The Autumngaine at Stroud (thanks to Mat Collin for all his hard work) was my 100th NSW Rogaine which is a bit of a milestone for me. If you add ACT events and ones I volunteered at, rather than competing, then perhaps the total is closer to 140, but that is nothing in comparison to some of the legends of our sport. People like Trev Gollan, Mike Hotchkis, Bert van Netten and Julian Ledger would have many, many more events under their belts.
You never forget your first
My first event was the 24 hour Aus Champs at Bethungra. My partners, John Bowles and Richard Davis (who never did another rogaine), and I were doing really well until it turned dark and then the wheels fell off. By about 2am I had to admit that we were really lost. That is, I had absolutely no idea where we were. Being a keen bushwalker I never go into the bush unprepared so I broke out a box of matches, started a fire and we slept on the ground until dawn, at which stage I worked out where we were and headed back to the Hash House.
My other strong memory from this event was the sight of “Chippy ” le Carpentier, another legend of our sport, who is till competing in his 80s, dripping sweat in torrents, running up a steep ridge to a mountain top as the sunlight started to fade. At the time I could not believe that anyone could run up a long steep ridge like that, especially 7 hours or so into the event. “Chippy” and team mate only managed to finish 25th overall, so there were some outstanding rogainers in the event that day.
From that point on I was hooked on rogaining. Even after 100 NSW rogaines I still struggle to define exactly what I love about rogaining. In fact at sometime during almost every rogaine I have said to myself “What am I doing here?” and “I am not doing this again“.
I think the things that drive me to keep turning up are:
I have always enjoyed exploring the bush. I like going to a new place and then going for a long bushwalk or run and seeing if I can find my way back via a different route. This habit is not actually that smart, and I ended up having to get police assistance to find my way back to my hotel after a jog in the forests near Waterloo in Belgium. It seems my mental compass does not work so well in the Northern Hemisphere.
I don’t want to climb mountains or jog on pavements I like to explore the bush and I am always keen to just push on to see what is around the next corner.
No matter who you are, no matter how fit or smart you are, rogaining is a physical and mental challenge. If you are not challenging yourself physically and mentally then you are not trying hard enough. Rogaining challenges you like no other sport in which I have competed. I have even done a couple of Oxfam 100km Trailwalker events and in comparison to a 24 hour rogine these are more boring than challenging.
I used to think the really fit rogainers did it easy, but once I got to know a few of them I realised that they are really fit because, not only do they do more excercise, but they push themselves harder than I do. I was a bit stunned to find that is was not uncommon for a good rogainer to stop, throw up becasue of what they are putting their body through, and then keep on running. I am in awe of people who push themselves that hard for fun.
I have competed in hundreds of orienteering events, but this is a much lesser challenge. I find it hard to feel truly challenged in an event that only goes for an hour or so.
I love the Australian bush, it is beautful. Sydney siders are spolied by amount of beautiful and wild bush we have in close proximity.
Many times on a rogaine I have taken note of a beautful area of bush with the plan to come back and just sit, by myself, and immerse myself in the beauty of the bush. While I say that to myself, I am far too impatient to ever go to a spot and just sit. Having sat for about 30 seconds I would wonder what was at the end of the valley and probably take off again.
Sometimes I think the elite athletes believe that you have to be aiming to come first to be competitive. I can assure them that there is a lot of heated competiton down the leaderboard as well.
It sounds terrible but I really enjoy beating people in a rogaine. My long term average is beating 80% of all competitors in an event. The percentage of people I beat in an event really depends on who turns up. For example I was really pleased with my efforts at the Stroud Autumngaine but only finished 14th out of 38 teams in the 12 hour event, because only the good rogainers turned up and took part.
The thought of beating a similarily fit and capable team is enough to motivate me to keep on pushing myself to find the next control. I recently turned 60 so I am now motivated to see how long I can hang onto my long term average.
I am not very social, but I do enjoy the team work aspect of a roagine. I have worked in teams for many years both in my work life and also in my sporting life, but you do not really know teamwork until you have done a 24-hour rogaine.
Long rogaines take teamwork to the next level. You have a truly symbiotic relationship with your partner during the event. You might enter as strangers, but 24 hours later you will know that person well. In my view, real teamwork develops during endurance events more so than during an hour of sport, a drink at the pub or from a work conference get together.
I enjoy the people who rogaine. Typically, they do not define themselves by their jobs, what car they drive, where they live, or what possessions they have. Rogainers are people who are experience gatherers. They, like me, want to accumulate enough memories to keep them company when ultimately they can’t do it any longer.
I have always been impressed by what clever, practical and capable people rogainers are. Perhaps the world should be run by a collective of rogainers, while I am sure they have better things to do, I am certain they would make the world a better place.
It’s hard to pick a favourite child, but here you go. My favourite events have been:
1. 2016 24hr NSW Champs at Kanangra – The bush was really beautiful.
2. 2017 6hr Karst Irony at Bungonia – My first category win (it took me 23 years to get a category win, so keep trying).
3. 2001 24hr Wolgan Wander – My highest overall place in a 24 hour event, 6th
4. 2017 NSW Champs at Mt Werong – I didn’t even compete, I did flag collecting and really enjoyed wandering around such a remote, beautiful and wild country by myself.
5. 2004 6hr Upper Colo – I set the course and made the map – I loved the area so much I bought a house in the valley (a very expensive rogaine as it turned out.)
I really do not understand why so few people rogaine. In an average year only about 1,500 people from NSW will rogaine and almost half of them will only ever do one event.
There are 5 million people in the Sydney basin and yet we struggle to get more than 200 people to some events. That means that only 1 in 25,000 people in Sydney will attend each rogaine. Most people just don’t know what they are missing out on.
I forget restaurants, I forget movies and I forget what cars I used to own, but I never forget a rogaine. I can pick up the map from any event over my last 29 years of rogaining and still have a pretty good idea what course we took, who was with me, what went right and what went wrong.
I feel sorry for everyone who has not experienced a 24 hour rogaine. You won’t necesarily enjoy it, but when life throws you a challenge it will look small in comparson to the challenge of competing in the wild bush of the Blue Mountains in the dark.
I ony have two regrets;
- That I did not discover rogaining until I was 31,
- Every event I have missed.