The 2012 Manx Telecom Parish Walk
Starts from the National Sports Centre, Douglas at 8 am on 23 June 2012
Mo & Simon Cox - 34 years of marriage includes 13 Parish Walk finishes, despite Simon allowing Mo to walk an extra two miles on her first finish
The Coxes at number 85 (their appropriate house number)
Picture the scene. Its the early hours of Sunday 23 June 1991. Mo Cox had been walking since 11.30 am the previous day and has around 20 miles of the 85 remaining to become only the 11th woman to complete the whole Parish Walk course. She is walking with the late Bob Baxter, not noted for his navigational skills, and she suggests that they should take a left turn to the south of Ramsey towards Port Lewaigue. However, her back up crew including husband Simon, and Bob Baxter, said that was the wrong way and we should continue straight on!
By the time they were located off course by Steve Brennan, they had added an extra two miles to the course. Mo was so annoyed she puffed her way to the finish without another word being spoken until she reached the finish, in front of Bob, in a time of 22:56:44.
Mo was also puffing (cigarettes in those days) when she first met Simon in the Lake District in 1975; a man who is never short of words, asked her in the Dog and Gun in Keswick if he could take her photo. He then asked her to accompany him for a walk up Skiddaw and it was the turning point in their lives. She gave up smoking and in her words "found her feet".
Brought up and living in Shepherd's Bush in London, she gave up her job as a legal secretary in London to take up two jobs in the Lake District - in Woolworths and as a chambermaid. Simon was also born in London, but brought up in Yorkshire, and at the time he met Mo he was the deputy warden at Kewsick Youth Hostel, having also worked in the hotel industry in France, but moved to the Lake District in 1972. Already keen on the fells he was introduced to fell running by well known fell runner Neil Shuttleworth and, you can believe this if you know Simon, ran 70 miles in his first week of running since cross country at school!
He started doing all the classic fell races, but completing the Ben Nevis race in under two hours remains one of his athletics highlights. Another of his top achievements was finishing 9th in 1982 (in a time of 05:06:13) on his debut in the TT40. This is the run that started on Douglas Promenade, joined the TT Course at Quarter Bridge, followed the course to Governors Bridge where the runners turned left and then right down Blackberry Lane to the Promenade to finish by the War Memorial.
Still running near the hills - Peel in 2010
Simon had previously visited the Isle of Man to attend a friends 21st birthday party. In 1982 he came back to the Island to take on the 40 mile challenge. He remembers the helpful communication from race organiser Peter McElroy. Simon was running for Hilllingdon AC and he finished in their colours again in 1986 and then twice more for his adopted club, Isle of Man Veteran Athletics Club, after moving to Manx shores in 1988. He also organised the TT race together with Steve Kelly in 1994 and also competed in the race and winning the “Bill Kelly Memorial Award” for the first local finisher in 5 hours 22 minutes. The race was cancelled in 1995 and in 1996 Simon organised the event again but not competing that year. The race was won by Mark Guichard of Dartford Harriers, with Simon’s friend and fellow club member Raymond Taubman winning the local prize. That was sadly the last time the TT40 run was held.
Before moving to the Isle of Man Simon ran dozens of marathons with many under three hours. His best time was recorded as 2:47 in Chesterfield but he admits that the course was short and his best legal time was just over 2:50 in London. Including those run since living in the Isle of Man, he has clocked up more than 60 marathon finishes.
But we need to catch up with Maureen's story which was moving at high speed even before she took up residence here and became Nigel Mansell's secretary.
Her first event during her two years in the Lake District was a 40 mile walk - she had little option to take part after Simon had collected £100 in sponsorship pledges for her. She was the first woman to finish and she did several more long distance walks eating Kendal Mint Cake and drinking Complan. Her first marathon came when, after moving to Farnham Royal near Slough and marrying Simon, she took part in the Masters and Maidens Marathon. Although she finished in under 4 hours she felt ill all the way and it wasn't the Kendal Mint Cake and Complan that caused the feeling - she learned a few days later that she was pregnant!
She formed a running group along with the legendary fell runner Boyd Millen and called themselves “Chestnut Hill Joggers” and ran several more marathons, including the London Marathon in 1987, before taking up residence here the following year.
