The Scottish Widows Parish Walk
Start time: 8 am on 26 June 2010
Tony Kneale a 30 year story of a vest and second best
Tony has worn the same vest every year since at least 1985 during which time he has completed the course 18 times (20 in total from 30 starts)
It’s almost 30 years since Tony Kneale and Ian Corlett were enjoying a few pints and playing pool on a Saturday afternoon, in the Old Curiosity Shop (now O'Donnell's), when they were persuaded to enter the Parish Walk. Peter Westwall said he wanted to enter a team, for which there had to be at least three walkers, and after another couple of drinks he had one!
What a year Tony chose to make his debut. Until the infamous rain and storms encountered by walkers during the 2008 event, 1980 was arguably the wettest ever. Three times he changed his clothing and each time he was soon drenched again but he eventually checked in at Peel after 7 hours and 42 minutes.
He was to become hooked on walking and with some success. Twice, in 1989 and 1996, he finished second in the Parish Walk. Its hard to say whether two is his lucky number or his unlucky one for not only does he have 2 number 2s in the Parish Walk but he also has the same status in the End to End Walk, in 1983 and 1985, breaking 7 hours on the latter occasion. He also finished second in the Novice One Hour Walk and was overtaken by Dougie Corkill within yards of the finish in a winter walking league event whilst leading. He can’t remember ever winning a race but he can list plenty more when he came second.
So what was his progress towards becoming number 2? In 1981 he reached Jurby a performance which he was pleased with but he was less happy about finishing at Bride a year later. He had hopes of a finish but stubbed his toe on a big stone at the side of the road and the injury curtailed his participation.
He made it at the fourth attempt in 1983 and with 7 exceptions has reached Douglas promenade every year since. Within a year of his first finish in 19:42:52 he had reduced his time by over an hour to 18:47:28 which gained the third finisher award. That was to remain his best time until 1995 when it was the 18 hour barrier that he broke (17:59:51) and in 1996 he repeated his 1989 second place is his still best time of 17:56:03.
He may have peaked a long time ago, and he has had a few disappointments and failed to finish, but his 20 successes (only David Collister with 26 and his arch rival Ray Hughes with 22 have more) have all been in remarkably consistent time.
He has never taken more than 20 hours (his debut was his slowest) and his five most recent finishes have all been between 19.05 and 19.22.
So why does Tony always wear the vest? "I always hated putting pins into clothes and making holes in them" he said. "With the string vest, I can put the pins through the holes." He adds flashing lights to it when he walks through the night and anyone who has driven around the Parish Walk course after darkness will have spotted the flashing vest more easily than possibly any other walker.
The vest was first seen in 1985 at Newtown
And here it is again approaching Santon in 1986
In 1988 he was one of a number of competitors who decided that 85 miles was not enough and walked an extra 15 miles up and down the promenade. He judged his pace for the extra distance really well and picked up positions on the promenade to finish 8th in the 100 mile championship in 22:55:05.
Centurion number 954. Tony is congratulated by John Eddershaw.
On the only other occasion that the 100 mile race was held in the Isle of Man, at the National Sports Centre in 2006, he was again a starter but this time number 2 was definitely not a lucky number as he failed to finish.
The 2006 100 miles at the National Sports Centre in which Manxman Sean Hands successfully defended his title.
If you study Tony’s Parish Walk record you will note that he has had three non finishes in the past three years for the first time. Coincidence? “Well” says Tony. “In 2007 I started competing in the winter league walks for the first time for many years and I did again for the next two years. Each time I failed to do finish the Parish Walk so I’m going back to my normal preparation this year."
His normal preparation consists of 6 weeks of 3 mile blasts from his home on Bray Hill towards Baldwin and back. He spends some of his other spare time helping to crew Bobby Moore's boat and rifle shooting for Sandsiders.
2002 at Ballasalla (before the course was diverted via Orrisdale) when he finished in his consistent time of just over 19 hours after following his 6 week training plan.
In some years Tony’s failure to walk the whole 85 years has been planned either through illness or in 1991 an attempt to win the (then) veteran’s race to Peel. He was leading the whole field at one point but then he suffered on the Sloc and was overtaken by Allan Kelly. You guessed it – he finished second!
Last year when walking as far as Peel he carried a device that counted every stride he walked – all 60,572 of them.
Union Mills in 2009. Tony (23) seen taking one of the 60,572 steps to Peel!
Tony is married to Jean (who walked to Peel in the Parish Walk in 1985 and 1987) and they have two grown up children.
He has been working for Clucas plc inside and outside of the factory (now closed) for 40 years. He is now responsible for the site maintenance on one of the best kept estates on the island which stretches back to lake behind the dam and the scene of Island cross country fixtures in the 70s.
The old laundry building at Tromode
Tony has recently researched his family tree and discovered that it was not just his father who worked at the laundry but several generations before him worked at the laundry, and before that, the milll at the same site.
The top of the Clucas estate - scene of cross country races on the 70s
In 1985 he has covered the vest up ready for his video interview with Graham Young but it is still going strong 25 years later.
Tony's Parish Walk record
The famous vest has always had a lot of holes in it although some are merging!
Murray Lambden - 23 February 2010
Photos by Murray Lambden, Mike Lambden and Tony's family.
parishwalk.com is a part of manxathletics.com an independent site designed, edited and funded by Murray Lambden The event is organised by Manx Harriers and sponsored by Scottish Widows neither of whom are responsible for the content of the site. The official entry forms, race information and results are published here on behalf of the organisers together with independent pictures, statistics and general information compiled by the editor. The links to the live timing provided by SPORTident and sponsored by Manx Telecom are on a separate computer and not controlled by the editor. He is, however, grateful to both parties for making the information available to him. Thanks to the Parish Walk committee of Manx Harriers for organising a great event.. Murray's Parish Walk Blog