I met a new friend through a local women’s outdoors group who invited me to be her teammate at a rogaining event. I had never heard of rogaining but knew it involved walking and/or running through the bush for the better part of the day – count me in!
So what is rogaining?
“The standard definition goes like this: –
Rogaining is the sport of long distance cross-country navigation in which teams of two to five members visit as many checkpoints as possible in the specified time. In Victoria, rogaines are typically run over periods of 6, 12 or 24 hours. In a bush rogaine teams travel entirely on foot, navigating by map and compass between checkpoints in terrain that varies from open farmland to hilly forest. However, the Victorian Rogaining Association also runs a few events on bikes, in metropolitan areas, on cross-country skis, and even in canoes!
A central base camp (called the “Hash House”) provides hot meals throughout the event and teams may return at any time to eat, rest or sleep. Teams travel at their own pace and anyone from children to grandparents can experience the personal satisfaction that comes from cross-country navigation at their own level of competition and comfort.
Rogaining developed as a sport in its own right in the early 1970’s, but 24-hour walks had been held since at least 1947 by the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club. The word ROGAINE was coined from: ROd, GAIl and NEil, the three people in Australia who developed the first ROGAINE.
Rogaining is a team activity for people of all ages and levels of fitness. It provides competitors with navigational challanges, a way of enjoying the outdoors, and a sense of achievement. Some attractions of rogaining include access into places that are very scenic, the opportunity for night navigation and the extra challenges that this involves, camping at the Hash House around a fireplace, and the feeling of community when helping out.” -Excerpt from the Victoria Rogaining Association.
To prepare for the race, and not feel like a fool, I watched many videos (thank you REI) on navigation and reading countour lines on a map. I had never before thought of knolls and spurs while out walking in the forest but today I am fully aware. Haha! I also learnt that compasses that work in the northern hemisphere will not work south of the equator…they are either magnetic north or magnetic south. Wow! After a little research to buy one for our current locale, we found one that can be adjusted to work around the globe. I love that volunteering for this event and saying yes has expanded my knowledge in ways I couldn’t have expected.
Our event was held in Linton, Victoria – a suburb of Ballarat. It was almost a 2 hour drive from Melbourne so we left early, around 6:30am. Even though the event starts at a reasonable hour (10 am) you want to arrive early to check in and pick up the topo map so that you have time to plot your route. My partner was phenomenally patient with me while I learnt how to properly navigate, something I had never really done before. I would say it wasn’t until our fourth check in that I was actually connecting all the dots in my head. All of a sudden a lightbulb went on and I was feeling much more confident in my skills thereafter.
The other competitors ranged from folks like us who are outdoor enthusiasts (and perhaps a bit nerdy to enjoy the maths and nav work), to families and ultra competitive athletes who aimed to run the whole thing. We had a few things in common, however, a great love for the outdoors, fitness and massive smiles on our faces. Often we would cross paths with other folks clearly on a similar route to the one we planned and it was always nice to meet up with them somewhere in the woods.
I loved that we could either walk on fire roads and small forest paths or choose to bushwhack the cross country terrain. In life, we are always following roads to find our destination but in this instance, we can choose to make our own path and not bother with the roads already laid out for us. Sometimes the best route was to just cut through the woods. It was obvious that we were stirring up Mother Nature a bit as we repeatedly saw groups of kangaroos fleeing, they had not been expecting people in their backyard. It was an awesome sight to see!
In the end we walked 25 km over 5.5 hours making it back 30 minutes before the cut off. We managed to come in 4th place for the all women’s groups (out of 18) and 34th overall – out of 99 groups. Not bad for a first timer! 😉 It was a terrific day out and I am so grateful I raised my hand when someone asked for a volunteer. I cannot wait to go back for the next one and bring my tribe of five with me. How cool for kids to learn to navigate for themselves, now that I fancy myself a bit of a master navigator. 😉 haha! Another highlight for me was that I now have a new friend who loves the outdoors as much as I do.