Report by Ben Bardsley (Hertfordshire Orienteering Club)
Hertfordshire Orienteering Club (HH) were delighted to run its first face-to-face, on-the-night Street-O event since 2019.
Pre-lockdown, HH ran weekly Street-O events throughout Summer but when this became impossible in 2020, the Club started using the MapRun app to provide new Street-O events to members (if they could run locally): “DIY Street-O”. These were very successful with thirty one new courses provided all around the county to cater for the desire to navigate whilst running.
The recent easing of lockdown gave us the opportunity to try an on-the-night event with all runners completing the same course on the same evening. The big advantage of on-the-night orienteering (as well as the chance to catch up with friends) was the ability to withhold the map until timing start, as opposed to DIY Street-O where the map is printed at home and pre-planning the optimum route is possible. By protecting the map in MapRun with a PIN, competitors didn’t see the map until they received the physical map from the Organiser meaning they had to plan their route with the clock running, re-introducing the skill of planning on-the-run back into the event.
For this first event, in Harpenden South, we had eighteen competitors – a good first turnout at short notice – and a nice dry evening made for an enjoyable run, along with an opportunity for some welcome post-race route comparison and conversation.
Club Chair Mike Bennett said:
“It was really great to see a good turnout for this first event, including some people I’d not met before. The score format worked well. No matter what your speed or navigational ability, the course kept you concentrating. I’m already looking forward to the next events".
Future events are already arranged for the upcoming weeks and an (almost) normal, very welcome Summer of Tuesday evening Street-O beckons.
What worked well?
- MapRun app has been a definite benefit, with a reassuring buzz as you reach a control and no need to carry a pen round to mark which controls you’ve visited. It also provides automated scoring and timing, and visibility of all runners’ routes.
- The PIN was printed on the map, so on receipt at the start kite, runners entered the number into the App, the phone registered the start and off they went. Some runners chose to use their watch to record their run (rather than carrying a phone), starting the watch at the point of map receipt, and downloading their run into MapRun when they got home.
- Using MapRun removed the need to take any equipment to the event (control boxes, spare dibbers, results printer etc) making life considerably easier for the Organiser whose principal job is to look after the maps until competitors are ready to start and count all the runners back safely back to the finish.
- In line with British Orienteering Covid-19 guidance, all runners pre-registered using a simple map reservation system run by HH, with payments being taken for one or multiple events by bank transfer. This gave the Organiser a list of participants and contact details in advance of the event; simpler than taking information on the night.
Were there any downsides?
- Running with a phone isn’t to everyone’s preference and not everyone has this option. A GPS watch, with the facility to upload the GPX file into MapRun after the event was a good alternative for those who didn’t run with a phone.
- There were one or two glitches with phones briefly not connecting to the network, but these were the exception and short-lived.
- There is a bit of extra work for the Treasurer to manage all the extra bank payments, but that is partially offset by not having cash to bank after each event.
What might we do differently?
- Further simplifying online payments, especially for non-members – e.g., using a card reader at the start, using PayPal, etc.
- Updating our instructions to make the tech aspects of the event simpler for runners.
- Advertise more and return to using these Tuesday evening events to attract new members.
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