The day had finally arrived. I gazed out from the window of my clifftop house in Laxey towards a beautiful calm, blue sea with the reflection of the sun shimmering gently underneath a bright sky scarred only by the crossing trails of a few passing planes. It was 6am on Saturday 22nd June and I was excited about the day ahead with more than 1,600 people set to take to the streets of the Isle of Man for the annual Parish Walk.
The origins of the walk date back to 1852, as documented in the Manx Sun newspaper article entitled “A Summer’s Day Journey”, recording a journey taken by the then Coroner, John Cannel, who covered 90 miles in 15 hours on horseback. The next year he followed a similar route, only this time on foot, visiting each of the island’s 17 parishes.
It was not until 1913 that the event took on something like its current format with a start in Douglas and a route heading south to Rushen (19 miles), to Peel on the west coast (32.5 miles), north to Jurby (45 miles), east to Maughold (67 miles) then south to finish on the Promenade in Douglas (85 miles).
The world-famous TT motorcycle festival in late May, early June was met by two weeks of mostly rain and dark clouds, but the weather couldn’t have been more different for the Parish with sunshine and blue skies all day and temperatures around 20 degrees.
Building on an excellent turnout of Capital International colleagues in 2018, we had 15 colleagues on the start line this year, including our Founder and Non-Executive Director, Peter Long, who earlier this month celebrated his 80th birthday. The beauty of the Parish is that it represents a very meaningful challenge to each and every person that takes part. For one walker it might represent an achievement of real significance to reach Rushen; for another it might be shaving an hour off their personal best finish time at the end in Douglas. What is consistent for all, however, is that the people of the Isle of Man put on their greatest show of what this island is all about.
Thousands of people line the route to cheer on their friends, their colleagues or the visitors to our beautiful island. Many organisations sponsor the feeding stations and equip them with inflatables, blaring music, drinks, bananas, sweets, sausages, sun cream and at one station even a gin and tonic for those brave enough once they’d overcome the fearsome Sloc at about 25 miles.
Without a doubt, the Parish is hard. Whilst you might float through the first couple of hours, riding a wave of enthusiasm drawn from your personal goals and the energy of the cheering supporters, the reality is a tough, undulating course that circumnavigates the island with some imposing climbs and a never-ending road ahead. Fortunately, in return for every step, you are blessed with some truly magnificent scenery, particularly on a day like Saturday with such beautiful weather.
For me, the journey ended at the 45 mile mark in Jurby after nearly 10 and a half hours, which was the best performance of my three Parish walks to date. This was matched by Alex Long who put in a strong shift much to his grandfather Peter’s delight.
We marvelled at the determination of the many colleagues who had made it to Santon, Rushen and Peel, some of them raising money for various great causes too. But I have to pay a special tribute to the following six colleagues, four of whom were walking.
Firstly Rachael Butterworth, who put in a mighty walk to reach Bride at 53 miles in her best ever Parish performance.
Andy Payne completed his first Parish Walk in 2018 and went on to finish 35th this year in a time of 20 hours, 23 minutes, taking 2 hours off his personal best.
Our COO, Werner Alberts, who is a seasoned Parish Walk finisher, achieved his best ever position of 10th in a P.B time of 18 hours, 5 minutes.
And the star performer, Paul Atherton, our Finance Director, who has finished the Parish before but took everyone by surprise with his personal best time of 17 hours 59 minutes and an incredible 8th place finish.
Behind every great walker, however, is a great team, and behind every one of our 15 colleagues were two people who worked through the day and night to cheer, feed, patch up and support the walkers and they were June Cannell and Charlotte Looker. One of the things about Capital that makes me so proud is how our people step up, how they stand for things, how they raise money to help others and how they throw themselves into challenges and tackle them head on. This year’s Parish Walk was a great example not only of what the Isle of Man is about but also of what Capital International is about.