By Bruce Greenhalgh
If you’ve ever rogained, even just once, you’ve most likely faced the problem of explaining the sport to somebody else. It seems that few people outside rogaining have any understanding of it. When attempting to explain rogaining I often ask if people know what orienteering is, and they usually do. If they do, I explain that the two sports are similar (map, compass, etc) but that there are important differences, such as rogaining being a team sport and one that involves longer distances and time. So far, so good. It’s when I get to explaining just how long – up to 24 hours – that things get a bit difficult. The idea that you are out running around the countryside with only a map and compass to guide you for 24 HOURS troubles the comprehension of a lot of people. In my observation people either ‘get it’ and appreciate why you think it’s a good thing to do, or they assess that perhaps you’re a little ‘different’.
Faced with, at best, a nascent understanding of rogaining I rarely muddy the waters by then adding that a 24 hour event is actually more a 27 hour event. That’s because before the 24 hours of traversing the countryside begins there are up to 3 hours of planning with the map. I say ‘up to’ because there are other things to do in that time: making decisions about what gear to take, final packing of backpacks, last minute fuel intake (also known as eating) and etc. It’s also true that many competitors have a casual approach to the whole planning thing and might pick up their maps late(ish) and spend a comparatively short time devising their route(‘Let’s head north!’) For those that want to maximize their rogaine performance though, it’s a case of spending as much time as possible planning.
Whatever the approach it’s fair to say that a rogaine begins with the planning phase. Preparation is, of course, part of any sporting endeavour, but there are few sports where the preparation is so intrinsically part of the competition and few sports where planning is as important. As one of the interstate competitors at the recent Australian championships remarked to me, ‘You can’t win it in the planning, but you can lose it.’ There’s a lot of truth in that. Regardless of how well you are prepared physically, good course selection is critical to a satisfying result.