Of night and light and the half light

I was in the LOK team that won the Harvester Trophy Relay in 1986, and this still counts as one of my best results ever. Here Peter Waldron reports on the event in Lokation 53. The title is taken from Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W.B.Yeats, which ends with the perhaps better known line Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

A couple of dozen members of LOK stood expectantly at the finish of the Harvester Trophy overnight relay early on the morning of 14 September, eagerly awaiting Mark Chapman to appear from the forest and bring the first team home to win by at least the twenty-minute lead he had set out with on the last leg. Minutes passed without any sign of him, and restlessness grew, not helped by the commentator’s speculation as to Mark’s whereabouts. At last, though, down the run-in he came: not, however the confident and triumphant figure we’d expected, but disconsolate-looking and hesitant, stopping to explain that there seemed to be a punch-mark missing from his control card. The next five minutes were harrowing in the extreme as the card was checked and Mark explained what had happened – during the last quarter of the course he’d noticed the missing punch and had run back several km to try to find out which one it was, but without success. To the extreme relief of the team, and not least Mark himself, the planner announced that the card was complete (two punches in a single box!) and LOK had won the Harvester!

This victory was the culmination of LOK’s increasing success in relays over the year and was born of careful planning and a highly motivated team. Rob Lee’s effective team management meant that the club was able to field its best team on the night, whilst LOK also ran a second A team (finishing 13th) and a B team which, with a little help from the first team, came in 4th! More than this, there was a strong belief amongst the first team that we could win, and an even more powerful determination to do so. The tactics too had been carefully thought out: we aimed to come out of the four night legs in the lead or else still very much in contention and then banked on the sheer speed and ability of our day runners (at a time when other teams were forced to field less competent orienteers) to see off any opposition.

And so it was. The four night runners David Rosen, Simon Errington, myself and Rob Lee were never more than ninety seconds off the lead, and never lower than third place, and Rob handed over in the lead to Steve Keyes. Steve had a magnificent run to stretch the margin to fifteen minutes and Harry Dowdell added another five to that, giving Mark Chapman ample time to run at least an extra three kilometres in search of his mythical punch-mark. The twenty or so LOK members who ran in Sutton Park that night provided tremendous support for each other: people were woken up at the right times and every team member was cheered through the spectator control so that the first team’s victory was very much the result of club effort. Plans are already being laid to repeat the performance next year in Pembrey, but LOK’s strength in depth (increasing all the time!) should make 1987 a great year for the club in all levels of relay.

(The next year LOK were only able to put out two members of the winning team (SE and MC), the other five having moved on to other clubs. Steve Keyes retained the trophy, running for Southern Navigators.)