Saturday, 3 September 2011

Map in Hand

It's been noted, during races and on the FRA forum, that some of us like to have a map in our hand on long races, and some people can't seem to understand why: "You can tell the newbies, they always have a map in their hand" said one bloke at the Edale Skyline in March, who I promptly left and didn't see until about 50mins after I'd finished. After the race people also commented on how Oli Johnson (2nd in the race, good peak district knowledge and GB Orienteer) had a map in his hand; "doesn't he know the route" someone said on the forum.
Oli Johnson (DP, SYO, GB), at Edale Skyline 2011, map in left hand (Don't know who took the photo, will remove if required.)
I've done 3 long races (Grin n Bear it 2008, Edale Skyline 2011 and Sedbergh 2011) and I've had a map and compass in my hand for all of them, even though I've geeked over the route in the days beforehand, recce'd where possible, know the area quite well or there's quite a crowd to follow. But why do I have my map in hand and not in my bum-bag? Maybe it's a comfort thing, being an Orienteer as well as a Fell Runner? Maybe it helps slow me down earlier in the race - due again to the latent Orienteer in me - so I don't bonk later on? However, the best reason I experienced today - no matter how much you prepare you can always make a mistake which, upon checking the map, you wouldn't have made.

OK, so I wasn't racing, I was trying to get from my new place in Stockton-on-Tees to Albert Park in Middlesbrough for this morning's Parkrun. I had a good idea of where I was going (all on road and very flat  unfortunately) having looked at the 1:50000 OS map and Googlemaps - Across the Tees, over the A66, through a cinema car-park, over the A19, up the road to a cemetery, right there onto a road which lead straight to the park.
Only once I got to the cemetery there were 2 roads going right, both the same in terms of business, width etc. I took the first immediate right instead of the required more straight-right and ended up way too far south, adding about 2.5km to the run, stopping several times to check the map (which was now out of my bag). It took me a while to relocate and as I turned up to the park it was 9.10 and the race was 10 minutes old. Oops.

Just goes to show that, no matter how much you plan (or what level your nav is at) and think you know a route, it can all go wrong in the execution and you can make a mistake without knowing it. A quick check of the map today and I'd have realised that I wanted the other road and not spent 20 minutes touring Middlesbrough (albeit one of its more salubrious areas I imagine). Also, as Fell Runners are (fairly) notorious at having off days navigationally, a quick check of the map can confirm that they are correct or not so - this came in handy at Sedbergh where, after the calf a lot of people followed the fence-line whereas I could tell the path was quicker. I made a fair amount of ground on those around me during this section (although I did need a bit of help from a walker as to when to take a cut-off - I knew we were in the right place but as the clag was down couldn't see the trod.
Sedbergh Hills race, part of Calf-Winder leg. Red(top) =  Calder cut-off that several people missed. Yellow - route a lot of peple ahead of me took - rougher ground and more undulating. I stuck to the path.
Anyway, this morning wasn't a complete waste of time - I now know the way to Albert Park for next time, by chance bumped into the guy I've contacted at the Athletics/XC club close to work and got to see what a well-established Parkrun looks like - very impressive, with permanent markings on the grund and more helpers than they know what to do with!

Anyway, sorry about the rambling, but there's no races to write up this week!

1 comment:

  1. You are living in stockton?! That's near where i'm from originally (kirklevington)!
    I always run with the map in my hand...