Mo and Simon have resided on the peaceful Silverburn Estate in Ballasalla ever since. After a spell working for the 1992 Formula 1 World Champion, she resumed her career as a legal secretary for about ten years before switching to a secretarial role in social services in 1999. Simon's share of the family income has largely been derived from his work, previously as a photographer and latterly working at the Isle of Man College. Their son Ben after working for several years in Portugal is now living and working back in the Isle of Man.
If she discovered her feet in the Lake District then once those feet discovered the Parish Walk they opened doors. Not only did she become one of the first women to finish the whole 85 miles, but also on her third attempt she walked 100 miles in 24 hours in 1995 to join the Centurions club and then in 1996 she walked even further to complete the Roubaix 28 hour walk in France.
Walking together in the 2002 Empire Garage Peel to Douglas Walk
Her first Parish Walk in 1990 took her to Peel and it was walking between Santon and Rushen that she met with Liz Corran and Sue Partington and established the sort of bonds that are so important in the sport. She had a wretched time over the Sloc although thankfully the sickness was only caused by her choice of drink and not pregnancy this time! She reached Peel in 07:48:30 in the company of Linda Kelly and thereafter joined a group of walkers being advised by Allan Callow with whom she is pictured in the photo collection below in 1995, the year she set her fastest time to Peel of 06:10:27.
Officially the women's race was still only to Peel in those days and she was a proud winner in 1995. But even in 1991 women were starting to make their mark on the whole distance. The story of her extra miles that year has already been told and she was one of only nine finishers but behind the 10th ever finisher, Liz Corran.
At the time Mo had no thoughts of repeating her 85 mile epic. She had an even bigger challenge ahead - and she wouldn't need Simon as a navigator. In a classic case of "if at first you don't succeed" she failed to finish her first two attempts at the 100 miles.
In 1993 she slipped on some leaves coming out of the loo at 75 miles and pulled some ligaments in her knee. The following year, at Leicester, she was walking with George Collister when she became ill and had to retire at 51 miles. She was ecstatic, therefore, when she achieved her finish in 23 hours and 37 minutes at Battersea Park, in front of many of her friends and family from London, to become only the second female walker from a Manx club to achieve this honour. She was also extremely grateful to the support she received from former President of Tynwald, Noel Cringle, who travelled to support Alan Clucas who unfortunately retired. Noel followed her around on a child's bike which he "hired" from an unsuspecting youngster playing in the park and was rewarded with a tenner!
In the first year of Mo's 100 mile exploits, Simon had also taken up race walking after an injury (yes another one!) had curtailed his running at that time. He reached Peel at the first attempt in a good time of 06:02:08 and the following year he became one of a unique group that have St Johns as their finishing position on a Parish Walk certificate. That was the year that the streets of Peel were closed for kart racing and the course was diverted to St Johns. By 1997 he had walked the whole course for the first time in 19:45:27.
No doubt Simon would have been inspired by Mo's performance the previous year. It was her participation in the Roubaix 28 hour walk that inspired the choice of the Coxes for the second of the 2012 Parish Walk features. For Mo achieved something that only the legendary Derek Harrison has achieved from these shores, but something that four times Parish Walk winner Jock Waddington is forsaking the 85 mile walk for this year.
Indeed it is not just Jock but also Vinny Lynch and Andrew Titley who plan to tackle the 28 hour walk. And Bernie Ball and Jon Wild are also giving it consideration. They will have so much to remember if they complete the event.
Mo remembers being treated like royalty; she remembers the music blazing from the support cars; she remembers bursting into tears and hugging former Parish Walk winner Charlie Weston when she had finished and (best of all) she remembers walking up a long flight of stairs and along a long carpet to be congratulated by all of the town's dignitaries.
Although she may have moved her focus away from the Parish Walk she continued to enter and, as the record below shows, she took part every year but one between 1990 and 2007. She saw the number of starters increase more than seven fold from 154 to 1,125. 2007 was special though, as it was the year she walked the whole way around with Simon.
Double lap - Simon and Mo finished together in 2007 (photo Andrew Barton)
And this was after Simon had added another sling to his bow when he too became a Centurion. He qualified in 1998 here in the Isle of Man when the event involved walking around the Parish Walk course and then continuing up and down the promenade for another 15 miles. Although, as 12th placer he was last to finish in 23 hours and 46 minutes it was another triumph for persistence. He crossed the finish line of Parish itself in 20 hours and 06 minutes and both John Eddershaw and his old sparring partner Terry Bates suggested he should call it a day as he was running out of time. Remembering the converse advice he received he recalled: "Margaret Brown was vociferously urging me onwards, and Graham Young in his own inimitable way, yelled in my ear to pull my finger out, get moving, wake up and get into 10k race mode which I must have just about done" he said. "My shins and feet were wrecked at the end but it was an occasion I will never forget, and to this day I still appreciate all the fantastic vocal support I received from the Manx community all along the prom."
