Liz Corran Interview – How the Parish Walk Happens

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With just under a week to go until the 2017 Manx Telecom Parish Walk, the organising committee led by Race Director Ray Cox is gearing up to put the finishing touches to almost 9 months of planning and preparation before the event starts at 8am this coming Saturday.

“Each member of the Committee is responsible for a different aspect of the event” explains Liz Corran, who has been the Race Secretary since 1994. “Allan Callow takes on the job of marking out the course. Winston Liu is the Chief Marshal responsible for co-ordinating over 150 volunteers and ensuring they are in the right places throughout the day. Kevin Walmsley is the Course Director whose job it is to close each checkpoint after the cut-off time and to ensure walkers’ safety as much as possible, with the assistance of Geoff Walmsley, Debbie Surgeon, Allen Bell, Geoff Quayle, John Ryder and Joan Ryder. Karen Kneale and Martin Lambden are in charge of compiling the results”.  Many of the Committee members have been involved for a considerable number of years both as competitors and latterly as volunteers helping to organise this great event.

Although these days Liz is a crucial part of the administration and organisation of the Parish Walk, like a great many people her first involvement with the event was as a competitor. After reaching Rushen on her debut in 1988, she won the veteran ladies’ race to Peel 3 years in a row between 1991 and 1993, setting a personal fastest time of 6 hours 2 minutes 8 seconds in 1993. The following year she supported John Cannell as he went on to achieve his sixth victory, a record which still stands today. After a 12-year break from participating in the event, Liz walked to Peel again in 2005 and the following year finished the full course in under 21 hours at her first and only attempt. Liz walked all the way with Bridget Kaneen, also a previous winner of the ladies’ race to Peel. “We both had special birthdays that year so we thought we’d have a go at the full distance!” Liz recalls.

Liz is however best known as a superb short-distance race walker, having held a number of Manx and British records during her career and having also represented the North of England in competitive events off-Island. Arguably her greatest sporting achievement came in 1996 when she set a veteran ladies’ world record at 20km when competing in Bruges, Belgium. Liz is still very much involved with competitive race walking as a coach with Manx Harriers.

The role of Race Secretary requires countless hours of time and effort in order to bring everything together for the big day. There are a huge number of jobs to be done, and liaising with other volunteer organisations is crucial. Liz explains: “In the run-up to the event, I organise volunteers for the check-ins at each church; contact the churches to make sure there aren’t any clashes with weddings; organise a panel of speakers for the Parish Walk talk; prepare the entry packs for collection at signing-on; confirm who will be the Chief Timekeeper, Chief Judge and Official Starter; sort out the feeding stations; arrange the catering for the presentation and sort out the Dhoon to Laxey one-way system with the Coastguard”. The list goes on and on, but it is clear how much time and dedication Liz and the other Committee members contribute every year.

“In the days before the internet my husband Gordon and I used to be responsible for receiving the entries and then giving them to Karen Kneale to manually record them” Liz adds with a smile. “People used to post their entries through our front door or deliver them in person.” Gordon, himself a 10-time finisher of ‘the Parish’, takes up the story: “One year we had about 370 entries through the door on the deadline day. Liz and I were going out in the evening so I stuffed the letterbox full of newspaper after the closing time had passed but we came home to newspaper strewn everywhere and more entries on the doorstep!”

What about the day itself, does Liz ever get the chance to see some of the event and have some ‘down time?’ “Only a little” she admits. “I’m usually down at the NSC for about 7am on the day, but then I move to the Braaid crossroads as a race judge and then it’s on to Peel to make sure the Phillip Christian Centre is all set up and ready to go, so I’m usually ahead of the walk. Gordon and I then drive to the northern part of the Island to see some of the walkers between Andreas and Ramsey. After that, we go on to the finish to help set everything up there. I normally then try to pop home for a couple of hours’ sleep, but I go back down to the finish to help pack everything away again after the 8am finishing cut-off on Sunday. Gordon stays at the finish all night.”

Liz’s work, and that of the other Committee members, doesn’t stop at 8am on the Sunday morning. There is also the considerable task of organising and running the prize presentation, which this year will be held at the Villa Marina on Tuesday 20th June. The format is very familiar by now, but everything still needs to fall into place. “The presentation starts at 7pm but most of the Committee get there for about 2pm” Liz says. “I spend the Sunday and Monday with a copy of the results sorting out who has won the various trophies and making sure everything is in place for Tuesday night. It’s a far cry from the days when the presentation used to be on the Sunday evening! One year we had Steve Partington feverishly writing out finishers’ certificates in our kitchen as we were trying to get out the door for the presentation!”

 “The main job on presentation day itself is setting out all of the various trophies and ensuring that the finishers’ certificates are in time order, but everyone has their own responsibilities – we’ve got to set up the stage; sound system; slide presentation and organise the florist as well” Liz explains. Given that there are usually in excess of 150 finishers each year, this is a herculean task!

Following a de-brief meeting less than a month after the Parish Walk is over, the Committee in theory has August off before work starts again in earnest in September, but for Liz it’s not quite so simple. She explains: “I’m quite often still chasing up missing timing chips in August so it’s almost a year-round job.”

What is so special about the Parish Walk, and why is Liz still an instrumental part of it nearly three decades after she first took on the challenge of walking the event? Her answer will surely resonate with many people. “It’s like a baby that you watch growing up” she says. “When I first got involved there were only 150 or so entrants and I am so proud to be part of such a good team who have made the event into what it is today. Watching people achieve their own personal goals is so satisfying, even if it means crying with them at the finish, which I have done many times!”

The community spirit and camaraderie of the event is also a big factor in keeping Liz involved with the Parish Walk. “I really enjoy giving something back to the sport which has given me so much pleasure over the years and which has allowed me to make so many friends both on and off the Island” she adds.

It is clear that without the efforts of a great number of volunteers, not least Liz Corran, the Parish Walk simply could not take place. When the gun goes off at 8am this Saturday, it may be the start of the event for some 1400 or so walkers, but the planning, preparing and admin for the 2017 Manx Telecom Parish Walk really started back in September last year and won’t properly finish until next month!

Liz Corran’s Parish Walk record

 Year    Church            Time               

 1988    Rushen           4:58:00           

1989    German           8:11:28          

1990    German           7:17:38         

1991    German           6:18:46

1992    German           6:03:54

1993    German           6:02:08 

2005    German           6:33:05

2006    Finish              20:48:37

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