, would be well known to spectators even without a programme. They are probably better known to the public than most of our top track and field athletes.

Media coverage of sport in the Isle of Man is second to none but it is always hard to get the balance with every single performance.

I remember that Gordon Vale, who came to live on the Island in the 80s, was not included in the 1990 Commonwealth Games team even though he had the qualifying time for the 30km walk. He had a tremendous pedigree having held the British junior record for 10,000 metre walk on the track for six years with a time of 42:06.35 from 1981. Although he didn't set the time as a resident, he was the fastest ever 50km walker to live on the Island.

But he hadn't taken part in the Parish Walk!

So he entered the 1990 Parish Walk. He was amazed to find people calling out words of encouragement to Charlie Weston, who at that time lived in the South of England, but they didn't know Gordon's name. Gordon won the Parish Walk in a modest time by current standards at his only attempt and received more publicity for this than for anything else that he had ever done before and did afterwards.

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