The Rodings Rally is an all-night orienteering cum map reading competition that takes place in Epping Forest. The Rally follows a route through the forest along a variety of paths, tracks and trackless scrub, including holly as it turns out. There are ten checkpoints located within the forest with the final checkpoint at High Beach Village Hall with the route covering approximately twelve miles, ‘as the crow flies’!
A friend of mine came up with the idea of entering a 4 person team into this as “a bit of a laugh” and not being one to shy away from a bit of a challenge I happily agreed to join in with her and her friend (there would be one random person assigned to the team on the night). Let this be a lesson to you all, when someone invites you to do something like this you should check on their navigational abilities first, it turned out the three girls in my team only had a “limited” knowledge (to put this into perspective one turned up with homemade gingerbread biscuits, in the shape of a compass and professed to know nothing more about compasses past that!).
Anyway after conducting my pre-race briefing to the team on the basics of grid coordinates, bearings, timings, targeting and “sweeping” I felt a bit more positive on our chances, that was until I looked at the blank expressions on their faces; clearly it was going to be a long night…
Our race started at 22:20 with the team receiving details of the ten check points. Each check point had three associated grid references with a cryptic clue to help determine which grid reference was the actual checkpoint. 45 minutes later and Lisa and Jane had plotted the grid references and decided which points were the correct checkpoints and we were off; it was a great effort for novice map readers and, again, I started thinking that we had a reasonable chance of surviving the night in one piece.
The first two checkpoints were located without too much drama with navigation being shared amongst the team under my, rather untrusting, supervision (what can I say, I needed to ensure we made the tea stop at checkpoint 5 by the cut-off time to get a brew!). Special credit goes to Lisa for her bearing into checkpoint 2 that sent us straight into the hidden tent, impressive work.
Checkpoint 3 proved our nemesis, 30 minutes were lost sweeping for the checkpoint as the finer points of sweeping got somewhat lost on the team; even my jovial words of encouragement “stop bl%&dy following me and fan out!” failed to help us, we eventually admitted defeat and move onto checkpoint 4 fearing that the tea stop may pack up before we arrived.
Checkpoints 4 and 5 were located with the minimum of fuss, Lisa proving to be somewhat of a pro with her bearings and Jane happily counting to 62 (i.e. 100 metres) and we were looking like a cohesive well drilled team (going on some of the shouting and arguments we saw with other teams we occasionally came across we clearly seemed to work well with each other!). Most importantly the tea station was located just in time to procure the final hot dogs; together with a warm cup of tea spirits were high and we pushed on to the next checkpoint.
After six hours of stomping around in forest Toffee, a lady who was assigned to our team on the night, started slowing down and her facial expressions started becoming more perplexed as my enthusiasm for a quick 7km loop to reach checkpoint 8 clearly seemed to be somewhat disparate from her own personal aspirations. As a true team we debated the merits of the loop and we agreed to march on, in hindsight this was perhaps a mistake as not only did we fail to find checkpoint 8 we also ran out of time to reach checkpoint 9 before finishing.
This was never going to be about the race result but I think we came 40 odd out of 60 with 7 checkpoints in just over 8 hours, which as a group of predominantly non-orienteers (some may even refer certain team members to be “navigationally challenged”) was a hugely successful result – especially finishing higher than one particularly hyper competitive group! I would thoroughly recommend a Clapham Runners group or two entering next year if there is enough interest, it’s great fun and if you listen to someone who knows what they’re talking about you would have a great chance of completing the course within the 8 hour time limit (I think only 12 teams found all 10 checkpoints so we’d be close to getting a top 10 finish!).
If I find a photo I’ll add it to the post, unfortunately action shots of people in a dark forest are somewhat limited in there impact!