Last weekend three members of the Defence Academy Orienteering Team competed for their respective Corps in the Army Inter-Corps Orienteering competition.
In freezing conditions, the night event was held at Caerwent and the day event, possibly even colder, was held in The Forest of Dean. All three competitors were successful with Lieutenant Colonel John Owens (Royal Engineers) winning his age class in the night event and coming second in the day event. Major Ed Dickens (Royal Engineers) came second overall in the Army, also winning his age group and finally Major Victoria Deakin (Royal Artillery) won the Army title becoming the Army Female Champion.
Courses for orienteering events vary in length from competition to competition but generally will be adjusted according to the climb and in some cases the going underfoot. The courses at the Inter-Corps competition looked short on paper, but once out on the ground, the terrain was challenging with quite a bit a of climb and lots of bracken underfoot, this drains a runner's energy and deprives the brain of vital decision making oxygen!
The courses at this year’s event were what orienteers would describe as classics with a number of long legs designed to tire and test individuals fitness followed closely by a number of tight control that required agility of route planning and close attention to the micro features. The night event was particularly challenging with a lot of obstacles underfoot which are extremely difficult to see in the dark and also a maze of very similar looking compounds inter-dispersed with rough open ground and woodland.
An indication of an individual’s commitment to the course can be measured by the amount of blood they have on their face and clothing on return and how ripped their clothing is; Lieutenant Colonel Owens was extremely committed! Whilst the two day competition was rain free the recent rain left the terrain very waterlogged and water features grossly expanded. This not only made for tough and tiring running but meant that the military swim test was a pre-requisite when trying to find a ‘wet pit’ at night! The wonderful thing about orienteering is not only does it encompass two key military skills in navigation and fitness but looking out to the values of our brother Royal Marines there is an absolute requirement to embrace cheerfulness in the face of adversity!
Major Deakin said:
“I can never quite put my finger on why I love the sport so much especially when I am waist deep in freezing water at night with a fading head-torch or when, after an event, I am consumed with digging out thorns from my legs but it is a great sport!”