Sunday, July 06, 2008

Park racing in Yorkshire

In the last month we have been to two contrasting Park Race (or Urban-O) events in North Yorkshire.

The first, on Whit Bank Holiday Monday, was the world famous York Park Race. This has been running for a few years now, and being on the East Coast mainline, quite a few people seem to travel in by train.

This year, planner Steve Whitehead introduced a brand new twist to the event - a Trail-O (or Precision-O if you like) around the National Railway Museum to start everyone off. To make it safe in such a busy place, there was no running (or even fast walking) allowed.

Control 1 was a 'taster' control, and didn't count. Control 2, after passing through the back gates into the museum, was in the gardens by the miniature railway. Just as we were leaving this control, the train driver, pulling empty carriages, called over to my 3 daughters to ask if they wanted a ride! Trail-O forgotten, they all piled on (after the driver had reversed the train back to the station!) I said my goodbye's and continued on into the indoor part of the museum to control 3.

Control 3 was on the back side of a railway carriage, but was unfortunately quite dark, so I had to keep going over to a light to look at my map before returning to make my choice.

Control 4 was on a balcony guard rail overlooking the workshops,
whilst control 5 was in a maze of display cabinets. Control 6 was down the stairs of an inspection pit underneath an engine, whilst the final control was amongst a reconstructed station waiting area.

There was a 10 second penalty for each incorrect answer. One of the controls actually had no kites in the right place - but I managed to find one for every control! Luckily, the rest must have been correct, as I only incurred the one penalty.

In order to cope with the penalty system, runners were being set off every minute-plus-penalty, so quite a big queue developed, waiting to start. I could have done with a bit of a warm up and leg stretch, having done the Raby Castle 10k the day before. At least I had to have a steady start, before the legs got working.

Steve threw the usual delights at us again, including a couple of long route choice legs, an intricate loop round the Yorkshire Museum Gardens (with a tricky control in an undercroft of the ruined abbey) and a spectator 'run through' past the finish, before the last little loop which included the control half way up a flight of stairs!

All in all, great fun - and I managed to avoid running into any of the hundreds of tourists and shoppers thronging the streets (it was close at times!).

A few weeks later, and we took a trip to the small market town of Knaresborough near Harrogate, with it's steep sided gorge running through the town. Another touristy town, though most people go to see Old Mother Shipton's Cave, which is on the other side of the river from the old town.

The courses started beside the old castle, looped round the old town, church and gardens before the long course headed out to a large housing estate, which is cut through by several footpaths. After a control in a nettle bed in a patch of wasteland, the long course looped back through the gardens and castle to the final control on the corner of the town museum, before finishing in front of the castle keep.

This was a great little event, run by the Claro club, much more low key than York. The club ran the event as part of their SOSO (streets and open spaces) series - a great idea as far as I could tell, with many newcomers (particularly families) giving it a go.

Love it or hate it (personally I love it!), Urban-O is certainly one way of making orienteering accessible to a wider audience.

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