Navigation Trial and Error

Whatever level of fell running you do navigation is generally key. Not only for completing the route in question but if you need to get off the hill quick, maybe for safety reasons. Everyone should have a basic level of navigation where they can get from A to B safely, especially if running on the fells alone.

I have mostly got that A to B navigation sorted. Take a look at a map and yep I need to go that way, lets go. However when it comes to race situations where it’s required to think fast or navigate into a specific feature then I have issues. Sometimes it’s a small issue (wrong corner of an enclosure) and sometimes it’s a big issue (just ran off the wrong side of the hill).

"Yep, that way init..."

“Yep, that way init…”

Solution. Do some navigation events as training.
So I’ve recently run some Peak Raid events, which are long score orienteering events where the goal is to gain as many points as posible from different checkpoints within a 3 hour time limit*. These events are all Peak District based and suitable for a wide range of abilities as everyone can set there own pace and take in as much or as little distance as suitable within the 3 hours.

My parents getting stuck in / confused

My parents getting stuck in / confused

Result. Well… questionable.
I’ve improved is the main thing. Although I may have been running quick, it is no use running quick in the wrong direction. As I am mainly doing these races to improve on my navigation I have adopted the ‘Glory or Bust’ approach, thus far resulting in a total of 2 busts and 0 glorys. This approach involves going for all the checkpoints and hoping you don’t run out of time. If you win, you win big and are almost guaranteed well… a win, but go over time and you genrally lose by a lot. Some runners have even lost all 500 points before! Come in 9 and a half minutes late and it looks like it wasn’t worth starting. I wouldn’t advise adopting this strategy.

My first Peak Raid and it didn’t go great. Before I even got to the first checkpoint I realised I’d have been better attacking the course anti-clockwise not the way I was going, but it was too late to change that. I continued on, ticking off each checkpoint thinking to myself “I could get all of these at this rate”. There were some hiccups in the navigation but up until about an hour in, nothing too major. Ascending on to the top of Bleaklow was where things took a turn. The weather came in proper, first sleet, then heavy snow, then about 10 metre visibility. As a results I took a nice little detour from checkpoint 7 to 8 (pictured below). My nav didn’t get worse than that but it also didn’t get much better. About 1 hour 30 minutes later and I had visited all the checkpoints via inventive sub optimal routes and run the last 3km in 11 minutes to find I had lost all my points and come dead last for being over the time limit*. Jonny Malley took a good win by getting all the checkpoints and also later told me I’d managed to run 5km more than him with nearly twice as much ascent. Quite an achievement.

The main mistakes leading to the first bust. (My route is the wiggly red line)

The main mistakes leading to the first bust. (My route is the wiggly red line)

Round 2, Ding! This turned out to be much less eventful. Still a bit snowy but much clearer. My navigation was better but due to a lovely meal and few drinks (SPOOK) the night before I was feeling a tad worse for wear and so running was a struggle. As the run developed I felt better and decided again to go for glory and bag all the checkpoints. This was again very ambitious, especially as I was unable to stomach any food (entirely my own doing). I did eventually get round all the checkpoints and collect the full 500 points, but lost all but 100 for arriving back a tad late. Only 7 and half minutes this time though, so it was an improvement.

But anyway onwards and upwards, the next one is the 11th of December so I may see you there.



Also, If you feel you don’t have the basic A to B navigation, which is probably essential for your safety, then have a look at doing an FRA navigation course or one on offer through your club or see Everything outdoors or The Fell Running Guide. Then crack on with some Peak Raids or other long orienteering events.

In random other news I now have an Instagram:

*It really is a limit. Every 30 seconds over 3 hours loses you 50 points and with a maximum score of only 500 available I’ve discovered all 500 can quickly disappear.

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