Rogaining has its roots in the AUMC 24 hour walk which has its 50th anniversary next year (1963-2013) and it’s interesting to look back and see how the sport has changed in that time; both in a general way and in changes to the rules.
For much of the first 20 years, teams entering the event were mainly from the AUMC with a scattering of teams from other sources – eg Flinders Uni, ABW, Rangers and much later on, orienteers and word-of-mouth ‘others’. Until SARA started 25 years ago, the event was invariably organized and set by AUMC with, to my knowledge, ABW in 1969 being the only exception.
The AUMC 24 hour event was always held in May and the start location and the topographic map that you needed to buy were announced a week or two beforehand. One hour before the start, the sheet of checkpoint grid coordinates (with location descriptions) would be handed out and the teams would mark their maps and plan their route. (The 1969 Intervarsity was an exception where the unmarked maps and list of control GRs were given out in the bus – it was damp outside – at time 0 (ie marking out time etc was part of the 24 hours). Getting finished and setting off within an hour was always a struggle but better to take a bit longer and be free of errors.
The modern event has many more controls, generally 50-60, while the early events generally had 25-35. Controls were some kind of bottle or a screw top tobacco tin (smoking pipes was a serious fashion in the AUMC in those days) containing a password and a page which all team members had to sign. There was no flag or ribbon even, to mark the control location (then known as checkpoints). Control flags, almost no different to those in use today, were used for the first time in the Intervarstity 24 hour event held in Victoria and organized by MUMC in 1969. This practice was adopted by AUMC for the same event in the following year (based at Clarenden Oval) but was not used in the local event for several years to come.
Up until the mid 70s, I don’t recall the start/finish also being the hashhouse. Instead it was generally at some isolated spot suitable space for parking and for the start and finish gatherings. There were always two hashhoues on the course but there were fewer choices than today. There were never any water and snack drop points. Teams electing to sleep would put their sleeping bag (few if any had tents) in the appropriate pile for delivery to their chosen hashhouse but most teams stayed out all night according to my recollections. After all, the average age of entrants would have been early twenties and who needs to sleep at that age?
The event nearly always finished foodless but some events may have had leftovers brought in for people to eat at the finish. The names of the winners and top place-getters in Men and Women were called out and the winner’s boot trophy for each of those two categories was presented without much fuss and that was it. Control bottles (with all their evidence concerning visits) may not always have been collected and years later can turn up, found by walkers (Michael Broadbent once told me that he has found a couple while out walking) and I presume also by some property owners. As with many sports, and I can think of rockclimbing as well as rogaining, the gap between men and women has decreased dramatically in recent decades.
There are only two really significant rule changes that I can think of and both affect how teams approach and handle the event. Originally and for many years, all teams had to report to one or other hashhouse before midnight (events always started at midday) or be disqualified and that explains the lack of names on the two AUMC trophies for 1972 where no teams could get to the sole hashhouse (and that was an unfortunate first) on time. (There were less than 20 very spaced out controls in that atypical event.) I think that the ‘midnight rule’ was about the only consideration for safety and duty of care in those days. Unlike today, there was no formal requirement to carry safety items and ‘out of bounds’ areas generally did not to exist.
The other rule change is that teams of more than two were once permitted to drop a member (it had to be at a hashhouse) and continue on without penalty, whereas now, a penalty applies which is that the team looses all its points up to that time. This seems pretty rough to me and I don’t know why this was changed especially as rerouting to a hashhouse to drop a team member is likely to lose time.
Apart from these things, I don’t see that the sport has changed that much over the years. More controls mean more navigation effort is required and that is a good thing but it hurts just the same if you’re out there to get your best possible result. And for all teams; the camaradie, the challenges, the fun, the full moon and perhaps above all, the experience of doing something slightly off centre, is unchanged.
More teams now enter the concurrent 12/ 24 event than the former 24 hour event of decades ago though there is a recent trend for more teams to enter the shorter duration than the 24 hour event. In recent years, there have been fewer than 20 teams in a couple of the 24 hour events and that is little if any increase from forty years ago.
From the time of my first involvement in the late sixties, I think that the most notable advances that have helped make the 24 hour event a better experience are the new water proof maps, the versatile diode head torches and choice of day packs though for water, I go retro and still use a soft brink bottle in preference to the plastic bag with suck tube. I almost forgot to also mention the higher quality catering these days, the end-of-event BBQ and the extra time available for socializing after (and often before) the event. No one ever camped out before events because they were never more than a two hour drive from Adelaide and often much less.
With regards to changes over the years in organizing and setting a rogaine, I look at that aspect in a separate article.