7 out of 10 is not a subjective opinion about Sue Biggart. Its a hard fact that she has recorded seven out of the best times by a woman in the Manx Telecom Parish Walk and this from someone who says that she is not really competitive enough!
She certainly wasn't when she played volleyball, basketball and hockey in her home city of Toronto, Canada. She managed the teams because she was not good enough to play and now her friends can't believe that she has ended up as the most successful from her group at sport.
The 10 fastest ever times by women
For the last 17 years Sue has lived with her family on the Glen Vine Road not far from another great name from Parish Walk history, Irene Corlett. She met her husband, Matthew, an anesthetist, when he was taking a fellowship in Toronto. They moved to Newcastle in 1988 and then in June they saw the palm trees of the Isle of Man when Matthew came for an interview at the old Nobles Hospital. He took up his
position here in November when the reality of the Manx weather dawned!
Sue is photographed with former record holder and near neighbour, Irene Corlett, at the launch of Dermot O'Toole's book "A Walk Through Time" in 2005.
Their first house on the island was in Vicarage Park in Braddan and her neighbours, Mark Hempsall and Gordon Erskine were to follow her path to the Parish Walk. Sue and Matthew have three children - Emily is 21 and is in London studying musical theatre and dance at Middlesex University; William is 19 and his following his dream with horses in event riding, currently in Gloucester; Melissa is 17 and
is still at home and drives herself to King Williams College each day.
Mum with Melissa, the youngest of the Biggart family
Sue is one of five, two elder brothers and two younger sisters, and misses her family who are all in Canada. Nevertheless, she loves living in the Isle of Man and there is not a competitor in the Manx Telecom Parish Walk who greets you with a warmer smile.
So how did we come to be graced with that smile in the Parish Walk? "After having the children, I was going to the gym but really fancied trying an individual sport" she said. "I first went in the TT Relay Walk with a group from the gym and entered the following year with some of my colleagues from work." Sue works as a nurse, with dual qualifications for children and adult nursing, and
for the past year has returned to full time work to help support the family after several years of part time employment.
She was extremely proud to reach Peel in just over 7 hours in her first Parish Walk in 1998 and the blisters were worthwhile as her parents, who have both since passed away, were on the island to see her achievement, the only time they saw her race. She walked the same distance in 1999 before her first attempt at the whole distance. Its hard to write "failure" in the same sentence as "Sue
Biggart" but she "only" reached Lezayre (that is more than 60 miles for those that don't know). She walked with Roey Crellin until she stopped and put her "failure" down to not eating enough.
In 2001 she put times out of her mind to ensure that she finished - and she did in 20:41:39. In 2002 she was only nine seconds over 19 hours and in 2003 she rocketed around in 17:33:16. It still wasn't fast enough to win though as it was the year that Roey Crellin set a Manx record of 17:12:19 - the second best ever at that time.
By this time she had made her debut in the winter league walks, the Peel to Douglas Walk, and perhaps uniquely, did the last ever TT Course Walk and the last ever End to End Walk on the east coast route.
Sue completed the Empire Garage Peel to Douglas Walk five times before its demise. She is photographed approaching Union Mills with Derek Atkinson in 2005.
Here is her Peel to Douglas record.
She has also taken part in a few races that others haven't. One of her friends from the gym, Diane Turner, suggested she needed company in training to improve and arranged for her to meet up with Ray Pitts. She recalls how many of their early training sessions with Ray turned into races around St Johns and the Switchback but it was to pay off, along with some sound coaching from Allan Callow, whose advice
you can read on the training page.
She was to win the Parish Walk in 2004 in a time of 16:48:32 - third overall alongside Ray. She walked a similar time, just five minutes slower, with Ray in 2005 for win number two. Her hat-trick in 2006 remains her fastest in 16:23:14 and she blames herself for not going even faster when she took too much time out for a "pit stop" at Andreas.
The wins kept coming and by 2008 there were five in a row. That was the year that she set a record in the End to End Walk and her performances in that event are recorded below the photos at the foot of this feature.
Things were a little different in 2009. Janice Quirk broke the End to End record by nearly 7 minutes three months after lowering the Parish Walk record by a massive 18 minutes. Sue is full of praise for Janice. They walked together during the early stages but Sue recognised that she could not maintain Janice's pace. Her defeat also took a weight off her mind as she would no longer be expected to win each
Not that it stopped her. After taking a couple of years out, she was able to support her children a lot easier without her demanding training sessions, but she wanted that 10th finish. And the finish was win number 6 in 2012!
