Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Rogaine, the most cunning running

Rogaining, the sport of long distance cross-country navigation, is one of my favourite, favourite disciplines. It combines ultra distance running with time-limited, point-score orienteering to create a strategic sport. The 24hr World Rogaining Championships takes place in a week-and-a-half, over the weekend of 13/14 September. It will be my first bash at a 24hr rogaine.

Unlike orienteering, rogaining is a team sport where the format is usually pairs. I'm running with friend Heather Graz, who has exceptional road and off-road ultradistance running credentials (from 800m track for Western Province to 100-milers locally and abroad) longer than this blog posting; in addition to a health dose of expedition adventure races, including the freezing cold Quest in 2002 and Patagonia Expedition Race in 2005.

My saving grace is that I have more orienteering and rogaine experience, so I'll be holding on to the map with a vice-like grip so that Heather doesn't run away from me. Truthfully, we should be well matched in terms of temperament, competitiveness and experience; and a mutual love for ultra distance cross-country foot races.

Heather has lived in Cape Town the last few years and more recently is over in the UK. We'll hook up in London on Sunday, flying to Estonia later in the week.

Aside from the use of orienteering-like maps, rogaining differs from orienteering in that it is vastly more strategic.

In normal orienteering you have to locate controls in number order, one-two-three-four, as fast as possible, chosing optimal routes. In rogaining you're presented with a map covered in controls and you have a limited period of time to locate as many as possible. In this case we'll have 24 hours, starting from noon on the Saturday and finishing by noon on the Sunday.

Furthermore, your objective is not necessarily to visit as many controls as possible; to spice things up a bit the controls are assigned points values reflecting their distance from other checkpoints (and the event centre) and the technical difficulty (terrain, navigation) of visiting them. So, the objective is actually to get as many points as possible within the defined time period. It is impossible to visit all of the controls so routes have to be planned to most efficiently gather points without wasting time zig-zagging between controls.

I first heard about World Rogaining Champs in 2004, when adventure racers Michael Tobin and Mike Kloser (Team Nike) dominated. This event was hosted in the US. Two years later (Rogaining Champs are held every second year) the event was held in Australia and some ex-South African AR-ers living now in Oz took part. I decided then and there that I'd be going to the next one, no matter where it would be held.

Estonia is the host for this, the 8th World Rogaining Championships.

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