Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Brain Game

'How much of the Parish Walk' is a mental thing?

This question was asked at the Walk Talk back in March held in the Manx Museum to the assembled panel, and the difference in answers was quite distinctive.

Both Alan Callow and Jock said that for them it was probably 60% mental 40% physical. I think Maureen Moffatt said around 70% mental, but I think the most thought provoking answer of the night was from Steve Taylor who suggested that pretty much from Andreas it was 100% mental for him.

As the stock phrase associated with the Parish goes, what works for one may not work for someone else, and you can sort of apply this to the mental side of things. Depending on your mental strength, your preparation (both physical and mental), and your experience, everyone will differ.

A few weeks before I finished for the first time in 2010, I was out with some friends, and the topic of conversation round the table turned to the impending Parish Walk and how did I rate my chances. I responded by saying that I had trained well, and it was down to factors on the day. One of the guys piped up very confidently saying, 'you won't finish it!'. I asked him to explain to me why he was so sure, and his response was 'because you haven't finished it before'.

At this point I sat and contemplated what he said, and several things went through my head, but I kept coming to the same conclusion....what a complete tosser.

Because I hadn't finished, I didn't know what would be required or how I would finish, but let me tell you this........nobody ever would have achieved anything if they hadn't tried and if they had this guy's mentality they wouldn't ever bother trying, and the human race would have died off years ago.

I have blogged before about Positive Mental Attitude and a thing called Fortitude - these are some of the key ingredients to completing the walk, together with the right training and support. What has helped me in the past is my sheer bloody stubbornness, although this can lead to a fall out with your other half.

If you are attempting a first finish, then tips from experienced walkers are also useful as you can train your socks off physically, but how do you train your mind?

Simple answer - with difficulty.

Preparation is key. Make sure your support is well briefed, tell them what you expect from them. Below are some of the things I tell mine:
  • If I stop eating or drinking, bully me to do so
  • Ask me what I want for the next stop in plenty of time and have it ready when you get there
  • Never go too far ahead, especially later on. A mile is plenty
  • Make my clothing decisions for me (they feel the cold more than you do)
  • If I tell them I want to stop, just ignore me and move on
  • Do not stop by any churches. Drive on at least a mile.
  • Remember to stick by what I asked them to do
Later on in the walk is where you really need to dig deep mentally, and the best ever piece of advice I have ever received is when you are down, break the walk down into easy to manage sections. In 2010 I struggled like hell from Glen Mona, managed somehow to make it to Laxey with my sister chirping in my ear the whole way, and then I broke it down into mile sections, and took them one at a time.

Time permitting, when you make it into Onchan, everything goes out the window you know you are going to get there.

George Patton once said:

If you're going to win any battle, you must do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired, morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind isn't tired. When you were younger, the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired. You've got to make the mind take over and keep going.

I'll leave you to ponder that nugget.........


  1. Hi Ed,

    great post!

    I particularly like the one for your support to NOT stop at any church but to move a mile on down the road...i'm going to use that one for definite.


    1. Hi Russell

      Glad you like it. The thought process is that you can't stop if your support is nowhere near.

      Hope the knee is better.