Whitby urban orienteering

After Saturday’s 30 miles around the Durham Dales a manic urban orienteering event around Whitby on the Sunday seemed like an attractive antidote. I’ve never been to Whitby before and what better way to find out about the place than by running excitedly through the streets and parks. We registered and I chose the longest course with some nice long running stretches while Roberta decided to stick with a shorter course.

Urban orienteering favours the quick thinker; the navigation is usually quite straightforward but you need to make a lot of decisions very quickly. It was, for example, a long way from Control 6 to Control 7. What was the best way? You could easily spend 30-60 seconds pondering all the permutations, come up with an absolutely wizard plan, fiendishly efficient and fast, but that 30 seconds could have been used just running optimistically in the general direction of the control. Sometimes the hare does beat the tortoise.

I do ok in urban orienteering but I need time to read the map, check my location and plan my route. And think. And I do it a few seconds slower than most orienteers, which over 30 controls, soon adds up.

Photo Credit: Wendy Carlyle

The sun was out and Whitby was busy. But there was plenty of space and it was easy to get round people. It wasn’t quite as easy to parry the questions that many ask when a sweaty runner sprints passed waving a map in the air. Roberta kept bumping into the same dog-walker who seemed to want regular updates. Almost every walker also insists on ‘helping’ with some advice; “there’s one of them things just along there!”. One bloke helpfully told me that he thought I was lying about fifth. Fifth in what, I have absolutely no idea! But fifth would be nice.

There was a nice bit of variety in my course, through streets, paths, parks and an interesting stretch along the seafront. I got around briskly enough without any major errors, apart from going straight from 11 to 13 without bothering with the extra hassle of going to 12. In an urban event such as this with lots of controls it’s surprisingly easy to get out of synch and miss a control.

Roberta finishing.

The event finished back at the school where we started in a nice flat grassy area. With the car parked just a few yards away I was able to sit on the grass and have a coffee while waiting for Roberta. Unlike a conventional running race where a lot of people finish around the same time an orienteering race has people starting and finishing at all sorts of times and apart from the occasional appearance of a brightly coloured runner you’d not know that you were at the Finish line of an orienteering competition. A nice way to round off a weekend’s racing.

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