For the classic race at WOC93 in the United States, Simon Errington and Frank Martindale volunteered to man a control. So now read the story of the race from inside the forest. (Reproduced from Lokation 92, November 1993)
06.00: What sort of time is this to have to get up? I’m meant to be on holiday.
06.30: A quick breakfast, once we’ve convinced the hotel staff that the restaurant should be open.
06.50: Leave hotel. Weather is currently cool and overcast. Weather forecast is awful, with heavy rain predicted for most of the day.
07.10: Arrive at car park. Around twenty people already there. Vague signs that one or two people know what is going on.
07.15: First look at the map, as control sites are allocated to groups. We get control 7 on the women’s course. A shame to miss the men, but we will get to see Julie. Checking the men’s course shows that we may see a few of them running past on a long contouring route choice. Map is incredibly complicated, with rock and contours all over the place.
07.30: 15 of us pile in to a very small van to be driven out into the forest. The driver is worried that he will be stopped by the police since there aren’t enough seat belts for all of us.
07.45: Dropped off about 500 metres from our control, but with 100 metres climb still to do. Set off up the hill, along with two Americans who are going to number 6. Frank and I debate whether these two have ever seen a map before, judging by some of their comments.
07.55: We get to 7 having walked through some very pleasant runnable wood, if you can deal with the climb, rocks and numerous fallen dead trees. Leave our rucsacs at the crag and walk on a further 250 metres to escort the Americans to their control. Some very nasty vegetation just before 6, that is going to be on the direct route down to 7. Dropping back down to 7 we discover that the route down the ridge is very fast and easy, apart from a large boulder field just above the control.
08.15: Get to our control and try to make ourselves comfortable. The crag is about 3 metres high with some large boulders around it. One of these provides a makeshift seat, only about 3 metres from the control.
08.30: First start time. Four kilometres away Rolf Vestre of Norway and Pam James of Canada set off. Almost to the minute it starts raining. I find a way of wedging my umbrella into the crag to provide at least some shelter.
09.00: Starting to get quite unpleasant as the rain is beginning to get through multiple layers of clothing. Gloves are already soaking. I pull the first packet of M&Ms out in an attempt to cheer up.
09.25.06: Finally the first runner arrives. Pam James from Canada is followed only 15 seconds later by Alida Abola of Latvia. This was a consistent pattern all day, with over half of the field going through our control in groups of two, three and even four runners together. Abola has taken 52.21 to get to here.
09.31.28: Marlena Jansson goes through in 43.28. Not a bad time, and the target from now on.
09.56.22: Encarna Maturana of Spain punches and sets off to the right. This is a 180° error. We watch her disappear across the valley. Frank very nearly shouts after her.
09.59: The Spaniard returns and runs right past us. Frank cannot contain himself and yells out the only word of Spanish he can think of: “bueno”. He is rewarded with a huge smile. It may be pouring with rain but she’s obviously enjoying her World Champs run.
10.01.42: Annika Viilo of Finland storms through in 40.42. The Finns are obviously having a great day, and will end up with three runners in the top five.
10.30: We begin to debate when Julie will arrive. She’s had 60 minutes so far, so shouldn’t be that much longer if she’s having a good run.
10.43.27: Una Creagh, the other Irish runner, goes through, having caught 15 minutes on Julie.
10.45.57: Julie arrives, punches and sets off towards number 8. She manages a quick hello, but complains about her ankle. 75.57 is not great, but there are several slower than her. We award her the prize as the wettest runner to have gone through.
11.00: I make the mistake of standing up for a while to try to get warm. The waterfall that has started to flow down the crag behind me catches me in the back of the neck. This doesn’t make me any wetter than I was, but it is a bit of a shock.
12.00: We are getting used to the cold by now. The routine is about 10 minutes of nothing, followed by two or three runners together, followed by ten more minutes of nothing. Topics for conversation have been exhausted. We sit and suffer in silence and listen to the rain.
12.41: If Yvette is going to do it this year she’ll have to be here in the next two minutes. Where is she?
12.41.42: That’s her. Frank and I try not to shout and cheer. Somehow Frank calmly calls out the time and I write it down. 41.42, so she’s in second place, with 3 kilometres to go.
12.45.08: Suddenly there is a runner at the control, but neither of us have heard her coming. She glides away to the right. It is Marita Skogum of Sweden. 39.08. She is a minute ahead of the field at our control.
13.03: A Norwegian man storms past us and runs effortlessly up the hill to our right. This turns out to be Petter Thoresen on his way to bronze. He is one of only five men we see all day. We later discover that several more crossed within a hundred metres of our control, but further up the hill and therefore out of sight behind us.
13.28.11: Katalin Olah, the reigning World Champion, goes through looking extremely unhappy and talking loudly to herself in what I assume is Hungarian. My Hungarian is poor, but I can tell that she is not debating the pleasures of running through sunlit forests. She will end up 46th.
13.31.12: Georgina Macken of Australia is the 80th and last runner through our control. The results from control 6 make it Skogum from Viilo and Hague. How will things change between us and the finish?
13.35: We pack up and set off down the hill. We are both soaked through and very cold indeed. The 3km walk back to the finish might warm us up. We chat briefly with John Nash and a policeman on the road crossing, and then a miracle occurs. A van arrives to pick us up. We pile in and begin to warm up, as the driver sets off looking for other drowned rats.
14:00: We are dropped off 500 metres from the finish. As we get closer we can hear the PA. I make out Clive Allen’s voice, and then recognise Yvette Hague’s voice. “Did you think you were having such a good run?” What does this mean? Surely she must have a medal of some form. We get to the field and check the results board. Nothing has changed from the positions at control 6. They could have stopped the race there. The top of the men’s leader board is headed by the past three world champions. Who’s left to come in?
14.20: Clive Allen gives the latest news from the forest. Allan Mogensen of Denmark is a minute up with a kilometre to go. The Danes are making a lot of noise. Clive is remarkably calm for someone who now lives in Denmark.
14.12.36: Mogensen crosses the line to take gold for Denmark. That’s the end of the Classic race for another two years. The rain stops.