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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


Up to the Royal Irish Barracks at Tern Hill near Market Drayton for an Army event – a well-planned urban/sprint-style course with a little bit of forest in the middle to slow me down. A good run, no real errors to speak of, and the unusual feat (for me) of every leg being under 3 minutes. 🙂


I think this is the final SINS post 🙂

Organising a big event is a pretty thankless task – the only participants who’ll really appreciate your effort are the ones who’ve done a similar organising job elsewhere. And though people say how wonderful it was, nearly all the discussion is about the mistakes. That’s life. You get 2,990 things right, but the 10 things you get wrong stick out like a sore thumb.

I’m here to say it was a fantastic weekend but there are three things I think need looking at. One was specific to the event and the other two are more general. The specific matter was the Start. This is what the map issue looked like on day 3:

Is it any wonder that some people picked up the wrong map?

The general issues are more important. One is also about the Start, and it’s a topic that’s come up often enough before: where the White and Yellow courses should be. When there’s a high, remote Start, I really do think that the White and Yellow courses should have a low, near Start. Some events do do this, but I think it should become standard practice.

The final problem I want to raise is Entries. Once upon a time the courses were numbered and divided up between the age classes. Nowadays they’re coloured, which is leading more and more people to enter major events by colour. This is all very well if people are fully informed about what the correspondence is between the colours and the age classes, but often these days people just go to fabian4 (Other online entry services are available) and enter without checking the event information. Much more than in the past, people (including me) weren’t running the right course for their age class. Somehow fabian4 needs to be improved to inform entrants which age classes correspond to the colours shown on the online entry form.

So, what was good about SINS? Well, apart from the fact that Catherine and I both enjoyed our courses, it was brilliantly organised. The arrangement of campsite and assembly was excellent, and the evening centre was a triumph. I think next time the event areas will have to be more spread out, so there’ll be a bit more travelling, but it won’t matter if we can return each evening to such a good venue.

It was my 7-year-old daughter’s first camping/multi-day experience, and she loved it. Enough said.

The second night in the tent was quite different from the first – the buffeting wind was replaced by the dripping rain, and though C was nice and comfy in the middle of the tent I got a bit cold and damp. Ian suggested, sensibly, that we pack up before the races and drive the few yards down to assembly, and even though we were among the first to get off the campsite the rain had already made it almost impossible.

Ian went off for his run and I wasn’t really expecting Catherine to want to do hers (There were plenty of grown-ups who cried off because of the weather) but her enthusiasm returned when the rain eased off a bit so we did it. 🙂 We even met Ian towards the end – I’d expected him to have finished by then, but it turned out that he’d picked up the wrong map at the start so he’d ended up having a longer run (as well as missing his chance of a medal in his class 😦

Then it was my turn – the last climb of the weekend. The first half of the course was good fun, but I tripped running through the brashings after control 9 and my left shin and right knee took a nasty bang. Shaken up, I didn’t see the clever route option on leg 11 so made my way gingerly down and up the two valleys.

The part of the course from #12 to #18 felt like a totally different area – it was quite a slog but as usual it all felt like it was worth it in the end. 🙂

Race distance tally: Adrian 25.5 km, Catherine 9.5 km

Results   Courses

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

In preparation for Springtime in Shropshire we’ve got the tent up in the garden, testing that it won’t let too much rain in, and Catherine

even included a campsite when she was playing with her train set 🙂

Three runs this week to get back into the swing of things. Tuesday was a street event in Shrewsbury. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t use the proper O map, but I didn’t mind the quiz format too much – it’s a nice bit of fun for the summer. A pity though that the central area was so faint – it made my progress to the finish even slower, having already succumbed to a case of vibrating kneecap.

But that didn’t put me off travelling to Hinckley on Thursday for LEI’s end of season Burbage event. The ground there was much springier than the streets of Salopia and my legs were much happier. I wondered whether this event was sponsored by IOF, to trial the mass-start “Hagaby” style of race that they’re thinking of introducing into the world championships. What you do is split the course into sections, and have alternative routes for each section. The runners go round the course twice, but the second time they do the controls they didn’t have the first time round.

Today I took Catherine to the first event of the new season: a middle-distance event on Cannock Chase. Thanks to the Mitchells and the Whites both Catherine and I were able to run. She was brilliant today, zooming round the White in under 10 minutes, coming first overall. 🙂 She even said to me that it’s a good idea to check which way you need to go next before you arrive at a control. My performance was a more modest 13th out of 28. I was 3rd after 4 controls, but later on I managed to take 4 minutes to do a 100m leg…

The main tale today is what I didn’t do: I didn’t go to Stone, and I didn’t go to Shrewsbury. (Mike Hampton did – and did, and achieved the rare feat of winning two races in different venues on the same day – WTG, Mike!) It’s 35 miles to Stone and 40 miles to Attingham – once upon a time I wouldn’t have thought twice about travelling to one of them, but at the moment I’m finding it hard to justify the time and expense. (Meanwhile, rather than participating, I’m becoming more interested in organising local events. Yet, sadly, a Black Country or Birmingham version of the Malvern Mini-League still seem to be surprisingly distant prospects.)

What were these two events doing taking place on the same day anyway? It’s been suggested to me that it’s POTOC’s fault, but whoever’s fault it was, just make sure you don’t do it again! I’m all for purely local events taking place at the same time, but both these events today deserved a wider catchment.

I did take Catherine and her friend up to Barr Beacon, where we found Barry McGowan standing close to a pile of O maps. 🙂




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