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For the second time in a couple of weeks, I’ve watched a sprint race come down to a matter of seconds, and seen clearly how the ridiculous process of fitting an Emit brikk in its slot has made the difference between winning and losing. The latest example was Friday’s NORT event in Turku, where one second covered the first three runners. The technology just isn’t good enough. Of course better technology is available (SI?), and even better technology will be available soon, and we need to make sure it’s used so that people can take the sprint races seriously.


Sprint races are fun, but are they fair? This is the perennial question. (Of course you can ask whether forest races are fair either, but that’s another topic…) In any sprint event (and I include urban events here)  there will be many route-choice legs, and part of the challenge is to assess, asap, which way to go. Often it comes down to a straight choice: left or right? Sometimes you should be able to notice that the difference is negligible, sometimes you’re best to “go with the flow”, and sometimes you have to work out that a combination of uncrossable features or greater climb will make one route a better choice.

On course 2 at Ludlow on Sunday, it was a mistake to go over rather than round to control 15, and it saved time to notice that control 12 was at the top of the ramp. On legs 4 and 5 the difference between routes appears to have been negligible, so it would’ve been a mistake to take too long to decide.

These things appear reasonably clear given time to reflect (although there’s still the problem of traffic), so they’re a reasonable challenge of the orienteer’s ability to think on their feet. But sometimes I feel it’s impossible to make a rational decision unless you knew the area beforehand. Usually this applies to areas where there’s a mixture of terrain. A street is, by and large, a street, but when the map shows a field or open forest, how fast will it actually be? A good example is the third leg from today’s NORT women’s race in Oslo. The southern route is much more direct but there is a longer forest section and a much more concentrated ascent. Tessa Hill (TH) left control 2 just before Ida Bobach (IB), but 2’20” later, as Ida is punching at #3, Tess is still over 20 seconds away fom the control. Is it possible for the runner to look at their map and discern this?

nort1 thill


Speaking about today’s Euromeeting event in Finland, Martin Ward writes:

Interesting to see how the mass-start format has been planned. For the women there are two different 2.2km loops (about 16 mins for the leaders), with one common control so each loop has two gaffles, making four combinations in total. Then it’s a much bigger loop common to all.

Same concept for the men, but it’s three gaffled loops making about 8km total, then a big common loop.

Now why does that sound familiar to me? Well, the gaffled loops are like the ones I included at the event at Aston Hall last week. The medium course had two common controls, giving four combinations, and the long course had three common controls, giving eight combinations. It’s probably a good idea to call this method of separating runners on a mass-start event “Farsta”, like the example I found on the web.

The way my courses crisscross the park it’s hard to see the Farsta pattern, but notice that the common controls are 127 and 128 on the Medium and 107, 118 and 127 on the Long. You can see the loops on the Euromeeting courses (“TUE 5.7. mass-start”) here.


Maxi 5.7 km time
Iain Embrey 31:09
Thomas Honniball 31:39
Alistair Powell 32:36
John Embrey 32:39
Clive Richardson 34:09
Chris McSweeny 34:35
Ian Hopkins 34:51
Andrew Emmerson 35:10
Andrew Clough 35:32
David Williams 35:40
Allan Williams 38:20
Barry Elkington 38:49
Rod Postlethwaite 43:51
Ben Swarbrick 44:20
Peter Sunley 44:26
Suzanne Humphries 46:15
Barry McGowan 47:32
Andrew Payne 48:24
Jill Emmerson 54:23
Martin Gibbons 66:10
Tony Callow dnf
Marian White dnf
Jacky Embrey dnf
Andrew White dnf



Midi 3.3 km Time
Julie Emmerson 21:40
Mike Hampton 22:04
Rachel Emmerson 22:44
John Robinson 22:57
Ian Turner 25:03
Peter Carey 26:27
Sheila Carey 30:40
Jean Payne 33:43
Lesley Norton 43:59
Richard Beamish 59:10
Sue Lynch mp
Susan Findlay Robinson mp
Zara Ahmed dnf
Geoff Mander dnf
Roy Lindsell dnf


The champions are:

Juniors: Julie Emmerson

Open: Iain Embrey

Seniors: Suzanne Humphries and John Embrey

Vets: Sheila Carey, Mike Hampton & John Robinson

Congratulations! Now, who wants to host a park championships next year?

Aston Hall splits

Be careful what you wish for: I wished for nice weather and got it! The summer returned with a vengeance, making the running conditions rather punishing. Thanks to the competitors for coming, and putting up valiantly not only with the weather but also the vanishing controls, and also to Ian and his team for doing such a good job. These photos are by Dave Ellis.

Just a few days now till the park-O event at Aston Hall, and I’ve received the good news that we can use the grammar school car park after all. That should reassure some people who didn’t seem as confident as I was that it’s perfectly safe to leave your car for a couple of hours on an Aston side-street!

More good news: online registration will stay at the lower entry fees till Friday night.

As I’ve already pointed out, my digital camera isn’t reliable enough any more, so if you have an old but reliable digital camera (3 or 4 mp is quite adequate) that needs a new home, I’d be happy to provide it with one! Meanwhile, if someone could lend me a camera to take photos of the competition and prize-giving on Sunday, that’d be great.

Because I was racing I didn’t get any action shots, but others were out taking pictures of us sweating and I’ll link to some later.

Today’s races in Edgbaston were excellently planned by Iain Embrey – the only problem for me was that I was a bit leggy. The mistakes I made were minor, though in this format of orienteering they cost me a few places! Like most people I was caught out by control 6 in the prologue, which was up on the terrace, but at least I did find a way up to it. In the mad dash at the end of the prologue I found the 1:600 scale tricky, and wasted time getting to control 5, but I fared better than those who found the transition from one map scale to another more than their tired brains could manage.

My time of 25 minutes dead for the 2.5 km in the morning gave me a reasonable start position for the afternoon race, starting just ahead of 4 other runners, including Andy White and Rachel Emmerson, all of whom caught me up almost immediately! I had a good battle with Andy and Rachel up to control 15: I’m slower than both, but I was lucky enough to make better route choices to controls 5, 11 and 13 that allowed me to keep up. 🙂 Sadly I went and spoilt it all by making a 90-degree error exiting control 15, heading east instead of south, and wasn’t able to catch them again. I completed the 3.5 km in 31:38. My times were nowhere near the winning times, but I’m not sure I want to be as scarily fast as those guys! 😉


As usual, the subject came up of what this kind of event should be called. We understand what we mean by a “sprint”, but 3.5 km doesn’t sound much like a sprint to anyone else. Finally, well done to Alison Sloman for the excellent maps. Mapping buildings to show where they can be run under, through or over is an awkward job.

A common complaint or comment from runners after the short race at Himley last month was that there was something amiss with #42 (south part of copse):

Control 42 at Himley

Certainly quite a few people lost time on it, some claiming that it was in the wrong place or that the map was wrong. But I was happy with it, and so was Alison, who mapped it and checked it, and Richard, who controlled it. John Embrey went and had a look afterwards and confirmed that the control was in the right place 🙂 but something doesn’t seem quite right – I wonder if we’ll ever get to the bottom of it?





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