Simon also won the team prize in the Centurions event at Colchester in 2004 with Ray Pitts and Alan Kinvig. Mo had a dream of bringing the Centurions event to the Isle of Man and she helped the Isle of Man Veteran Athletes Club realise this dream in 2006 on a multi lap circuit of road and track and the National Sports Centre in Douglas.
Simon (right) competing in the 100 miles at the National Sports Centre in Douglas in 2006 (also in the photo is Michael George)
Mo had increased her involvement in judging, particularly after the sudden death of Joan Powell in 2002. She no longer judges in UK races, however, after the controversial circumstances in which Robbie Calilster was disqualified in the 2005 100 miles.
Mo judging with Dougie Corkill at the National Sports Centre
Both Simon and Mo have served on the committee of the Isle of Man Veteran Athletes Club and Mo was one of the principal organisers of the Ramsey Bakery End to End for 10 years when her club re-commenced the event on a new west of the island course in 2002 after former organisers Manx Harriers had discontinued the event on the east of the Isle of Man. They both recorded some useful times on the old course and these are listed on the foot of the page as are their prolific performances in the Peel to Douglas Walk.
Together at the IOMVAC 25th club dinner in 2005 with Sean Hands, who was to set the Parish Walk course record seven months later, in the background
They won't be competing in the 2012 Manx Telecom Parish Walk for they are to support Irene George in her quest to complete the whole 85 miles. Irene was at Bulgam Bay before she called it a day in 2011.
Retirement took on a new meaning for Mo in 2011 when she was able to leave her day job just in time to spend a couple of weeks (as Simon did too) working among the volunteers at the Commonwealth Youth Games. She remembers the wind and the rain so vividly but has escaped much of it this winter. For they now spend part of their year in their property in Spain. They were there for three months before Christmas and were due to return days after this feature was written.
Mo in full flight near the end of the 2007 Peel to Douglas Walk (photo Neil Wilson)
Even in a feature as long as this there is not enough space to do justice to all of their achievements but there are a few more that are worth recording briefly. There was the 70 mile walk across Nepal to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary; there was Simon's 77 mile run across Hadrian's wall with the first group of runners to achieve this feat; there was Simon's 1 hour 47 minute 20km walk personal best in Bruges in 96 (when Liz Corran won the world age category).
And I nearly forgot. Simon has a total of nine Parish Walk finishes and Mo has three. 63 year old Simon still wants to get to ten so we've not seen the last of them in the Parish Walk. And you can be sure that they will take the first turn left to Maughold!
Murray Lambden - 8 January 2012
Photos by Murray Lambden except where stated
Statistics by Murray Lambden
Parish Walk record
Mo & Simon's Parish Walk photo album
At the start (in the Villa Marina Gardens) with Allan Callow in 1995 when Mo won the women's race to Peel in 06:10:27. Behind Mo (98) is former President of Tynwald Noel Cringle who helped her achieve Centurion status 10 years later
Mo at the Round Table in 2004
And Simon at the same point in 2005
Simon on his way to his 7th finish in 2006
After dark in 2006
Smiling together at Braddan in 2007
Rear view near Glen Mooar when they stayed together the whole way in 2007 (photo Mike Lambden)
Simon finishing with Angela Martin and Chris Murphy in 2011
End to End Walk record (old course)
Peel to Douglas Walk record
parishwalk.com is a part of manxathletics.com an independent site designed, edited and funded by Murray Lambden The event is organised by Manx Harriers and sponsored by Manx Telecom neither of whom are responsible for the content of the site. Race information and results are published here on behalf of the organisers together with independent pictures, statistics and general information compiled by the editor. The links to the live timing provided by SPORTident and sponsored by Manx Telecom are on a separate computer and not controlled by the editor. He is, however, grateful to both parties for making the information available to him. Thanks to the Parish Walk committee of Manx Harriers for organising a great event. All of the information on this site is published in good faith but the publisher cannot accept any liability for any inaccuracies which, if identified, will be corrected as soon as possible. Murray's Parish Walk Blog