16 April 2015

"Boys, you have a choice... Football or "... 40 years of orienteering later...

"Boys, you have a choice... Football or "... 

Did we do selfies in the 70s?

It was always going to be “or” for me. Worst sportsman in my school year, picked last for football, head stuck in book so I have no idea why I went along to the orienteering meeting. I remember us crowding into that lower school classroom and Chris Middleditch explaining how orienteering was so much not football.  Fine by me.

A week later year 3 (old style) were on Bluebird (the school bus) heading for Nettleford Wood. Guided round our courses by 'experienced' sixth formers – my group rapidly realised we had more idea what to do than our mentor and the race was on.  I can remember several of the control  sites and a wee bit of dissent over the best way to get to 'Q'.

I have the results – and there are two “Williams” that could be me. So on the night, aged 13 I took 46:10 (47. D Williams N Stubbs) or 55:10 (55. Ferguson, Williams, Davies). I don't know why we were not credited with a full score – because I know we found them all – perhaps my scrappy writing (we were looking for tin-cans-hanging-on-string and no punches)

Nettleford Wood 16th April 1975 - Results - more than a 100 runners
Over the following weeks we trained in Delamere Forest and competed once a week in the DEE Summer Evening Event Series - Frodham Hill, Petty Pool, Forest Camp, Little Budworth Common, Primrose Hill... leading up to our first Sunday Event (Lyn Crafnant in Snowdonia - the drive up being so steep the coach could not make it and we were shuttled by minibus) and then in the autumn to a Badge Event at Tockholes, Northern Junior Champs at Ennerdale and leading up to the 1975 British Junior Championships at Whitedown.  At this last Queens Park High School put out more M10 to M18 runners than the entire West Midlands managed at this years BOC.

The point being that there was a lot of orienteering going on, most of it on really good terrain and school was able to run and fill a bus most weeks of the term.  No chance but for many of us to get hooked.

April 16th 2015, 18:00 - 40 years later, give or take a few minutes

The woodland is currently wonderfully runnable – there having been time for the conifer stand I encountered 15 years ago to mature (The owner of the house by the start has been there since the mid 80's and remembers the clear felling about that time). 

The Original Nettleford Wood Map (click to zoom in)
I ran the course in 20:57 – which would have had me beating Ron Williams on the night (24:15). The basic map ("we do both colours - black... and white") remains very usable and most of the control features are still in existence – just a couple of pits that have gone missing which cost me a minute or two total.

A glorious hot, sunny, spring evening - a contrast to 40 years ago - cold, damp and drizzle -  global warming?  However Nettleford has escaped the curse-of-the-bramble and would be ideal for a sprint race.

The Future is Now: Live download to my phone - not possible at any price in 1975
How the original map might look in ISOM format.  Today there would be more vegetation boundaries shown, a wee bit of "slow run" and some pitted areas.

Many Worlds?

I wonder what might be different if I had not run at Nettleford Wood or run but found it to be a miserable experience?

Certainly I would not have run the 5-days in Sweden - which led to my lifelong fascination with the country, culture and especially its cars, nor my sister's keen interest in Swedish boys (married to 6' 4" blond orienteer from Lidköping since 1991)

Nor is it likely I would have competed for Team GB in two disciplines - foot orienteering (1982) and radio orienteering (since 2003) and it really doubtful I would have made the podium in any world championships doing anything (Radio Orienteering, Kazakhstan, 2014)

Orienteering has taken me all over the UK and the world and, injury permitting, gets me out every Sunday to do battle in the Midland bramble-fields.

My first control - "M" - though it was tin cans and write the code down in 1975

Number "M" - it was a score event.

Reenactment - the O-Suit is only ~35 years old (please note that it still fits).  Why did we have such big kangaroo-pouch pockets on the front of the top?  What were we meant to put in them? Lunch, space laces, cagoule, bivvy bag?

This was fight in 1975

Which control was this?

and this?

and this - easy one for the hard-of-navigation
View from the start

Just under 21 minutes for 3km.  No wrist computer nor satellite navigation in 1975 - nor dual SIM smartphone (carried in case of accident)
My track using Quick Route

M17 in Sweden for the 5-days

So that would be the silver medal in Kazakhstan then...

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