Richard Gerrard will start as the clearest favourite to win the Parish Walk since Manx Telecom took over the sponsorship of the event in 2012.
Although fellow former winners Jock Waddington, Michael George, Vinny Lynch and Robbie Callister are all entered, Gerrard appears to be the walker with the best form and fitness.
Joint winner in 2012 with Lynch and runner-up last year to George, Gerrard is without doubt the odds-on favourite this time around.
Michael George suffered a knee injury when, of all things, jumping out of a boat on a family vacation to Australia last Christmas and has since undergone an operation. If he starts at all on Saturday, he is unlikely to go far.
Jock Waddington had intended to do a leisurely walk to Peel but last week admitted that his feet would need to improve a bit if he was to even do that after winning the 100-mile Dutch Open race in Rotterdam.
‘Alternatively, I can catch a lift and sip Pimms on the way, which sounds more appealing,’ he joked.
Vinny Lynch had planned to go to Peel with Waddington, but he was pulled out of the Dutch event by medics at half-distance after his feet became badly blistered in the intense heat.
Five-time winner Robbie Callister will be going for his 13th finish, but is fully aware that he does not have the speed in his legs to match the likes of Gerrard.
It’s the latter man’s race unless something goes badly wrong.
His main challenge could be split between last year’s surprise package David Mapp, who was fourth, and leading woman Janice Quirk who finished seven minutes behind him in fifth.
Both have the ability to go sub-16 hours, but they need to walk almost one minute a mile quicker to be on the pace of Gerrard’s 14hr 50min time of 12 months ago. A tall order indeed.
Others to watch out for will be Dave Walker, Brian Wade, Michael Bonney, Chris Cale and Dale Farquhar of the guys. Relative new name, Karen Chiarello, could get into the top-10, while other women likely to be in the mix include Sammy Bowden, Maureen Moffatt, Karen Lawrie and Janette Morgan.
As four-time winner Jock summed it up: ‘It hasn’t been so open in a long time for podium positions - but Alex Eaton will sew up the under-21 race to Peel easily.’
Look out for Special Olympian Zoe Lambie who could well pull off a win in the under-21 women’s race.
Those supporting friends and family in the Manx Telecom Parish Walk can follow their progress via 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 10 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 53rd Parish Walk in its current format.
Around 1,500 walkers will be setting off from the National Sports Centre track at 8am on Saturday.
The leaders are likely to arrive at Santon church around 9.45am, Rushen 11.05am, Peel 1.20pm, Ballaugh (half-way) 3pm, Bride 4.55pm, Maughold 7.25pm, Lonan 9.35pm and the finish (if on record pace) around 10.40pm.
Motorists are advised to look out for a number of road closures and one-way sections of the 85-mile route.
A full review of the 2014 Parish Walk will appear in next week’s special edition of the Manx Independent.