The Brew brothers have collectively only competed in 14 walking races but between them they have finished the 85 miles Parish Walk 13 times!
Race walkers in the UK are amazed at how many people participate in Manx walking races particularly the once a year variety. Nobody fits this criteria better than 51 year old Alan Brew (right of photo) from Kirk Michael as he has completed the Parish Walk 6 times from 6 starts between 2002 and 2014.
Even more amazing is that he has walked every step of the way with his brother Stephen who also has an extra finish from 2003 when Alan couldn’t start due to an ankle ligament injury 5 weeks before he planned to race.
It was 53 year old Stephen, who lives in Brunswick Road, Douglas who got the Brew brothers started in 2001. Sue Biggart, who went on to complete the course 11 times, 7 under 17 hours, entered for the first time and persuaded Stephen to do so too. Alan declined the invitation to join him but supporting Stephen over the Sloc made him wish he was also competing.
Stephen reached Ballaugh on his 2001 debut but the brothers never doubted that a finish was on the cards in 2002. They crossed the line after 22 hours, 50 minutes and 30 seconds with the final half hour being the highlight of their involvement. Bridget Kaneen checked their numbers at Onchan Church and said: “You’ll have much lower numbers next year” referring to the system of allocating the lower numbers to previous finishers. 1,111 may have experienced that wonderful feeling of walking along Douglas promenade for their first Parish Walk finish but Bridget set the tone for their excitement as they became the 503rd and 504th people to ever finish!
Round Table in 2004. This was the year of Alan’s second finish and Stephen’s third.
Beyond Jurby in 2005. They say that they have never had a cross word between them and they help each other through their bad patches.
Braddan Bridge in 2006 wearing the lowest numbers after setting their personal best times of 20:08:12 in hot conditions the previous year.
2008 at Braddan before the rain. They finished just a minute outside their best time that year despite the dreadful conditions.
Supporting Hadyn Kenna in 2012.
Photo at Braddan in 2014 after a 6 year break. “We missed the event but not the training” said Stephen. Neither brother do any other sport although Alan his climbed the highest mountain in each country in the British Isles.
The Sloc for the first time in 6 years didn’t put them off completely. After another year out in 2015 they’ll be back in 2016. They have been supported so well over the years by Stephen’s wife Sarah, Danny Dooley and Mark Shuttleworth.
Stephen is friendly with quite a few of the regular Parish Walk finishers including Caroline and David Cain and Gordon and Elizabeth Corran who is checking them in at the finish in 2012.
Stephen works at the airport for the Department of Infrastructure maintaining a variety of equipment - anything that moves but without wings! The writer grew up living less than 50 yards from him in Kirk Michael and now we are the same distance apart in Douglas. Stephen is married to Sarah and their eldest son Chris walked to Peel in 2014 before departing to Bournemouth University. Twins Simon and Jordan will be 18 in March and are likely feature in the Manx Telecom Parish Walk three months later.
Alan works at Qualtroughs timber yard in Castletown where he often sees one of their heroes, five times champion Robbie Callister. He lives with his mother Peggy in Kirk Michael in the house where he has has lived all his life. Their father Oscar, who passed away in 1999, farmed at Berk on the Peel to Kirk Michael Coast Road and the brothers always think about him as they pass the farm in the walk. 31 times finisher David Collister now lives nearby.
Stephen and Alan remember their dad taking an interest in the Parish Walk and each year he would reach the same conclusion: “They are all mad.” He would probably think the same of his sons but they both share his modest disposition and he would have been be a proud man to see what they have achieved.
Murray Lambden - 21 November 2015
Photos by Murray Lambden, Karen Kneale & Neil Wilson