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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!


A lovely, crisp morning for a run around Crewe on Mike Hampton’s new map. Excellently organised by DEE, who found car parking and an event centre (at Crewe FC) a short walk from start and finish. I thought my course was a bit routine, but I think I’m getting hard to please now that I’ve done so many urban races.

The big controversy of the day was on course 4, where several people went the wrong way to the most difficult control but were still able to register that they’d been there because they could poke their hand through the fence. This was a shame because the planner had done a good job at other checkpoints of making sure this kind of cheating wasn’t possible. It was an even greater shame that certain competitors felt the need to get angry about this one oversight; as I’ve said before, every event involves thousands of actions on the part of the officials, and it’s only luck really if not a single one of them is wrong. If an event is spoiled by multiple cockups there is an excuse to get upset, but people need to be more forgiving of individual mistakes, and most of us are (albeit with a little friendly joshing). (Also, it should be pointed out that the real wrongdoers here were the “cheaters”, not the organisers.)

I did disagree with the solution to Sunday’s problem. Really the people who went the wrong way should be disqualified (since it must’ve been obvious to them that they’d made a mistake by the fact that they had to put their hand through the fence), but it was decided that that part of the race would be removed from everyone’s times.



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



December 2012 253

Long 8.5 km

John Embrey 55:59

Matt Giles 57:58

Chris McCartney 62:31

Mike Baggott 63:26

Peter Langmaid 74:30

Medium 6.5 km

Kerstin Mitchell 69:26

Barry McGowan 70:16

Short 4.5 km

Mike Hampton 39:20

Russ Fauset 45:28

Jacky Embrey 47:42

Thanks for coming, especially those who had trouble getting into or out of the campus. 😉 I’m doing another event soon – details will be confirmed shortly.

A great weekend “racing” in Carlisle and Teviothead. Lost by 1 second to Pete Langmaid in the urban race and managed to take 30 minutes to get to one control in the hillside race, so not a sparkling success, but two great experiences, and who can say fairer than that?

Look what came in the post today 🙂

(I couldn’t go to the events because of my poorly ankle.)

More, and better, here.

My first night under canvas with my daughter went quite well, helped by the fact that there are some portaloos about 30 metres from the tent. Catherine did wake up at 3.30 though and in the end I decided we needed to swap places so that she’d be more snug. At 8 it was time to get dressed, have our cereals (No stove so no hot breakfast), pack what we needed for the morning, and walk to the Day 2 Assembly down the lane.

I’d volunteered to help at registration but Diane and the other nice Wrekin people more or less had it covered, so I escaped to take Catherine round the White course. Like the day before (and the next day!) there was a long walk up to the start and when we got there someone commented that the map looked like someone had spilled green paint on it…

The White course was too long, at 2.5 km, and the zigzags were a bit tricky, but Catherine didn’t mind, especially as it was nearly all downhill! Then, after she’d luncheoned we went back to the Finish so that the finishing Mr G could look after her while I traipsed back up to the Start for my run.

My course was threaded neatly between the green, though I couldn’t see much option on leg 11 other than to head due north through it. Which was fun. It didn’t really matter though since this leg was voided. I found the control all right, but I agree that it can’t’ve been where it should’ve been. By the end of the course I was having trouble picking my legs up, and I was spooked a bit by the strange stripy trees!

Now, I finished my run at gone 3 pm, and I was due to start my evening run at 6 pm! Not much recovery time… I had a Wilfs Scotts veg chilli, walked back up to the campsite, had a lovely hot portashower and then drove the three of us down into a rainy Ludlow, getting there early enough to grab a great parking spot right near the Start.

The clouds parted, Marian and the rest of the event team swung into action and an excellent time was had by all. (Don’t mention control 42.) Despite my tired legs I managed 10-minute k’s, Catherine and Ian went round the D course, which I thought was very impressive on C’s part, and then we went off in search of fish and chips.

And there’s more…

Back at base, the SINS quiz night has just started. I started the first round on my own, before being joined by Ian and then Peter and then Barry to make what turned out to be the mighty Cohocs team – second only to the swots of Oxford! Our prize, vouchers for the Butcher’s Grill.

Race distance tally: Adrian 20 km, Catherine 8 km

Having just spent 12 hours in the company, one way or another, of West Bromwich, I feel that for ever more this date will be associated with that unsung town. First I drove and walked around to check the OpenStreetMap of the area – quite a challenge for one person, but I got half the job done – and to identify lampposts with hydrant signs on them, which I’ll be using as controls for Thursday’s event. Then I came home to fetch Catherine and we went to explore The Public, a somewhat infamous building I’ve heard plenty about but which I’d never set foot in. We had a good time and were even shown around some of The Non-Public (!) areas by the duty manager. Finally I’ve been editing the aforementioned OpenStreetMap via the interwebs, which has been made less easy by the fact that for some reason the text is displaying in Japanese…