Saturday, June 19, 2010

That First Finish...

Just a week to go, and the tension builds.....

Here is the story of my first finish in 2002, to give readers a feeling of what it is like to round Port Jack and know you are going to Make It.

Having felt reasonably sprightly after two Walks as far as Peel, my brother in law, Kevin Graham and I decided to go beyond Peel and see how far we could go. It was also the first time for our support crew wives beyond Peel, and to be honest we had not really planned anything properly, as we did not really expect to finish. As we passed each church past Peel, our support, desperately bored, called out, "are you stopping now...?"

We got to Bride as darkness fell, and Kevin gave in to the siren calls - a family occasion the next day called, though I am sure he was in good enough shape to get to the finish.

I loaded up my kagoul with as much water and food as I could, and set off into the dark alone while the support headed off home and south into the darkness and bed. Quite soon afterwards I caught up with Dermot O'Toole and walked for a while chatting. I had been going faster than him, and as it turned out, probably far too fast, because I doubt if I would have got to the finish with that pace.

I reasoned that if I stayed with Dermot, who was at that time a seven time finisher, I may have a good chance of getting to Douglas. Dermot was very organised and I have memories of cups of tea heated by a primus stove, and even a vision of teeth cleaning going on at one stage. Though that may just be one of my Maughold hallucinations....

By the time we got to Maughold I was feeling pretty rough. At one point I dropped my bottle of water, and just could not stop and stoop to pick it up. Somewhere around that point Dermot told me how much he hated the Parish and I remember declaring that if I finished I would never go through these agonies again. Dermot agreed, saying seven finishes was enough and he was going to stop after this one.

We shook hands and agreed never to do the Parish ever again....

It must be a bit like women and childbirth - they usually swear "never again" and two weeks later deny that it was a problem- some chemical blanks out the memory of pain.

And so it must have been with Dermot (now about 16 finishes) and me, finishing another four times.

The abiding, almost life changing memory, is of walking up the long straight between the Dhoon corner and the Bulgham corner - and watching a perfect sunrise break over the sea. That was a glorious moment - I was on the way home, in God's Country (Ballaragh - my homeland) and knew I was going to finish.

As we got to the top of Royal Avenue, we were caught by Kevin Martin, and regulars will know that horrible feeling of being overtaken when you know you do not have enough energy to hold off the challenge. As it turned out, Kevin was a real gentleman, and instead of racing us and gaining a couple of places, he walked with us.

I remember that wonderful moment of hitting the Promenade by Port Jack chippy and scanning, and scanning, and scanning again, for the War Memorial. It is an awful lot further away that you imagine. We tried to speed up on the final walk along the Promenade, but it was nearly impossible. It was like walking through treacle, no matter how much energy went into it, no speed came out the other end.

We three crossed the line together, joint 27th I think. I will forever be grateful for Dermot for breaking me in, so to speak, and getting me to the finish, and to Kevin for sacrificing his places to keep us company.

Later there were some medical problems, shin micro factures, kidney infections, huge blisters and later multi-toenail loss, but that feeling of achievement at the finish, and at the Presentation, that Sunday night was absolutely fantastic.

And more than that, in those days (a mere 8 years ago) finishing the Parish was relatively rare and friends expressed amazement at someone like me managing it. Nowadays, it is just as difficult, but so many manage a finish that that special kudos seems a little diminished.

But it is not, for when you finish for the first time, no matter how many others make it, you will have that very special feeling of exhilaration as you collapse into the helping hands of Liz and co at the finish.

I will blog every day now this week, to build up the tension - a bit like anticipating the next England World Cup game.........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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