An Unexpected Victory

Richard Parkin (R) British Night Orienteering Champion, M55, with Marcus Scotney (L) 2nd in M50

Richard Parkin placed 1st in M55 at the British Night Championships in the Lake District, just 3 seconds ahead of Alistair Landels. Marcus Scotney was 2nd in M50. Both reflect on their experience …

Richard: I’ve written before about night orienteering being my favourite form of the sport. Only at night does the discovery of those orange and white flags feel like an achievement; in the light of day I expect to find them, in the darkness, where everything seems so much less substantial, I merely hope. Especially pleasing then to win the title of British champion earlier this month.

It was an unexpected victory. I’d been in contention the year before at Moors Valley Country Park near Wimborne, and climbed the podium several time before that, though never close to winning gold, but the field attracted to his year’s championships in the Lake District was strong and I wasn’t as fit as I might have been, but night orienteering is a great leveller, as someone once said, and it seems that my rivals all fell down.

How did that happen? To put it simply, I had a decent run and no one else did. My race was full of hesitations, deviations, micro-regrets, but it always under control and I didn’t miss. 

The plan was to treat it like a daylight event. Often at night it pays to take a more secure route along a path or line feature, but here the forest was runnable and the course was designed to keep you in terrain. So I went as straight as I would have done in the daytime, relying on compass and aiming a little above most controls—the only time I chose caution was an error (of 10-15secs).

I had some good technical preparation and I think this made a huge difference. There aren’t many opportunities to practice proper night orienteering in the East Midlands so set up a few loops on Longshaw’s main estate about the only place nearby that you can run fast and straight on a bearing. Marcus Scotney, John Duckworth, Nicky Hart, and I braved the cold one might in January. This was so much fun I went out again a few weeks later to complete the courses. The sense of enjoyment carried over to the main event.

Have fun out there, kids. You never know what might happen.

Marcus: I was overjoyed to secure the second position in the M50 age category at the British Night Champs, which surprised me! This achievement felt particularly rewarding given the invaluable night training sessions I had been doing with Richard and John in Longshaw.

Reflecting on my past experiences, I couldn’t help but recall the disappointment of missing out on the Night Champs last year due to its location in the southern part of the country. Additionally, a particularly challenging run at Ilkley Moor in 2022, where I made a significant error right at the start, further fuelled my determination to perform well at this year’s Night Champs.

Approaching this year’s event, I was determined to avoid repeating past mistakes, especially concerning the first control. Previous competitions had seen me lose precious time early on, such as at Sherwood Pines and Strawberry Hill, and I was keen to break that pattern.

Travelling to the event alongside Richard, John, and Richard Robinson provided an opportunity for valuable discussions and tips, with Richard’s humorous reminder not to mess up the first control resonating throughout the journey.

Fortunately, my navigation to the first control went smoothly. I approached it cautiously, mindful of potential pitfalls, and quickly adapted to the terrain discrepancies, noting more holly bushes on the ground than depicted on the map. Successfully punching the first control felt like a significant accomplishment, setting a positive tone for the rest of the course.

As the race progressed, I found myself gaining confidence and picking up speed, navigating each control with precision. The open woodland terrain around Hawes End offered enjoyable and fast-paced running, with my focus on identifying attack points for each control.

Despite my overall success, I encountered a brief distraction near the end of the course, where I mistakenly followed another competitor to the wrong control! Thankfully, I recognised my error promptly, regained my bearings, and only incurred a minor time loss of around 90 seconds.

I was surprised to see my finish position when I downloaded, and it was fantastic to see Richard win his age class.

Overall, the event proved to be a fulfilling and memorable experience, highlighting the importance of preparation, focus, and adaptability in competitions.

Future events

Thursday 18 April 2024
Markeaton

Thursday 25 April 2024
Chester Green

Sat 4 and Sat 11 May 2024
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Sunday 3 March 2024
Shipley Country Park

Saturday 10 February 2024
Elvaston Castle

Sunday 21 January 2024
Eyam Moor

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