Approaching the end of the Orienteering season now when work and activities turn more to cycling and track cycling. This post draws together the 3 times Ive competed in the ‘Chiltern Challenge’ event in the Thames Valley, if you like running, wild places and maps read on. For starters have a look at the Wendover map here- anyone with a vague interest in walking and the outdoors will celebrate this beautiful place on the Chilterns,  with that super ridge at the top that looks over the Buckinghamshire countryside and the two perfect points at the bottom, its a total treat of mainly tall Beech forest. Running in these places while navigating a pre-set course engages the total spirit, mind and body. 2011 is the last time I was there but more recently I had results at the ‘Chiltern Challenge’ to celebrate. Tribute to the Thames Valley Orienteering club who put these events on, as always a bunch of dedicated volunteers and runners.

Great clip here to get you in the frame-

Wendover woods


Its important to be involved in racing as a coach, if we aim to inspire people to do their best and try really hard its imperative to be doing that regularly yourself in my view. Over a season September – April I generally compete in about 28 events including the night league events, plenty challenges to fitness and map reading ability. Briefly before I relate yesterdays events the map below here- shows the 2014 location at Nettlebed and Highmoor, again an area of mainly mature forest with some strange water features and earthworks at the Northern end. I completed the Blue course there on the 9th February in 48.27 coming 1st in a field of 84 runners. Theres only perhaps 2/3 times a season I come in first but the satisfaction gained from that lasts me a long time return on all the training time investment. It also helps with my teaching of the sport now that Im getting more independent work, soon to be doing another 2 day GCSE P.E assessment in Orienteering for a secondary school.



Yesterdays run, Deep in Flow. Penn Wood, Common Wood and Penn Estate. This combined area contains new parts of the forest used for the first time, around 650 acres of mature forest of conifer, beech and oak. Looking at the Wiki I found that Mary Berry Doyen of Great Cake making lives in Penn, surely enough reason to be seen there? Orienteering clubs are always in negotiation with Forestry commission and others to obtain permission for events, this place is largely managed by the Woodland Trust who are proving to be good allies for our sport. Forestry Commission management seems to be changing now quietly, and more and more often major works are being done inside many of our forests, what exactly is going on with all the logging isnt clear to me. British consensus a couple of years ago strongly showed that the U.K population wants our forestry managed by one body, will be interesting to see what happens in the future as people increasingly seek respite from urbanity in nature, adding to the contestation in many of our wild places. Just a reminder, the white areas on these lovely maps are the open runnable forest areas, so you can see that yesterdays is made up of lots of green denser forest, the sort to get lost in easily. My race yesterday was chosen from several distance options, 8.0 Km being just right for me, although my age category would have been 10 Km, by choice I am running down slightly. A scan at the Control Descriptions shows that 13/ 25 of the places to punch a checkpoint were at or in earth features, meaning that within big forests accurate direction finding is necessary to locate very small features in amongst big areas of trees.

Back to the run,  524 competitors took part. On my course I finished 14/58. start time 10.57

You can find the Routegadget which shows the route choices here.

From the go this was a race on the compass, straight into densest forest I am running on initially short distance legs which with the following preparation went perfectly. Massive porridge ingestion at 7.00 a.m. 7.30 Cycle to Christchurch to meet Wessex Orienteering car share friends. 8.00 leave for 2 hour car journey to event, flask of Coffee on way. Tea when collecting Emit card. Caffeine Gel 1030. I-pod music before (Shamen) Warm up run to start 1 mile. Start. Control 4 found fastest from the whole field in 1.50, by this time several absolutely perfect on direction punches are warming me up for a good technical section control 4-9. Again we are searching for mainly  small pits and depressions in the surface, this area was used for collecting flints and clay in ancient times. Slight error at 10 didnt perturb my positive mental thought loop and by now Im fully warmed up and loving the whole experience. At each checkpoint Im slowing down setting the compass for the upcoming direction, whilst running, punching then leaving after in directional perfection. Constant mental contact with the map and ground seen on front of you is the game, moments of coming up exactly on the correct location providing an immense psychological reward. Titled Deep in Flow those of you who’ve read this far will likely be familiar with the concept in sport psychology, its making decisions almost faster than the conscious mind can do so, immersion in an activity to the extent of everything else vanishing away from the present moment, highly recommended. One brief period of track running between control 22-23 provided a contrast near the end of this run, and by now Im blissfully unconcerned with the end result, feeling that even if it all went wrong now, the hour Id spent out there provided more satisfaction than anything, guess thats why Im recalling it here. Timings of the starts on this event were so good that other than a few times I ran completely solo, in this sport we do compete solo anyway, but with a field of over 500 runners sometimes ‘spoking’ occurs with several people descending on one location- not for me yesterday. Well thats my 1000 words, better go Ive GCSE planning to do, hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the ‘Thought Sport’ Orienteering.

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