Caroline Cain - started the year at Clatterbridge Hospital in the middle of a course of radiotherapy but hopes to walk to Peel this year and to finish next year. (photo ML)
The excuses for dropping out of the Clerical Medical Parish Walk are legendary: blisters, calling in a bet, babysitting, too hot, too cold, you name it its been used. The list is almost as long as the list of reasons for not entering on time!
Caroline Cain's reason for retiring at Bride in 2006 was more justified than most - she had a tumour. Not that she knew it at the time. Having finished in 2005 she fully expected to get around the whole course again in 2006.
With the benefit of hindsight there were some warnings. Five weeks after the walk in 2005 she had an attack of vertigo. When she called it a day in 2006 she was terribly sick.
The tumour was estimated to have been growing for four years by the time she had her first surgery at Aintree Hospital in July 2007. She returned to the same hospital in October 2008 and then began a five week course in radiotherapy at Clatterbridge in December.
The tumour was extremely aggressive but thankfully is benign. It was a base of skull tumour or giant cell tumour and such flat bone tumours are very rare. About two cases a year are identified in the UK.
Caroline is a practice nurse at the Hailwood Medical Centre and she returned to her 20 hours a week post in April and by that point she was determined to make a Parish Walk comeback.
She came to the Isle of Man from her native Edinburgh in 1982 to complete her nursing training. She met David, her husband to be, the following year and by 1985, just short of her 21st birthday, they were married. Daughter Joanna is aged 20 and studying at Edge Hill University while son Nick is 18 and at Isle of Man College.
So by 2000 she had been in the Isle of Man for 18 years - but she had never heard of the Parish Walk! That was the year that David entered for the first time and reached Peel without any support from Caroline. She had gone on a round the island cruise and on her return found David nursing his feet on the sofa having no idea of what her husband was really up to.
David has since completed the course six times and it was not long before Caroline joined him. Well perhaps joining him is not quite the right term as although they both take part they are entirely independent of one another except that they both nominate the other as one of their two text numbers using the Manx Telecom sponsored timing service. So they each know the position of their other half.
Her debut in 2003 with Terri Salmon took her to Peel and the following year they both walked as far as Lezayre. Terri has completed the course for the past three years but her friend Caroline got there first in 2005. As already noted, she had to call it a day at Bride in 2006 and with her operation imminent in 2007 she had to miss the race but unselfishly assisted with the checking in and also marshalled at Santon and Peel. Last year (before her second operation) she walked as far as Peel again.
This year her support will come from her Edinburgh friend Scott Girvan whose wife Carolyn is also walking. Caroline has already walked several sessions of 10 to 15 miles and thinks that Peel is a realistic target.
She raised the mighty sum of £2,500 for base of skull research last year to help other people but this year she is doing it for herself. "I feel really good now and I hope that by staying positive I can recover my full health. There are still some days when I feel bad about what has happened, but most of the time, and with the wonderful support of my family and friends, I think I can overcome things".
There remains a small chance that the tumour will return. There remains a bigger chance that Caroline Cain will get back on the finishers list in future years.
Walking 85 miles is never easy but if ever there was a case of putting it into perspective Caroline's example is a good one.
During my visit to the Cain household on Saturday Caroline showed me a photo of herself after her operation where her face had to be rebuilt. I was too squeamish to publish it here but if anyone had seen it they might think again about calling self inflicted suffering in sport pain!
Come on number 129. Please give her a special cheer if you see her.
Murray Lambden - 25 May 2009
Caroline pictured with her family after completing the course in 2005. Husband David is a six times finisher. Also pictured are daughter Joanna and son Nick.
2006 with David James (666), Martyn Quayle (750) and Jimmy Davidson (1216).
The motivation: Caroline wants to experience the pleasure of completing the course again in 2010. Here she is in 2005 (photo Bill Dale)
Husband David, pictured on the Maughold Road in 2005, was inspired to write a poem about the Parish Walk (photo ML).
Read David's poem here