The Scottish Widows Parish Walk
Start time: 8 am on 25 June 2011
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Vinny Lynch - a 2.26 marathon runner, professional footballer and, by the way, 2nd in the Parish Walk
Vinny Lynch photographed in his flat in Woodville Terrace in Douglas
Vinny Lynch, 50 years old on 20 February, must have plenty of sporting tips to pass on but there is one that stands out for Parish Walk entrants: "You must get yourself training with other walkers faster than you. Do everything you can to keep as close as you can and find out why they are faster. What are they eating? What are they drinking? What training are they doing?"
Vinny became a sub 16 hour walker in 2010 but only after endless training sessions trailing behind people like (three times winner) Jock Waddington, Chris Cale, Marie Jackson and Michael George. His only regret that is that he didn't take up walking much sooner. But perhaps if he had done there wouldn't be such a good story to write!
Vinny was the first of eight children to be born into the Lynch family in Sligo Town on the west coast of Ireland. "When I left Sligo Technical College in 1978, like most youngsters in Ireland at that time I had three choices - America, England or the Army."
He crossed the border to Enniskillen to sign up for the Royal Irish Regiment and he spent the next two and a half years in uniform when he began an army engineering apprenticeship as a toolmaker. He saw active service in Belize and the full horror of military conflict when a colleague was killed alongside him.
On the first of several returns to Sligo in between his travels he completed his apprenticeship living back at home with his brother and six sisters. He had always dabbled at sport whilst at school and had taken part in the middle distance running events as well as playing soccer and Gaelic football. His fitness levels were much higher on discharge from the army, however, and a one off appearance in the Dublin Marathon in 1981 ("or was it 1982" he asks himself) saw him cross the line in 2 hours and 26 minutes.
Vinny starts 2011 in the St Johns Fell Race
There was no payment for this performance in the marathon but there was when he played in the League of Ireland for Sligo Town. "Sligo was one of the few towns in Ireland where soccer was the number one sport" he said. "It goes back to the days when Sligo was a garrison town for the British army before Irish independence". Although a right footer, it was as a left winger he made his 40 or so appearances. "We weren't paid enough to give up our day jobs, but it was still nice to be paid."
He did give up his day job, however, to move to High Wickham, where he made a handful of appearances for the home side in non league football. High Wickham may not be the footballing capital of England but it is apparently the tool making capital just as Sligo is to Ireland.
He had followed some of his mates there and it was his friends and family that set him up for five years in Australia and New Zealand. He first spent some time in Melbourne with a friend but he also found work in several other cities before using his family ties, they hadn't all joined the army, to move to New Zealand.
How did he come to move to the Isle of Man after one of his Sligo residencies? "I came to the island for a Paddy's weekend and didn't want to leave." He met his wife to be and was married by 2000. Sadly, his marriage was not to last but he is very proud of his step son and step daughter and he has pictures of his step grand-daughter around his flat. He still shares a dog with his ex-wife.
He has never passed his driving test and travels by bus to his job at Kiartys Limited in Ballasalla where he puts his tool making skills to good use each day. He briefly wore the football shirts of St Marys and Onchan but that was the end of his football career.
Vinny's story so far has been different to most others but from here it takes a familiar turn if you research some of the other Parish Walk heroes. Talked into entering in 2005 by a work mate (who he then left behind), he became more and more determined to make a mark, was the fastest first time finisher in 2009 and the following year he finished second and become the 10th fastest of the thousands who have attempted the 85 miles course we all love.
He made a similar progression in the End to End Walk where after two stops in Peel in 2006 and 2007 he completed the course in 2008 (7 hours 35 minutes) and reduced this time by nearly a minute a mile in 2009 with a third place in 7 hours and 3 minutes.
Vinny on his way to third place in the 2009 End to End Walk - he missed the 2010 version to take a break after three solid years of training and racing
Like every success it has not come without a few upsets along the way. The 2005 walk to Peel was as far as planned but he admits he "blew it" in 2006 when he was dragged along too fast in the company of Ray Pitts, Sue Biggart and Michael George and retired at Rushen.
He was happy to reach Ballaugh in his third year but 2008 was another disappointment Getting beyond Bride in "that rain" was just too much.
Those setbacks increased his resolve.
In 2009 he set his sights on winning the trophy for the fastest first time finisher. He won it.
In 2010 he set his sights on walking the course under 16 hours. He did.
One thing is certain he will have his hands on a lot more trophies yet. Within a year of joining the Isle of Man Veteran Athletes' Club in 2007 he was enlisted to their committee - as their trophy secretary!
Can he win? Like the writer, Vinny thinks it will be difficult for anyone to stop Jock taking a fourth title. A dark horse: "Watch out for Richard Gerrard but in 2011 you may have to break 16 hours to make the top 10."
Watch out for Vinny in 2012. Like several other Manx endurance walkers he intends to head for the Roubaix 28 hours. I bet he will be the only one taking part who reached national standard at kick boxing! There is probably still more to learn about Vinny Lynch.
MurrayLambden - 31 January 2011
(thanks to Michael George for additional information)
Photos by Murray Lambden except where stated
Vinny Lynch's Parish Walk record
Vinny Lynch's Parish Walk photo album
Debut in 2005 approaching Dalby on his way to Peel
Braddan (left of photo) in 2006 when he retired at Rushen
Glen Lough in 2007, when he reached Ballaugh, with 17 times finisher Mick Holgate who like Vinny never returned home after a holiday in the Isle of Man (Photo: Mike Lambden)
Vinny (754) tracking Dave Mackey before the rain in 2008
No stopping in Peel in 2009 (Photo: Mike Lambden)
Vinny with winner Jock Waddington after becoming the 10th fastest walker ever (17th best time) in 2010
Fastest walkers of all time
NB 13 different walkers have recorded the 20 fastest times
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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. Some of the 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