Ever tried running around in the dark? There are groups of us Orienteers that start this every time clocks change, right through to spring. The races are held as soon as its dark so by the time youre reading this probably dark by 5.30 p.m, meaning theres not actually a compulsion to be out the whole night, just the first bit, which means after youre done, its wine o-clock, or beer and a pasty o-clock whichever your camp. Wessex Night Adventure Race Series http://www.wessex-oc.org/night_league_details.htm started in the Kings Park/ Littledown area recently and theres 15 more events coming up this season with the last one in Southampton on 08 March 2014. First race of season saw Southampton runners come over and compete, I personally took 9 minutes over the limit to find everything, which meant a 5th from placing, but a great training session too. Well we have to find ways to fill evenings with running activity this time of year in England back to the 16 hour nights soon, now I know why my sport started in Scandanavia… heres the start Of the beyond epic Night Relay in Finland Jukola I raced in team WSX 2012.
Racing goes something like this- after sign on and kit check, you are ready to run. (Wessex Orienteers also have a set of awesome head torches that can be borrowed) A map is issued after you punch the start control, that’s when the countdown starts for 45, or sometimes 60 minutes score- the aim is to find all the controls before the time runs out, this can be in any order unless theres a distinction for interesting planning reasons. So, most events are unlike vast majority of Orienteering where you follow a strict order number for courses, the fun here is you will have never seen the placings of where controls are (even if the area was used last year) and from the moment you have punched start the brain has to read the map and decide the sequence you will run around the area. Keeping a steady pace whilst decision making comes into play, as even during the first few minutes this means allowing yourself some time to try to decide a good sequence before you’ve been there, many of these events are urban, so the terrain is streets interspersed with woods but there will always be some pitch dark sections. The Kings Park run took us through streets surrounding Littledown centre, using the whole exterior of the woods within the Littledown park, and also woods at Kings Park, if you’ve ever been involved in Hampshire Cross Country league (that also kicks off this time of year) you will know the sort of areas we go in. Techniques like aiming for the furthest controls away which sometimes contain the biggest score value come into play, and whilst staying on task we need to keep an eye on the time as well. For the forested events like Holton Lee, Marchwood and the fantastic Brownsea Island event the skill level has to be even higher. Imagine, pitch darkness, head torch on, contours showing the slopes of a forest all over the map- and you have to use a compass to run on bearing finding the control sites in chosen sequence. Its brilliantly challenging and many weekend runners don’t get involved simply due to difficulty, but navigating at speed in these night events massively improves youre daytime skills which cross over onto weekend events. The majority of competitors are soloists, that like a physical/mental combined challenge, however theres no shame in going out as pairs though and I urge you to come along to something during the season.
We will be offering assistance to novices across the league so why not do something amazingly different this Autumn/Winter. Another example that is always good is Hillbourne, here WSX has most of the area mapped and you may complete a run including P.G.S, Pocket Park, Broadstone Recreation ground and Broadstone itself- all in an hour. Another aspect of my Dorset club Wsx-oc.org.uk involving families and individuals in outdoor sports. Im lead coach with the club and welcome you to try our Adventure sport. Look out for my upcoming information on the soon to be opened Permanent course at Slades Farm, where I will be offering a family try- out event for the opening day. You can follow our club on Twitter @wessexorienteer to find out news and results, and also a Facebook page wessexorienteering. The next event is a Monday 04th November in Holton Lee near Wareham. Hope to see you there, ready for an Adventure, if we can define it as “an activity with uncertainty of outcome” Bring it on.