You have to pay attention with orienteering events otherwise you blink and you’ve missed them. It’s worth keeping an eye on the websites of the local clubs (e.g NATO, NN, CLOK) as there are often interesting bits and bobs popping up all over the place. I noticed there was an orienteering event in Newcastle Exhibition Park organised by NATO and as it’s just round the corner from work it seemed like a good way of getting some quality fartlek without going out my head with boredom. I like to get to orienteering events early because I like bags of time to get round. And I like to do the long courses.
I was very early indeed and did that thing that I only do when I’m really bored or I’m trying to impress Allan Seheult. I ‘warmed up’ (as I believe the expression is). Normally I use the first bit of a race to do this, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, that’s what the first bit’s for. But I was bored and I went to find where the start was before the courses opened. I found the Finish, so I went under the underpass (you would hardly go over an underpass I guess), and found myself on the Town Moor. There was the Start. Not very orienteeringy though – all that white plastic banner stuff. A big banner, and a Police car. And lots of water bottles being unstacked. Back to the Finish, then back to the Car Park (registration), then back to the Finish (which apparently was the Start too – are you still following this?) and away I went.
I have my orienteering race kit pretty honed nowadays. Dumbledore specs and fast-settling compass on stand-by and onto the Moor. It became apparent very quickly that navigation was not going to be a problem. Even using ‘mini-kites’ as controls it will still dead-easy to spot the controls a mile away. So a lot of it came down to how fast you could run, punch your card, and avoid the cattle. I recognized the bumpy bits from a Harrier League when it had been covered in snow, but on this warm evening it was simply a matter of pointing the compass and running fast. I had someone to chase, and someone chasing me, and could see them both all the way round (which kinda defeats the point of orienteering). After the last control my chasee had got away, and my chaser had caught me, so I pretty much lost interest in things. And I kept noticing something strange …
There seemed to be runners. People with numbers on their vests. Even though I was still racing, curiosity got the better of me and I paused to ask one obvious warmer-upper what he was doing. Apparently there was a 5K on this evening and you could enter on the night. Well, as it was a nice night, and it wasn’t even 7PM and I’d just done a short-fast orienteering event, I thought this sounded a bit of a hoot. I got to the finish, handed over my card, but instead of heading back to the carpark, turned round, and headed back onto the Moor to investigate.
Ten minutes later I was standing in the registration tent literally dripping sweat onto my entry form for the Elswick Cup (whatever that is). At twelve quid it was a bit dear (that’s about twelve quid more expensive than a parkrun), but I was here now and was having a rush of blood to the head. I paid up and wandered off to find out when the race started. I was probably the most clueless entrant in the race. I was also exceedingly hot and bothered. Orienteering rules state that you must have full leg-cover, in case you get stung by stingy nettles or something, so I was feeling pretty overdressed. I’d also entered the race as a Strider and was running in a Northern Navigators top. I pinned my number to my NN vest and wandered around a bit trying to find a shady bit to cool down.
About 30 minutes or so after finishing the orienteering I found myself on the Start line (remember the mysterious Start sign from earlier?) for the Elswick Cup. Not much to say about it really. I ran it hard and hot and finished in an ok time. I wasn’t likely to medal. There was a tech-tee at the end (’cause I really need another one) and a bottle of water. And some fruit. I didn’t hang around to see if I was in the prizes and headed back to the car, back past the Orienteering Finish which was just packing up. With two-fast 5K runs under my belt I headed back to Durham and was home before 8PM. It’s nice to do something a bit daft once in a while.