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…or perseverance pays off (sometimes).

Twice this week I’ve been out orienteering for about two hours in non-standard races, and twice I’ve beaten the odds and come second. 🙂

On Thursday it was the BIMM: the Bewdley International Mountain Marathon. In fact it was the Return of the BIMM, since the format had been retired by its originator, the inimitable Russ Fauset. Although my knees don’t like street running that much, this kind of event favours me: I like puzzles. The race was in two parts: first, 2.5 km navigating around the centre of Bewdley using a bad copy of a Victorian ordnance survey map. Second, a route of indeterminate length on a roughly drawn street map. Unlike normal orienteering, where you see the entire route at the start, in Russ-O you have to get to each checkpoint before you find out where the next one is.

Does the event have the right to call itself an International Mountain Marathon? I should coco: we had a competitor from Sweden (or from Wordsley, if you want to make it sound more exotic); we had mountains, as this route profile shows…


(Note the genius of the Tour-de-France-style planning – the first 8k was a relatively flat warm-up for the hors-category climbs in the final third of the race.) and although 8.5 miles isn’t literally a marathon, it is a freaking long way on a freezing Thursday night.

This must be the first orienteering event when I’ve been out for an hour and three quarters and still come second!

And then yesterday I eclipsed that by coming second after a two-hour run. Radio orienteering is an acquired taste and I’m a complete ham, but, as at Bewdley, I proved that persistence in difficult conditions can bear fruit. Cademan Woods is a tricky area (as competitors in the British Night Championsips there can testify) with its rocky outcrops, maze of paths and acres of brambles but at least it’s an area I’m familiar with. And it was a cold morning flecked with snow.

I set off west, convinced that transmitter 2 was over there (you can do them in any order), but 45 minutes later I eventually found it virtually in the centre of the map, having slowly drifted northwards across the road. (I’d actually gone virtually straight past number 1 without realising it.) A crap start which included slipping and falling on my back while clambering down some rocks. But finding the first control gave me confidence that I knew what I was doing (!) and I proceeded to find the other 4 transmitters and by some miracle get back within the 2-hour time limit – just. Checking the results, I was shocked to see that I was one of only two people who managed this feat!



I intended to take part in the radio-O competition at Hay Wood today but some idiot at the Department for Transport decided it might be fun to close M42 junction 6 for a couple of hours, thereby creating a massive tailback and making me an hour late to the wood. So I ran a standard Green course instead – a small disappointment but Hay Wood is a good, challenging little area so I got a lot out of my substitute run. This was one of the first areas I wrote about when I started blogging early last year. My compass work has improved but I still made a couple of mistakes today, and – horror of horrors – I mispunched…

Hay Wood 09

Just after I crossed the track on the way to #10 I could see a control in the distance, seemingly in the right place. When I got there I saw 137, thought that was right, punched and turned away to head for #11. Oops. 137 was on the path, a few metres north of the depression, which was control 138.

This was a very rare occurence for me. I can’t remember mispunching before, but I’m sure I must have. Even so, I’m sure I’ve mispunched no more than 3 times in 15 years. It’s not as if I wasn’t aware that one can come across several wrong controls on a course – I’d already bumped into a couple today, including one of the radio-O controls! The mistake I made was to start thinking about the next control without concentrating enough to notice that this one was only approximately the right code in approximately the right place…

Onwards and upwards. 🙂 And I look forward to getting another go at Radio-O in the not too distant future!

I failed miserably in the radio-O yesterday. I arrived late, was in a rush, failed to read all the instructions (e.g. none of the controls are north of the railway) and spent the first half an hour north of the railway! Still, I got some practice and some exercise…


Meanwhile there was another event going on in the park…  Congratulations to South Yorkshire and Forth Valley, the winners of the Compass Sport Cup and Trophy. Here’s Nick Barrable, preparing to present the Cup to himself! 😉



No local orienteering yesterday so I accepted David Williams’ and Robert Vickers’ kind offer of a lift down to Newbury for an ARDF event. I got off to a bad start when I set the alarm clock for 8 o’clock by mistake, so I had no time to make sandwiches and I also forgot my O shoes in the rush…

But otherwise the day went fine. When we arrived David and Robert showed me how to use the 2-metre yagi (which is the gizmo the guy’s carrying at the top of the Wikipedia page), which is simple in theory but difficult in practice. The aim is to find five transmitters hidden in the forest, each of which sends out a signal for one minute every five minutes. You can tell (vaguely) where each transmitter (or beacon, or “fox”) is by the strength of the signal and the direction you point your aerial. The start was the road junction in the middle of the map. I had two hours to find four of the foxes…

There was quite a strong signal from #4 from the SE, so I headed that way, also drawing arrows on the map to show where I thought the other signals were coming from. #1 and #2 seemed to be north of the start, so I left them for the end. Now, because the signal only returns every five minutes, I ran past #4. A bit confused, I ran NW up a spur in the middle of the area and got very good signals from #4 (E), #5 (S) and #3 (W). I headed due east and was 😀 to find #4 by a little pond. It’d taken me 40 minutes but I now knew I could do it. #5 was definitely somewhere near the wide ride further south, and it made it easier that four of the others were hunting for it at the same time. It turned out it was in the thick green stuff.

My plan for #3 was to run some way N up the ride and then take stock – Robert had the same idea and I was following him at this point. Maybe I shouldn’t have – I kept contact with him but I lost contact with the map! In the end I found #3 before he did, and even though I had no idea where I was!

I had 40 minutes left so I ran N until I arrived at the house which is on the site of Grimsbury Castle. Now I knew where I was again, I ran NE through the start and over the little hill to have a listen to #1 and #2. I wasn’t sure which was closer, but I’d made my mind up to try #1 so I went for it. Eventually I arrived on the path NE of the out-of-bounds area and got a strong signal NE in the trees. Running out of time, I couldn’t wait for the signal to come round again so I ran on the bearing and there it was!

After all that, it was disappointing to arrive back at the finish just outside the allowed time, but it wasn’t too shabby, was it. By the way, carrying the aerial and the map and a pen and a compass is a tricky business!

Next on the agenda was the foxoring using the 80-metre yagi. That’s the littler gizmo: the one the girl’s holding halfway down the Wikipedia page. This was more like orienteering. I had two hours to navigate to the control circles A-H shown on the map, and find the transmitter hidden at each location. This time practice was easier than theory; Robert explained what I had to do but when I got to circle A I couldn’t hear a thing! I wandered around for ten minutes before the penny dropped and I realised it was quite simple really.

Thereafter it was mainly about navigation and I succeeded in getting most of the way round without using the compass. Unfortunately I got most of the way to control I before I remembered I didn’t have to do that one, so I ended up getting 9 out of 8! An hour and half, making 3.5 hours altogether and I was shattered. The foxoring was fun but the real challenge was the long-distance direction finding, and I’m looking forward to trying it again. See you, aerial in hand, at Sutton Park?

(Nice photo sets from this year’s US championships)


btw, BKO held a national (normal O) event here in 2006.




June 2019
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