All set for the annual 85-mile round-island slog

By by john watterson 695654 john.watterson"iomtoday.co.im in Athletics

The 58th edition of the Parish Walk in its current form takes place this Saturday, with a total entry of 1,412 competitors, 13 more than last year.

Sponsored once again by Manx Telecom, the event continues to hold its own as the island’s largest mass-participation sporting event of the year.

The race will once again start from the National Sports Centre in Douglas at 8am, from where the aim for much of the field will be the lure of completing the full 85 miles, round all 17 parishes, in under 24 hours.

On average, approximately 10 per cent do manage that feat, but for many it’s a case of a parish too far as they struggle to a halt with tired limbs and blistered feet.

There’s been a steadily increasing field of under-21s in recent times, with a particular emphasis on the fairer sex.

This year the start list of 33 under-21 men is totally outnumbered by 70 women of a similar age.

The 100 or so total number in this class are limited to the 32-mile southern ’half’ of the course.

In truth, the half-way point is at Dollagh, shortly after Ballaugh church, so the hard work really starts from there over the final seven parishes of Jurby, Bride, Andreas, Lezayre, Maughold, Lonan and Onchan.

Richard Gerrard will wear the No.1 race number as the defending champion, and will be looking to make it four wins in successive years.

Karen Chiarello, the women’s champion in 2016 who finished third overall, is also back to defend her title and wears No.3 and could well fancy her chances as the first woman to win the event outright if Gerrard and co-favourite David Walker fail.

There’s a fresh look this year without some of the old guard, not least Jock Waddington, Vinny Lynch, Terry Moffat and Michael George (who retired from the sport prior to 2016). Robbie Callister is walking, but his days of out-and-out racing are over, at least for the time being.

The new guard includes Ramsey’s Liam Parker, Adam Killip and southsider Aaron Kneale who has yet to make his mark on the ever-popular event.

Others to look out for include Michael Bonney, Noel Ash, Stephen Corkill, Brian Kelly, Simon Briggs, Andrew Dawson, James Quirk, Chris Cale and Juan Readshaw.

Sue Biggart is making a welcome return with her regular training partner Ray Pitts, but it is unlikely they will feature in the top-10 overall.

Other females to watch out for include Emma Shilling (10th last year), Karen Lawrie, Jayne Farquhar, Stephanie Quayle, Kathryn Clough, Suzannah Corkill and Maureen Moffatt.

Expect the leaders to be in the southern parishes of Santon, Malew, Arbory and Rushen between 9.40 and 11am, Peel 1.20pm, Ballaugh 3pm, Bride 4.50pm, Ramsey 6.40pm and Maughold 7.20pm.

To be on or near record pace, the leaders will need to be at Lonan church around 9.30pm and St Peter’s in Onchan at 10.20pm.

A ball park time for the leader over the finish line is 10.30.

If you want to keep track of the elite race, or follow the progress of a friend or relative, just go to www.manxtelecom.com/parishwalk and select up to 10 walkers by name or race number. You can use it on your smartphone, tablet or PC.

Remember that much of the route in the first half is one-way or closed, with further single-direction sections on the coast road from Switchback to Glen Mooar, Ballaugh to Dollagh, Jurby to Bride and Dhoon to Laxey.

For all the latest information about the Manx Telecom Parish Walk (including updates about road closures and one way restrictions on the day), go to www.parishwalk.com and www.facebook.com/parishwalk

The commemorative tee-shirts for this year’s event include a tribute to Murray Lambden, one of the island’s most respected figures in athletics who died in April.

Murray had a long association with the Parish Walk as a competitor, statistician, and event adviser, and in more recent years he could be seen around the course taking photos and video of the race.

He won the event in 1978. The tee-shirt design was created by Steve Partington.

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