Light nights and a reasonable weather forecast meant that a plan that had been germinating at the back of my mind could be enacted. A steady start along the Burma Road through Houghall College served as a nice, normal warm-up, though we racked up a minor casualty when Jon Ayres turned an ankle on the descent to the Bridge at Low Burnhall. Once we’d arrived, a brief pause to break the news to people that we were about to run a 35-minute orienteering score event around the fixed marker course kindly laid out by the Woodland Trust and Northern Navigators was followed by questions such as ‘what’s a score event?’ (answer: bag as many controls as possible, some worth more than others, with points deducted for coming back to the start late) and ‘do we have to stay together as teams?’ (answer: yes).
At minute zero a dozen teams set off, four runners who were having their first taste of the club amongst them and Anna and I settled back to scan the horizon for the occasional flash of high-visibility clothing and talk about endurance and blisters; running chat at its best. 29 minutes later Jenny and Maggie T arrived back, thinking to record the marker on the bridge itself (the easiest 10 points on offer, missed by many), followed shortly by Mike Elliot’s group, who realised they actually had time to back a further control and still be back in time. Thick and fast other teams followed, with teams led by George N, Mandy D, Greta, Mike B and Conrad all making the cut-off, the latter by 2 seconds, Peter Mac, Alister, Lucy and Rich Hall (senior) all leading teams in with minor deductions of 10-20 points per team. A few minutes later we were still a little short of our full complement, so Mike Bennett led the group back to Maiden Castle and sweepers went out to find the remaining teams, one of which had managed to get split up, apparently due to a passing labrador injury (said dog was reported to be ok by the second half of the team, thankfully, though the fact that the two halves of the team returned with two separately-marked maps was rather amusing), another of which had made their way directly back to MC rather than the course finish and a final team whose GPS trace I would love to see, given that they eluded all sweepers and approached the finish from a direction completely off the map – Kelly Collier et al, take a bow as you definitely managed the most mileage for the evening.
So, no prizes but an evening purely about enjoying the area in a slightly different way from usual. For what it’s worth, local knowledge, hard running and prioritising the high-scoring controls paid off for Conrad’s team, who bagged slightly fewer controls than second-placed ‘Wet and Windy’ but outscored them 280 to 270 (theoretical maximum 360, though this was not possible in the allotted time). The majority of teams scored in the 120-160 range (‘Andy’s A-Team’ topscoring in this pack), with only one team managing to accrue negative points, though an entirely-subjective mileage bonus has been awarded and concessions made for the stops allegedly taken to produce ‘orienteering-selfies,’ apparently an essential component of the evening.
Finally, many thanks to Anna for making this happen, Alister, Peter Mac, John H, Anita and Richard Hall for sweeping and everyone who ran for throwing themselves at a new challenge with such gusto.
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