Welcome to the most obscure post youve ever read. In a couple of weeks the Wessex Night league of Orienteering  starts in Queens Park,  we navigate at speed in the pitch dark using headtorches to find our way around in a competition that runs all winter. Formats vary and are mixed up to make it interesting, more and more we find that basing these events at licensed premises draws bigger crowds that like a cleansing ale after running, if youve ever heard of hashing it’s like that in that its obscure, British and involves drinking and sport at the same time. Score events mean that you time yourself to find as many checkpoints as possible usually in an hour. Places like big towns provide the Urban experienc e so you are effectively running around streets with people going ‘what the hell are you doing?!’ quite often. Orienteers really relish the challenge of wild places the most and getting around New Forest and big parks in the pitch dark is fun. Enough trying to sell it to you this is about a recent score event I did up on Hyde and Gorley Commons in the new forest. Real life Orienteers  might gain some insight from it, other readers who like numbers and have analytical brains might like it too.

Wessex Night Orienteering league
Wessex Night Orienteering league


When we do Orienteering Score events we never see the map until picking it up, timing ourselves on a watch or fancy device thing like strava or whatever for the next hour. Sequencing is the skill- making it around the course with minimal time lost in the most expeditious time possible, hell its a bit like being a bike courier something I did years ago too. Post here. Points are gained for finding all the possible locations within the stipulated time, the better runners just do it faster, er, a bit like distance runners.

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Picture above shows the 07th September WIM event, which was an ‘Odds and Evens’ event, meaning you had to find all the Odd numbers first before starting on the Evens, with the bonus points addition of 3 other checkpoints to be found during the course with map segments placed on some of the 17 other controls- these bonus points required you to look at the map segment on the stake- leaving it there for others and using map memory to find the location.   So, youve got 20 controls to find in an hour- Odds then Evens in any order you choose. Gets better trust me. We never really know where to go until we start running, and trying to formulate a best sequence on the move, sometimes you might not know until after half way through what youre going to do to complete, when areas are wide and a run like this could end up being 10K plus. Lets have a look at the map. Green circles are the Odds, Red circles the Evens, start is a triangle and finish a double circle as always. This map lends itself to good analysis in that theres two distinct halves North and South. If I haven’t lost you already here we go- out on Odds my choices immediately on picking up the map were based on completing Northern half then going to the furthest Odd number on the south then working back on a second loop through the Evens, going back and forth between both areas would have made it impossible within the timeframe. Duly running I found 155, 159, 169, 165, 151, on North side then crossed to 157, 153, 161-Bonus, 167 then at this point was at 25.27 minutes, great I’m half way through controls and half way through my time, I was feeling good here and started back from the furthest point on 158, 162, 164, 166, 170, 168, 154, 160, 156, 152-Bonus then finish. Time 50.49. No problems with compass and direction finding just loads of beautiful New Forest playground. The other runners times are here  

You’ll see that Jo won and chose a very similar sequence, where I failed was not noticing a bonus segment hanging at 151, which was very near there for control 163, so I headed off at speed to the south section of map missing 163 and back to complete in 50.49, compared to Jos 47.06, had I not (Orienteers always say this) missed one control would have taken a 2nd for sure. 53 Lovely people did this event altogether.  This event was daytime light but will share a lot of similarity with night events, great fun not knowing what you will have to do until the night. Sometimes the sequence dosent work and points are lost on incorrect choices, and always the final race results are based on the fastest time, so you can have completed accurately but in slightly slower time. Its a game of matching your running ability knowing how far you can move with accurate navigation.  There’s a great Night league upcoming, in which I intend to up my place from 3rd non-handicap last year. Mainly mondays, all through winter, what else are you going to do?  Watch telly? We welcome new runners and outdoors people. Outdoors never goes away in winter, it just makes the cosy indoors that much better.


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