After completing thousands of miles in training nearly 1,500 walkers will be raring to get going when they line up on the NSC track at 8am on Saturday June 21 for the 2014 Manx Telecom Parish Walk. Whether you are aiming to get to Santon, or complete the full 85 mile course, it’s an event that’s as much a test of mental strength as it is of physical endurance. It’s vital to get your mind ‘in the zone’ for the big day, so we asked race walking coach Allan Callow to give some expert advice. Allan has coached many of the Isle of Man’s international race walkers and represented the Isle of Man in three Commonwealth Games. Here are his top tips:
- Whatever your target distance, try and think of it as divided it into thirds. Walk the first part with your head, the second with your character, and the last part with your heart. This is adapted from a well-known quote about marathon running, but it applies equally to all endurance events, including the Manx Telecom Parish Walk.
- As with any endurance challenge, planning for the big day is all important. There’s nothing worse than being distracted at the last minute by rushing around just before the start when you realise you have forgotten something you need. It’s a good idea to make checklist now and then again at least a week before the Manx Telecom Parish Walk detailing what you need on the actual day. This should cover clothing, race numbers and transponders, transport arrangements and whether or not you will need a support crew to meet you to give you wet weather clothing if it rains, or to give you extra food and drinks in addition to refreshments provided at feed stations.
- Pacing is all important in achieving your goals – there’s an old adage in endurance events which says that it’s not the distance to your goal that will defeat you, but the speed at which you try to get there. Aiming for an even pace is best. Look at your pace in training ideally over the longest distances you have done and on a section of the course make a realistic assessment of how fast you can expect to walk the distance you are aiming for. Be conservative about the pace you can sustain for your target distance, especially if the distance you are aiming to complete is further than walks you have done in training. It’s better to start slower and pick up the pace in the second half of your walk than start off too fast and pay the price when fatigue sets in with miles to go to the finish.
- It’s also advisable to make a schedule of how long you expect it to take you to reach each church/checkpoint and to carry this information with you to monitor your pace. Using GPS watches or smartphone GPS applications such as Endomondo Sports Tracker are also useful ways to accurately measure your walking speed. Some smartphones are specifically designed for health and fitness enthusiasts and are perfect for measuring and recording your pace on the big day. It’s important to listen to your body and the conditions on the day and adjust your pace accordingly if you are feeling fatigued and have many miles to go.
- The total distance you are aiming to walk may seem daunting, so try focusing just on the distance between each church/checkpoint (distances which you have no doubt covered many times before in training) and on maintaining your target pace between each one.
- Ultimately, endurance walking is a challenge and may involve a few aches and pains along the way. Character and heart will push you through the final miles to your target distance, and you should always remind yourself that the camaraderie and support of those walking with you, and those watching from the roadside, will spur you on too. The sense of achievement you will feel at the end is worth all of the effort – ask any finisher. Just being part of the tremendous atmosphere which the Manx Telecom Parish Walk creates is a fantastic experience – especially if this is your first time taking part. Any fatigue you experience will be temporary, but your memories of that atmosphere will last forever. Something worth remembering if the going gets tough.
For those of you supporting friends and family in the Manx Telecom Parish Walk, you can follow their progress at the official timing website www.mt.im/parishwalk which will show the main leaderboard for the elite walkers, and allow visitors to track the progress of up to ten friends. In addition, it will show leaderboards for all of the team races. The site is also easily accessible on the main www.parishwalk.com website. The 2014 race will be the 101st Parish Walk in its current format. Manx Telecom became title sponsor of the Island’s biggest mass participation sports event in 2012, and earlier this year extended its sponsorship to 2017.