Sue's stunning Parish Walk record
Will there be another appearance for Sue? Before she went to South Africa for the Big Walk in Cape Town this month she wasn't sure. But she said that the enthusiasm she picked up from the group she travelled with, Vinny Lynch, Richard Gerrard, Robbie Callister and Andrew Titley have revived the idea. She admits to not always working hard enough on technique. She is now assisted by Liz Corran and she is starting to believe
her times can be bettered.
Big flight home. Sue with Robbie Callister, Richard Gerrard, Andrew Titley & Vinny Lynch
In addition to the people she travelled with she says that the support and recognition that she has had from people such as Jock Waddington, Sean Hands and Eammon Harkin have kept her motivated.
Her family are always there to support her and Matthew has followed her on every walk. Other friends and family have also put in stints in the support car, not least Ray Pitts with whom she is back doing two hour training sessions with now that he has recovered from a serious work accident a couple of years ago.
The Big Walk was Sue's first event "off-island" but she has faced international competition before. And most of them finished behind, men include, at the 100 miles in Douglas in 2006.
Through the night. In 2006 she walked around the National Sports Centre, and around ....and around....and around...to finish in third place in the 100 mile walk organised by Sue's club, the Isle of Man Veteran Athletes' Club. Sean Hands literally staggered to his title defence in 19:16:33 ahead of 100 mile legend Sandra Brown (19:28:38) with Sue recording 20:08:10.
Sue's favourite memory from the Parish Walk was from her first finish in 2001 when she walked along the east coast near the Dhoon with the sun rising (the walk started several hours later in those days). I suspect it will be a long time yet before the sun sets on her career.
Sue Biggart's Parish Walk photo album
Just past Arbory Church in 2003 when on her third finish she improved her time by almost an hour and half to 17:33:16.
At the Round Table in 2004 when she went on to win in 16:48:32, joint 3rd overall with Ray Pitts.
Just five minutes outside her best in 2005 for her second win. She was again joint third overall with Ray Pitts who is pictured alongside her before the start of the Sloc with Andy Gosnell and Simon Cox also in the group.
Glen Mooar in 2006 when she improved her best time by 25 minutes to secure a hat-trick. Her time of 16:23:14 remains her personal best time and third on the all time list.
Starting the climb up Ballakillowey in 2007 ahead of six times Commonwealth Games Walk Steve Partington. She recorded her 4th win in a row and her time of 16:49:46 placed her 7th overall.
The reigning champion in 2008. 5th win; 5th overall in 16:42:09.
Sue had to settle for second in 2009 when Janice Quirk set her stunning record of 15:58:35 but it is easy to overlook that her time of 16:28:41 is the 4th best ever.
After a two year absence she was back to win in 2012 in 17:03:53.
Sue's End to End Walking
She is pictured in 2003 with one of the organisers, Judy King, after winning the Ramsey Bakery End to End Walk at the first attempt in 7:33:59. In 2001 she walked the final event on the old east coast route (via Ramsey, Laxey, Onchan and Douglas) in 8:26:00.
At Kirk Michael in 2004.She only walked to Peel in that year in 4:02:31.
Approaching Knocksharry with Derek Atkinson on her way to a record time of 7:23:30 in 2005.
In 2006 the event was stopped early at the Round Table because of bad weather - Sue was 10 seconds behind Jane Kennaugh at the time. Jane is pictured alongside Sue just a couple of miles before the curtailment with Tom Melvin also in tow.
Sue didn't take part in 2007 but in 2008 she was back to set a record of 7:13;27. That remains the second fastest female time behind Janice Quirk's 7:06:45 in 2009. In this photo she is with Dutchman Martijn Biesmans who has four Parish Walk finishes to his name but this was the year of his only End to End finish (7:12:18).
She returned to the End to End Walk in 2011 after missing two years to reach Peel with long time training partner and friend Ray Pitts, who was recovering from a serious work accident, in 4:28:00.
And in 2012 she recorded her fourth finish in the event (fifth including the old course in 2001) in 8:08:48. She is pictured with her friend Sarah Kirk near Ballaugh Old Church