This year’s Manx Telecom Parish Walk promises to be an epic edition of the Island’s ultimate endurance challenge for race-walkers. The race starts on the NSC track at 8am this Saturday [June 21] with the winner likely to cross the line on Douglas Promenade between 10.30 and 11pm. Previous winners Jock Waddington, Richard Gerrard, Vinny Lynch and Michael George are all expected to be on the start line. Waddington won four years in succession from 2008 to 2011 and was third in 2013. Gerrard, runner-up last year, was the joint winner in 2012 alongside Lynch who was fourth in the 2013 race. Between them this quartet have recorded nine of the top 10 fastest times in the 101 year history of the event in its current format. Gerrard and Lynch’s 2012 14hrs 42mins 32secs time is the current record.
However, Waddington and Lynch go into this year’s Manx Telecom Parish Walk still recovering from their efforts in a 100-mile race in Holland earlier this month. Waddington won, but Lynch had to drop out due to blisters after 50 miles. Defending champion Michael George is struggling with an injury, so he too may not have the form which has seen him record two of the event’s top 10 fastest times. Gerrard appears to be the favourite this year, but anything is possible in an event over such a long-distance and with so many variable factors affecting the result. And there’s always the chance of a new challenger emerging. Ray Cox, who will be overseeing his 20th Parish Walk as Race Director this year, says that David Mapp could be one to watch this year. Mapp’s time of 16hrs 9mins 34secs earned him fifth place in 2013, and although he has less experience in the Parish Walk than the other contenders he has improved rapidly over the last few years.
In the women’s race, Ray Cox expects Janice Quirk, Maureen Moffatt and Karen Lawrie to battle it out for the victory. Quirk, the defending champion, has won the event twice – her 2009 winning time of 15hrs 58mins 35secs is the women’s record for the Parish Walk. Moffatt, who finished third last year, is a very experienced walker with multiple finishes to her credit and can always be depended upon to put in a solid performance. Lawrie, fourth last year, continues to improve and should finish well up this time round. Six time winner Sue Biggart, who finished second in 2013, is not on the start list this year.
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.