Monday 10th .Winter. Endure and wait, or, get into something like Night Orienteering. This post celebrates the three Wessex Night League events I did last week and is about adventurous outdoor activities. We enjoy Orienteering sport all year around, summer time is when the big multi day events happen alongside the majority of local and introductions, when schools go back the full season starts as by then high bracken and summer forest growth tends to die down and the forests become accessible again. Urban and sprint racing is become more popular in part due to the difficulty clubs have obtaining permissions in places like the New Forest, street races can be run all year and a night including the ones featured here. Starting Monday 10th an Urban event which congregated at a city centre pub in Salisbury. The format is a score event, simply meaning finding as many control points as possible within a specified time this one being an hour. You can see the mapped area clearly delineated by the arterial roads which surround an ancient grid style cathedral city. Yellow areas represent park space, with distinct individual trees, benches and the like. Having the city roads running much in the same direction of the cardinal points meant fairly easy navigation, and the winning 3 people that completed everything made it around in the fastest time of…. As well as running fast, skills of these type of events are about picking sequences, it’s the linking of visits to enable you smooth progress around the whole area. Reminds me of being a bike messenger, as your aim is to pick up and drop off goods by the most expeditious route to get to the final destination. Running requires constant map contact, here very occasionally looking at the compass in the areas of total darkness. Headtorch technology is now brilliant and we use small lightweight ones with strong light beams. There were 25 controls to find on this challenge, admittedly my sequence wasn’t up to scratch and I finished 27/53. A dry run in both senses of the word for me.
Thursday 13th . Over to Southsea edge of Portsmouth for another Wessex Night league event in a new area being used for first time. This is a mixed half and half map of open spaces next to the waterfront with seafront defences and the town. Format again an hour score with 31 controls set out for us. Lucky enough the weather was clement which backed the planners timing planned for when the tide was out- this area can be wild. Even though points were all the same for each control, my tactic on this large area was as normal to go to the farthest reach of the map and work back collecting everything. With some superb raised earth banks and defense buildings to navigate around first my route then took in the town centre before reaching the westernmost tip fronting the I.O.W ferry terminal. Before reaching it I had a strange moment coming across a guy who’d fallen out of his wheelchair sprawling on the deck, did stop and drop my map before giving him a quick shoulder lift back in to get him going again. Much of the challenge on this run was as well as picking a good sequence finding very well placed controls. Sets of steps, gates, fences and narrow alleys provided a superb evenings navigation. My clock was counting down close to the hours running, and having located my last checkpoint another competitor ran past me towards the finish, not wanting to lose any points I sped up with him making the finish in 57 minutes. Satisfaction downloading and getting my times was marred by finding out I had missed 1 control! Very near the end too. Still happy with the effort I came 4/25 thanks to Mozzarella Joes for hosting us the social afterwards was great and they made me a couple of good margaritas too. Happy evenings night running
Saturday 15th Southern night champs and Army Inter corps Nights at Pamber and Silchester. Forest time! This is National level event that I managed to get a lift to at the last minute, providing the impetus to make it a week of Night adventuring. With 290 runners in total some of the best in the U.K taking part a slightly more demanding run than the last two, before we even got there. Entering the Green course meant the hardest technical difficulty despite being shorter than the designated course for my age group. Cursory glance at the map below shows typical Orienteering forest terrain, deciduous tree areas marked in white, bordered by denser dark green undergrowth virtually impassable. Unlike the last two events November showed its true colours outdoors and the whole area was cloaked in thick mist. Starting into utter darkness there were no street lights or manmade features other than fences to rely on here. Headtorches can only illuminate a small patch in front of you in thick mist so this was the toughest challenge of these three nights by far. Finding direction using a compass becomes an essential skill that has to be used- the results breakdown coming up reveals how important this is. In some ways it’s the best possible fun we can have, true navigation which without doubt is at the same time the hardest challenge and the most infuriating! I recall times on the Dark Peak ten years ago when studying for my W.G.L. qualification, in the circumstances of total white out/ mist coverage is when you find out that theres only one thing that you can rely on- the compass. GPS tech and modern equipment can and does fail, so knowing how to manage alone in these circumstances is truly satisfying. Im not going to say I ran fast through this 4.6 KM linear course, partially as the brambles ripped my legs to shreds, but more so because running aimlessly here might have meant a very long night out. It was tough- the epitome of niche sports and I loved it. Hope you like stats as the numbers give this event context. 290 Army and Civilian runners took part. On my Course 3, 63 total I came 12th (1st from the Green entry on day) From the total 40 people were either Disqualified for mistakes or the dreaded DNF- Did Not Finish, meaning that just less than 14 % of all entrants decided it was impossible. In such circumstances we gain even more satisfaction from persevering, I spent most of the time laughing at how hard it was out there, not berating myself, as I always say to students maintain a positive mental thought loop.
So three events in a week:- credit to the planners, mappers and organisers of these events from Orienteering clubs. As mentioned the Southsea map is new, upcoming Golden Cap event this Saturday by Wimbourne Orienteers is new and Wessex are working on 2 new areas as I write. My next event is part of this Night League Series at Broadstone Rec and woods on 1st December. We have headtorches to borrow so if you’ d like to try the sport- do come along and we would be happy to help you get into it.