I hadn’t had much sleep so it probably wasn’t too surprising that when I opened the bag I saw it was Catherine’s shoes… Still, luckily I did have some trainers with me. Not ideal though when it’s muddy and a bit icy too.

But the shoe thing wasn’t my biggest mistake of the day. As I ran up the road towards the first control I realised I wasn’t carrying a compass. Now, that doesn’t make things impossible – I’ve tried it a couple of times before, at park and urban events, where it probably made me concentrate a bit more, and I probably saved some time by not looking at it – but on Highgate Common?? in the dark???

Sure enough, the first control, a 400-metre leg, took me 10 minutes. Thinking about it now, I must’ve run past it after about 5 minutes, but I wasn’t at all sure where I was (!), and I’m pleased that I somehow managed to slowly work out the pattern of slopes, paths and trees IN THE DARK and gradually home in on my prey. (If you look at the map, you can see that the contours show that the slope upwards is generally towards the northwest, so this info can be used to substitute for the lack of compass.)

After that, I didn’t really have much trouble. I went 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-14-15-16-18 for 12 controls in the hour allowed. To be honest, if I hadn’t been wearing my new headtorch I wouldn’t have risked this madcap compassless adventure. I got it off eBay for a tenner, and though it’s probably not as bright as the EIGHTEEN HUNDRED LUMENS advertised, it is pretty damn bright, and made me feel a lot more confident out there than I sometimes have been with my old headlamps.

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