Many years ago I’d have chuckled at this. Well perhaps even 3-4 years ago, but I’m in my 30’s so I should know better! For whatever reason it is, Orienteering was always pretty unfashionable when growing up, and I guess it’s easy to take that attitude with you going forward. It was like joining CAMRA (for those that don’t know that’s: Campaign for Real Ale) at University. It was highly frowned upon for all the wrong reasons.
Anyway, I should know better. For heaven’s sake I used to play county chess and learned the Rubik’s cube by heart from a book so by now I would like to think I am totally over the opprobrium of my inner geek!
But a current total obsession with running has lead me to enter all sorts of running events found through the excellent Runner’s World website. These events, combined with a love of countryside, has taken me to some really remote and stunning corners of our Country, but I’ve found one of the most pleasant ones right on the doorstep.
I don’t know what it is; whether it’s the weather or perhaps it might be the quirky nature of the event, but the Surrey Hills Trail Challenge organised by S.L.O.W (South London Orienteers) is a real treat of a day out. The girlf and I have entered this for the last 2 years and totally lucked out with the conditions on both the days. This one was run a few weeks ago at the end of May, if you can remember back to that hot stretch (which now seems sub nano-second duration), and in the beautiful countryside surrounding Dorking.
It’s possible to enter either the 10km, the 16km or the full on 30km running of the event and for the last 2 years we’ve done the middle ground. 10km is over a bit too quick to enjoy the full on experience and 30km is quite a long day when navigation is part of the event!
You get given a map at the start with a series of check points and with your wits about you to get from start to finish. So the 16km run had 12 checkpoints each with an orienteering flag and an electronic register with which you have to ‘dib’ in to the checkpoint box. The winners will be fast runners and know the countryside like the back of their hand. They will have done the course in previous years and be competent navigators. The course here isn’t actually too testing, so running pace is perhaps more important than navigation, although it’s possible to make up a few places through cunning route choice…
The girlf is still suffering from a badly injured ankle at the tail end of last year so full fitness isn’t back yet, but with some crafty route choice and having knowledge of the area from the year before, we still came in about half way down the pack. But that wasn’t the point of the run. It’s not done at full tilt as you need your wits about you. It’s a good mix of scenery, pleasant jogging and a bit of brain power to go with it. In actual fact, much like Running to Work and dodging the traffic around Hyde Park corner come to think of it. Although, on second thoughts perhaps slightly better scenery…
Keep up the excellent work guys at S.L.O.W. A thoroughly slick and un-pretentious run, which we look forward to next year. I have a feeling the older we get the better we might do at this one. Just how I like it ;-).