Saturday 7 July 2012

Running with the pack ... ...

In spite of several promises to myself I just hadn't found the time and or discipline to learn the basics of navigation. As a result of my indiscipline I was again running with the pack ... ...

The pack this time was a solitary runner, we were on the North Yorks Moors in January perhaps a little further than half way round the 'Frostbite 50'.  I had sometime ago lost my place on the route map.

I was relying on the runner next to me to navigate he appeared a little annoyed by this. I had asked if it was OK to run together getting a disgruntled nod and grunt in return.  Whilst nodding and grunting the runners eyes conducted a quick survey in search of my route instructions and map,since I had long ago consigned these to my pocket, his search yielded zilch and confirmed his suspicions, I could almost see the internal dialogue as a speech bubble above his head 'aye right, run together you lazy mapless b@stard'.

My appraisal by return showed this runner to be the personification of organisation and responsibility map and instructions to the fore, thumbs marking both our map position and the relevant section of the route commentary.

It didn't take a degree in body language to decode the withering nod and dismissive grunt as a 'feck off and do your own navigating pal'. Over the next few miles my unwilling navigator did his best to shake me off alternating sections of running at a blistering pace with passages jogged at a near crawl, finally resorting to a need for a 'natural break' to force me on on my way.

Shamelessly rather than risk getting lost I mirrored both his pace and need for a 'natural break'. When he stopped for his second 'natural break' in so many miles I decided it was time to man up and press on alone. Some anixious miles followed until I caught up with a group of soldiers who were very happy to lead and to whom the navigation was no challenge at all.

It's not that I am lazy I had read and reread the route instructions, had with me the OS map and compass but just couldn't put this together to place myself and track the route. With the shame of my totally unnecessary 'natural break' fresh in my mind I redoubled my resolve to be more self sufficient out on runs.

A search of the web yielded very little beyond advice to join local walking clubs adverts for outdoor pursuits weekends and links to orienteering clubs. I was therefore delighted to discover a new website , I exchanged a couple of emails with Dave Taylor, we agreed a very reasonable fee and set up a days one on one fell running and navigation training.

I met Dave in a cafe in Hathersage in the Peak District we discussed what I wanted from the day over a coffee and headed out on a run.

The weather was filthy but somehow this added to the day giving it a real gritty fell running ambiance.

Thankfully Dave let me dictate pace or perhaps lack of it. Dave provided a map and compass and set about the task of demystifying navigation for me.

Where I had perhaps expected to and had been anxious about wrestling with terms and techniques like taking a bearing, finding true North etc We instead focused on practical guidance; looking up at the landscape and down at the map and marrying the two together.

Setting off moving we put this to use thinking about what we expected to see as we followed the route, how long it should take us to reach certain points and before I knew it Dave had me leading us along the route. I can't overstate how satisfying this felt. I missed a few turns but with Dave's coaching got us back on track.  A gem of a tip was to change my Garmin settings from Miles and Feet to Kilometres and Metres to match the grids and altitude markings on the map.

Going back out into the driving rain and wind after some lunch in town we headed up the Stanage Struggle fell route, the conditions meant that we had to keep moving  perhaps providing a more realistic race feel.

Dave again encouraged me to lead and added to the navigation training by having me try and pick routes through open areas. I managed to take us down a few cul de sacs which saw us crossing bogs and a little bracken but it only added to the fun.

Throughout the day I had a big silly grin on my face and whilst I know that we really only kept to the basics  I am certain I learned more than enough to navigate myself around my next Ultra.

I enjoyed a fantastic days running in great company and cannot recommend highly enough Dave Taylor of he managed to pitch the day exactly where I needed it. I will certainly invest in some more runs with Dave to build on the foundation provided.

Dave's services include navigation training, guided runs, a race recce's and plenty more. If like me you are fed up with the pressure to 'run with the pack' then give him a call.

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