The Scottish Widows Parish Walk
Start time: 8 am on 26 June 2010
Bernie Ball - a long term recruit to the Parish Walk
Bernie spends her working day with a recruitment agency but is staying with the Scottish Widows Parish Walk for the long term
There is a myth that you have to be old to do well in the Parish Walk. With the average age of the 129 male finishers at 44 last year, and the 58 females only two years younger, its easy to see the source of the myth. But look back to the early years and note that the Parish Walk was a young man's event and until recent years veterans were only expected to walk to Peel. The myth will be buried for both men and women in the next few years as the walk continues to widen the scope of its recruitment. There are signs of change already.
Last year, Samantha Draper (aged just 23) was the 7th woman to finish and 26 year old Bernie Ball was 13th. And Bernie is keen to bring other younger walkers into the event - and not just to make up the numbers. Bernie was introduced to the Parish Walk by her friends Alison Titley and Jean Gannon and in 2006 she supported her father, Tony, and sister Louise (who reached Kirk Michael).
Bernie supporting dad in 2006
Bernie was born in Runcorn and came to live in Port Erin just in time to finish her schooling at Castle Rushen. It was to Rushen that she aimed to walk on her debut in 2007 but she walked further, and suffered more, than she could have ever imagined.
A succession of people who walked with her persuaded her to go one church further and it was George Cannell who waited for her at Jurby to nurse her a further 7 miles to Bride before she finally called it a day. So sore was she that she had to take four days off work and climbing down the stairs on her backside saw her reduced to tears such was her discomfort. Which is good time to remind you of her number 1 tip - don't forget the Vaseline for all the places that rub!
Glen Lough on her Parish Walk debut with John Christian
She was encouraged to join Allan Callow's coaching group at the National Sports Centre and she was a much improved walker by September when she completed the End to End Walk.
Kirk Michael in the White & Healthy End to End Walk 2007
She set her sights on finishing in her second year in the Parish Walk and the record book shows that she retired at Maughold. In fact she reached Laxey before succumbing to the extreme weather. First she wrapped up tightly to protect herself from the unseasonal rain (see below). But this made her too hot and later she over-compensated by stripping back down to vest and shorts and walked herself into a state of near collapse and sickness.
Well wrapped up between Glen Maye and Patrick - Parish Walk 2008
And so to 2009. "If I didn't finish I was going to retire for good" she said. But the whole walk went so well for her that by Maughold she was 1 hour and 18 minutes ahead of the time she arrived the previous year. She powered on to her first finish in 20:04:40.
Approaching Newtown in 2009 with Gary Deucher (109) and parishwalk.com blogger Dave Walker - they stayed together until Jurby
Things have continued to improve since then, most noticeably in the recent Sara Killey Memorial 50km walk where she was little more than a minute behind winner Shirley Gage and 23 seconds ahead of Maureen Moffatt. The women's race was remarkable in that less than five minutes separated the first five (Samantha Draper and Vicky Rawlinson were 4th and 5th). The significance of this result was unknown at that time because it had been assumed that Janice Quirk would be defending her title in the Scottish Widows Parish Walk. But here are the top 21 performances ever by ladies in the Parish Walk:
With neither Janice Quirk nor Sue Biggart taking part this year (hopefully they will both be back next year), Rosemarie Crellin retiring after her 10 finishes, and none of the others on the list having entered for a few years, the race will be very open and surely the 50km race will be a guide to form.
When asked who she thought would win Bernie did not hesitate. "Maureen Moffatt" referring to the walker with the 22nd best ever Parish Walk time of 17:43:52. There are five other entrants (at the time of writing) with faster times than Bernie competing on 26 June:
And don't forget the theme of younger walkers - sixth place in the Sara Killey Memorial 50km was Eleanor Gawne who has a 20:18:10 time from 2007 when she was only 24.
Bernie is a single mum with an 8 year old daughter Caitlin. She worked at Barclays for five years, a corporate service provider for three and also for INtrust Manx for two years before joining OSA in her current position last December. She lives in Onchan but does some of her training with Carl Senogles, who lives in Ramsey, and so they alternate their training between the two.
She was never a sporting person before her discovery of the Parish Walk and she is amazed at the friendliness of the athletes. She is so impressed that winners such as Sean Hands and Jock Waddington help out at other events and her female rivals also offer all the support they can. She recalls that during her first 10km walk, all of the established walkers stayed to clap her at the end.
Bernie wants to help other younger entrants follow in her footsteps - which are getting faster all the time. Can she win the Parish Walk? It might be too soon to expect that this year but there will be a big improvement. Janice and Sue are still in a class of their own and so another improvement will be required when they return to get close to them. Its a fact that younger women are starting to finish well up the field and it will take the single minded among them to take the trophy. Single minded but not selfish. If its not Bernie who becomes the first twenty something to win, then it will be someone like her, perhaps someone entering for the first time this year. And she wants to encourage that person to race her to the line.
Winter League walk on the TT Access Road with Ron Ronan (who has been competing in the series since the early 70s) - Bernie recommends the league to all new walkers
Murray Lambden - 12 May 2010
Photos by Murray Lambden, Mike Lambden (Glen Lough & Newtown), Richard Jamieson (Glen Maye) and Bill Dale (2006).
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