Edmund Shillabeer made his debut for the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland team in 1991 at the age of 51. Now he makes his debut in the Clerical Medical Parish Walk at the age of 69 - just three months before his birthday. (Photo at the 2008 HSBC Securities Services Manx Harriers 20km walk)
The average winning time of the Parish Walk is 16:42:58. That is just 10 minutes and 6 seconds faster than Edmund Shillabeer completed the first ever World Quadrathlon Championship in Brighton in August 2003. Never heard of a quadrathon? Well think of an ironman triathlon consisting of a 2 mile swim in the sea, a 100 mile cycle ride and a marathon. And then throw in a 50km (31+ miles) walk! He finished the event in 3rd place in a time of 16:53:04 after taking 59:45 for the swim in Brighton, 5:14:15 for the walk from Brighton to Tunbridge Wells, 5:46:21 for the cycle from Tunbridge Wells to Brands Hatch (plus extra laps of the circuit) and 4:19:10 for the run to Gravesend. An interesting place to finish!
Not that Ed considers the quadrathlon to be his best achievement. This time you should think of the famous Centurions 100 miles - and then add 50%! That is almost what he achieved in 1986 when he finished 3rd overall (and best British athlete at the age of 46) in the Roubaix 28 hour walk. He covered 239.9 km (more than 149 miles).
It was another 5 years before he was awarded that British vest for an international match against France and five other countries over 200km in Rheims. He covered the distance in 23 hours and 53 minutes but had to cope with temperatures of minus 7 degrees.
Until 1993 competitors over 60 in the Clerical Medical Parish Walk were not even allowed to go beyond Peel so to think of someone making their debut at almost 70 years of age is extraordinary. But Edmund is an extraordinary man and athlete. Which is why this feature is a first - a feature on a walker who has not yet stepped on the course.
Well that's not quite true as there is a 2 mile section between Braddan and Marown churches which overlaps with the TT Course. Ed made his Isle of Man debut over that course in 1979 finishing in 4th place. He has taken part in the Manx Airlines / HSBC Securities Services 20km at the National Sports Centre in 1992, 2002 and 2008. At the first of these, he set a British over 50 age best of 1:38:26.
He attended Taunton School in Someset and graduated from Bristol University Veterinary School in 1964.
He married Barbara whilst at University and they raised three children whilst building his own practice in Plymouth from 1970 onwards after his initial employment in Newquay.
He was a founder member of Dawlish and South Devon Race Walking Club in 1976 (later Plymouth City Walkers) the same year as the annual 42 mile Plymouth to Dawlish walk was instituted. A young Chris Maddocks (21 years old) won this event and possibly without it the five times Olympic walker and British record holder at 50km might not have found fame. He certainly didn't find fortune as he took a series of part time jobs to support his international competition including assisting Edmund in his surgery.
Ed himself won the race in 1983 three months before that incredible quadathlon.
As soon as Ed entered the Parish Walk I mentioned on my blog that I would write more about him nearer the event. Robbie Lambie took me at my word and contacted Ed in March to obtain some of the facts that have gone into this article. The response from Ed was so helpful, but also so overwhelming, that I didn't know where to start. As a result, although this feature has been on my agenda for the past three months it has always been put behind something slightly easier to achieve.
But none of Ed's achievements have been easy and so the least I can do is give you a flavour of them. It would take me until the 2010 event to list them all!
In 2007 he set a world age best for men over 65 years when he recorded 5:26:31 for 50km in Tilburg in the Netherlands. In 1996 he walked a British over 50 record even though he was 56 when he took 4:52:00 for 50km in Schiedam (also in the Netherlands). Another achievement when he was already past his half century was to win the European 50-54 age group at 20km in Budapest in 1990.
Before that, in 1985, he won the Race Walking Association 100km championships in 9:41:54 which remains a British and Commonwealth track record for the distance. The same year he took silver in the world veteran championships at both the 20km road and 5km track events.
In the early days of his veterinary practice he had little time to fit in more than the occasional run but in 1972 he filled in for Plymouth Athletic Club across a range of events. Soon after he tried his first race walk finishing 3rd over 3km out of 9 competitors. Next time out he won and walking has been his main sport ever since.
In one of the many features about Ed in the local media he listed his interests outside of athletics as 1) family; 2) Plymouth Argyle; 3) Wildlife conservation; 4) Christianity; 5) Listening to music, mainly pop and classical and 6) Foxhunting.
He suggests the use of Nutralite as a multivitamin, multimineral phytonutrient food supplement. I shall leave you to do your own research on this as I am now going to do something that Edmund won't be contemplating at the weekend - admit defeat. But not before mentioning his ironman triathlon at the age of 67 or his listing as 6th fastest ever in that other Church to Church Walk in Guernsey. Or his first 100 mile walk from Leicester to Skegness in 1976 when he took 21:45:19 to become centurion number 590.
Murray Lambden - 15 June 2009
Ed's Isle of Man photo album
The start of the 1979 TT Course walk and Ed (number 45 in green top near left of picture) is between Eric Horwill (51) of Dudley & Stourbridge who was to the TT Course Walk what David Collister is the Parish Walk and Ed's friend Derek Harrison (7) who had just completed a house swap with Ed in Plymouth. The race was won by John Paddick (29), who finished 11th in the 1964 Olympic 50km walk, in a (then) record of 5:47:02. Runner up was Graham Young in 5:59:21 (hidden behind 17 who is Eric Murray of Lancashire Walking Club).
Murray Lambden (9) finished 3rd in 6:4:33 ahead of Derek Harrison (7) in 6:11:35. Derek had set the record (that lasted for 27 years) for the Parish Walk three months earlier and had also finished second in the Rouen 24 hours, beaten by Dutchman Jonge who improved Derek's own world best of 219km by 2km, that year and for good measure Derek took second place in the British 100 miles in Surrey. Ed (45) was the fastest debutant in 6:11:03 at the age of 49. Also in the picture is Stuart Graves of Lakeland AC who failed to finish.
Ed returned to the Isle of Man in 1992 for the first of three starts (and finishes) in the Manx Airlines 20km (latterly HSBC Securities Services Manx Harriers 20km). He also took part in 2002 and 2008. He was pictured in 1992 at the back left alongside one of Britain's best ever walkers Ian McCombie. They were in Albany Street, Douglas with the Lambden family (Marie and Robbie on left, Murray and Ben on right) and Ian's wife Pauline and her parents. The photo was taken by five times Olympic walker Chris Maddocks.
The respect between Chris Maddocks (left) and Edmund is evident to all. They were photographed later the same night with Murray and Marie.
Aged 68 at the National Sports Centre in 2008 where he still averaged more than six miles per hour for 20km (12.42 miles).
All photos from the Lambden collection.