Just some of the things that went on behind the scenes at the World Cup races in 2005. (Reproduced from Pacemaker 95, May 2005)
1 - The Sprint Qualifier Map
Those who were there will know how complex the terrain at the University of Surrey was. Planner Andy Jones and I fed back well over 100 map corrections during the planning process. The last site check with three weeks to go found a newly erected fence that required all of the men's courses to be replanned. Then with five days to go to the race, and the maps all printed and bagged, Andy found a building covered in scaffolding, with temporary fencing all round it. This managed to block off a route choice on every course. Frantic negotiations with the University managed to get permission to move a few of the fences to leave a path through the building site. The day before the race we spent opening all 200 World Cup map bags, hand drawing the map corrections and then resealing the bags.
2 - The Battersea Boulders
World Cup Technical Director David May of SLOW had always been keen to have something interesting to watch inside the arena. His original plans for 12 artificial boulders were reduced to just eight, each carefully crafted by Mike Murray from wood, chicken wire and newspaper. David and I spent an entertaining twenty minutes carrying the eight boulders into the middle of the track and arranging them in the correct pattern. We used four boulder controls in all at Battersea, all of which were somewhat strange. One control was on the wooden boulder in the stadium, two were on concrete artificial boulders from the original landscaping of the park, and one was on an interesting erratic from Bondi in Australia which was part of an ANZAC memorial.
3 - The Relay Changeover
How difficult can a relay changeover be? Elite runners must surely have run hundreds of relays and should know exactly what to do. Just in case they didn't we carefully explained it in the team manager's meeting. You come in, you take the top map from your own stake and you hand it to your outgoing runner. Perhaps it was the pressure at the top, but one runner arrived at the changeover clutching the team label rather than the new map. The question then arose of who should go back to get the map. In the end the planner did, so he can now claim to have run a few metres in a World Cup race.
4 - Lakes, What Lakes?
Planner Andy Jones had been desperate to get the runners wet with a lake crossing route choice option. The spoilsport controllers (Alan Rosen and Simon Errington) finally decided this wasn't acceptable, so the lakes were declared out of bounds. Three weeks before the event the lakes were drained for cleaning. The park authorities assured us they would be refilled, but come the day we had three empty 'uncrossable' lakes. This meant we had to tape them off as out of bounds. Luckily we had the wooden control stands from the Guildford race to use, but even so the apparently light wind was enough to blow several of them into the 'lake' during the race.
5 - The Unusable Control Site
As controller for the two sprint races I spent a long time checking possible control sites, and I have photos of every single one to prove it. On checking one possible site I noticed that the words 'Vice Chancellor' were painted on the ground. The building corner by the door was clearly unusable if the Vice Chancellor happened to be parked in his car park space at the time of the race, so we moved the control 5m to the main building corner. As it happened it was his chauffeur (plus Jaguar) that was parked there on the day, since the Vice Chancellor was enjoying the VIP nibbles at the Race Arena.
6 - The Tree Problem
Sprint race mapping is even more of an art than normal mapping, and we spent many entertaining (?) hours discussing exactly how to map the two sprint race areas. The biggest debate centred on how to map trees. Opinions ranged from 'not at all' to 'individually'. The map extract shows the 'map nearly all of them' version, which we eventually decided was not the way forward. This then required us to remove most (but not all) of the individual trees and replace them with white instead. My guess is that not a single runner took any notice of a mapped individual tree during the race. And biggest map error of the week? We got the contour interval wrong on the Guildford warm-up map.
7 - IOF Control Descriptions
What do the four pictorial control descriptions on the left represent? Don't worry if you aren't sure, since at the team leader's meeting we got asked what the first one was. You'd have thought that the world's elite would know everything there is to know about the sport, but clearly not. Answers: building passthrough, statue, stairway, open land.
8 - Where's the Thames?
One of the main reasons for going to Battersea Park was the attraction of being in London. The Thames runs along the north of the map, and we specifically asked for the map to say 'River Thames' on it. All the map updates showed the words, including the final proof maps. But then somehow the words disappeared, and the map you ran on showed an anonymous blue stripe.
9 - The Logistics Problem
Getting all the equipment between events was a major problem, and various large trucks were used. Every club tent in the South East was used somewhere, and had to be allocated to alternate events so that race arenas could be set up the day before they were needed. We had a shipping container in Guildford which acted as a temporary store for planning equipment between events, and Andy and I had a merry time extracting everything we needed for the Sprint Race Final at 11.00 the night before. Luckily Andy has a large family (and hence a large van) since what you can't see in the photograph are the 30 wooden control stands we also needed to fit in.
10 - The Big Clock
The big clock featured on most days sitting on top of the commentary caravan. People at Day 5 may have been surprised to see it was facing into the woods rather than towards the spectators. This was because it had stopped working. During the afternoon there was a loud crash and various organisers appeared to work out what had happened. The clock was now properly broken, since it had blown off the top of the caravan.