Royal Artillery Championships 23/ 10/2014.
Hindhead, Surrey the highest point in Surrey and meaning ‘hill frequented by hinds’ (deer). A3 passes underneath the area we were running in so if you pass through anytime look up and see the forest. You may have remembered before the tunnel was built and the areas terrible congestion, way above that is the area of this event and next to it Devils Punchbowl, all superb forestry with deep valleys, streams and open heathland. My last event near here was at Puttenham common, and if you really want to get into it theres a super Y.H.A cottage in the Devils Punchbowl, Ive stayed at it twice, during Sustrans days on a fantastic southern team building weekend and on one ace new years weekend. Total escape:- book early though to secure, at least a year ahead. Todays post shows how the military take part in sport at the highest level, lucky for me being a freelancer with a free day I could make this event. Full results are here
Orienteering is classed as military training, so vast majority of the 193 competitors from today were competing during work time. Day before Wednesday had been a training day on the hill, so this was bringing together many hours coaching for lots of the Army regiments. 140 runners competed in teams of 4, 10 major regiments, 4 minor and including 4 womens teams. The others were independent competitors. British Army Orienteering Club man Colin Dickson was the course planner, was good to see him before my run, as he ran in our W.S.X Bisterne Close New Forest event I planned for 243 runners a couple of weeks ago. Colin has planned 107 events in 4 years, formidable amount of event planning which Id challenge anyone else in the U.K to top. There were lots of guys milling around at the finish from all sorts of grades, Privates, Majors, Captains and a wide age range, we were first of the civvies to go out.
My run. This terrain is classed as ‘Technical’ and ‘Physical’ which translated for non Orienteers means the control points are placed in the most difficult places to find possible and with running legs requiring absolute concentration over distance in all directions using a compass at speed. ‘Physical’ meaning you will be climbing and descending at least as much as the 325 metres stated both up and down through variously:- shoulder high bracken, knee deep sphagnum moss and rocky slopes. You can see why we like it cant you?
Even a cursory glance at the map, for anyone who understands contours will reveal the sort of country we were in. I started well a few minutes after Gavin Clegg (who I travelled with in the red rocket) and hit first 2 well, then third direct hit which was so satisfying. You may know of ‘Flow’, well when we Orienteer it’s a solo race, the game is in our heads, can we move fast over rough terrain whilst matching a mental picture of what we can see to the printed map in our hands? There is always an internal dialogue, you may be about to close this page as Ive bamboozled you already, stay with me if youre feeling this. I teach students to have ‘positive mental thought loops’ meaning that even when the going is really tough, when the place could be mars compared to what you can see on the map, stay positive this is a game and a brilliant one. Without too much analysis my run went on well through the forest, valleys and climbs right into the open which may have been what foxed me as I lost some time at control 9. By 12 I was 51 minutes in, and Gavin at 54 minutes. Picking up again I made some good route choices and gained some time until dropping a few minutes 16-17-18. We were still only 10 seconds apart here at 75 minutes, but my poor entry into 20 cost me the race, could be the tiredness creeping im not sure, at the end though finishing without spraining either ankle was enough satisfaction for me, superb wild place in height of autumn.
Prizegiving:- Major General Skeets attended in full uniform and received respectful salutes when winners collected their prizes. Was really interesting to hear his appreciation of the event, taking about the Gunners being the best Orienteers in the nation:- a real peek into army life. You can see that W02 Skelton 47 Reg R.A picked up the trophy for best Brown course result in 1:26.23, Gavin and I who were 1st and 2nd 30 seconds apart in this field of 38 runners respectfully clapped the winners and shared a little quiet satisfaction from achieving top 2 and for a fantastic race. Come and play in the outdoors:- Orienteering is the best sport in the wildest places of the U.K, trust me.