I am a runner, a road runner to be specific. I pick races based on their distances to either train for a bigger race (i.e. Comrades) or to chase a distance PB (personal best). Every now and again I might choose a fun run (The Color Run, The Impi Challenge and so on) to give myself a different challenge or to soak up a new vibe, but never do I venture into a completely new arena.
Most runners, I suspect are much like me when it comes to running. We fall into a comfort zone. There are races we absolutely must do each and every single year and seldom do we venture off course. We are closed to the unknown and go on living our road running existences completely unaware of what else the fitness world has to offer.
Last week this was all set to change when our adventure loving contributor, Chris, alerted us of Metrogaine Johannesburg, an event organised by Adventure Racing SA. Metrogaine Johannesburg was set to take place around a route we regularly run and was to be on a Wednesday evening, most notably after the RAC Tough One – a race I had been seriously training for.
My first reaction when clicking the link to the Metrogaine page was WTH is Metrogaine and chances are you might be wondering the same…
Rogaining [Noun] A sport of long distance cross-country navigation, involving both route planning and navigation between checkpoints using a variety of map types. In a rogaine, teams of 2-5 people choose which checkpoints to visit within a time limit with the intent of maximising their score.
I love maps. Like really love maps. I will route plan for anything and everything, be it a shortcut to work or a new running route that has to equal a certain distance. I am also fairly decent at being able to identify where North is and can find my way by sensing where I should be going. Yet, despite all of this, hearing the word navigation associated with a ‘race’ seemed daunting. I may love maps, but does this love actually translate in being able to use one and navigate a team in such a challenge?
Luckily for me, Lisa – the organiser of Metrogaine Johannesburg (and the lady behind other amazing AR races including the Forest Run) entered us into the event to give it a try and with all the enthusiastic encouragement we received beforehand, we couldn’t help but be excited.
Four days before the event Zissy (my team mate) and I had raced the RAC Tough One pretty hard. We had raced so hard that on Tuesday (the day before Metrogaine) our legs were still sore. We were also on a programmed rest week so we pre-decided that if we chose the 8 control point option (advertised as 4.5km) and walked the route (you have 90 mins to finish it in) then a. our sore legs would be able to handle it and b. Ann (aka. the amazing co-founder of B2R and the creator of the plan we do not deviate from) would not kill us. Turns out pre-planning doesn’t always pan out…
Date: Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Location: 1st Rivertrail Scouts, The River Road, Bryanston
Events: 8 controls (4.5km) 12 controls (7.3km) 16 controls(10km) 20 controls(11.6km) Note: Distances are calculated via the shortest route between controls. Teams choose which controls they decide to visit based on how many points they wish to score.
Start Time: Registration from 17h30 to 18h45, Briefing at 18h45, Start at 19h00
Cost: R140/pair for the 90 minute event – it is up to you to decide on which event you will ‘compete’ in
The Nitty Gritty
We arrived at 1st Rivertrail Scouts with some time to spare. Parking was available in an unpaved (ie. Trail like) ‘parking lot’ – my car freaked out a little, as it does when it sees surface that is not tar, but the terrain was easy to navigate.
The minute we arrived a friendly Metrogaine assistant (who was also directing cars into spots) pointed us in the area of registration, where we were instantly greeted by adventure Lisa herself.
In the lead up to the race we had heard a lot about Lisa. The consensus? “She is amazing, so friendly, so helpful, the events she organises are so fun” – The verdict? All true and then some.
Once our names were ticked off a list at the registration table we were handed a folded piece of paper that contained our team number, our names, a score calculation block and clues to each control point (There were 25). These were divided into sections of 1+, 20+, 30+, 40+, 50+, 60+ and each section was worth a different amount of points.
The clue sheet – numbered (numbers correlating to control points on the maps), contained questions like “What tree is in front of Montessori?” followed by 3 multiple choice answers. We received our sheet about 10 minutes before the race briefing and clutched it confusingly while wondering where the map was. All the while all the other rogaining regulars looked at ease happily chatting amongst themselves.
It was there that we spotted one of our fellow B2Runer’s – superstar Trad Cruickshank who seems to be good at everything. After recently achieving a massive Marathon PB of 2:55:45, he is the last type of runner we thought we would see at the event.
Suddenly out of nowhere, another fellow B2Runner, Robyn, popped up. She had teamed up with her son Kyle and Bryan, Kyles’s friend. Bubbling over with enthusiasm, she tried to relay how the race worked and offered us to run with them. She also had to throw in how amazing Lisa is. (Because Lisa really is that amazing)
For a newbie such as myself all this control point (CP) talk sounded a bit confusing and was making me a little anxious. Where was the map? How would the map look? Would it be easy to use? What if we didn’t know where to go?
All our questions were soon to be answers when the clock struck 18:45 and Lisa switched on the ferry lights wrapped in a crown around her head. She instantly commanded attention as she ran through the rules of the race and relayed how it would work.
So how does Metrogaine Johannesburg work?
– All runners are in teams of 2
– All runners receive a clue sheet a registration
– All teams have 90 minutes to complete the course. Rule #1 – Do not be late. For every minute over 90 minutes that a team takes to complete the course, 10 points get deducted from their score.
– Mission: Get the highest score in your category by collecting correct answers at control points within a 90 minute timeframe.
– All teams can decide at registration how many control points they want to collect (at this event teams were allowed to decide on route. I.e if they went to 10 control points but were running out of time for 12 and decided to return to base, their two lowest scoring control points would be deducted and they would be considered as an 8 control point team.)
What you need to know/bring to Metrogaine Johannesburg
– There are no water points. Teams must cater for themselves based on what they are planning on doing and what they think they need. I was slightly ravenous pre the race and consumed almost a full box of racefood nougat (I couldn’t help it they’re just so delicious) but they gave me plenty of energy for the full 90 minutes 😀
– Teams are required to wear headlamps and reflective gear. It is dark, there is traffic, you need to see your maps and cars need to see you.
– A clock of sorts. You can’t be back in exactly 90 minutes if you don’t know how much time has passed.
– Pen/highlighter: You need to mark off answers at each Control point and it is helpful to highlight the route you have taken as you go along.
The maps were handed out exactly at 19:00. Teams were given a bonus 5 minutes and Lisa advised that these minutes should be used for planning. Some people immediately started planning while others had already run out onto the course. Zissy and I? Darting back and forth trying to find the map! Comical really. We eventually located one and drop to the ground to strategize. (We decided to decline Robyn’s kind offer because we wanted to experience it from our own perspective).
My mapping addiction immediately kicked into gear and I got excited planning us a route that appeared short but went for some of the higher value CP’s. We eventually set out and joined the teams who were running to a fro in the dark, bathed in headlamp glow with papers and pens flapping in the wind. It was lightning, lightly drizzling and the skies threatening to blow yet everyone appeared to be having a ball – us included and the weather added to the coolness of the event.
We ran/walked from point to point figuring out the clues and enjoying bumping into the friendly rogaining teams along the way. It felt really nice to be completely alone on some portions of the route which highlighted the different route strategies different teams had.
70 minutes in we had easily gone through 8 control points plus an extra 50 point valued CP that wasn’t on our original course plan. The drizzle started picking up and so we decided to head back to base. We finished in 76 minutes to Lisa shouting out times to the teams as they ran in.
Immediately two wonderful ladies ticked us off of their checklist and right next to them we spotted the Holy Grail – a table filled with post-race refreshments. No no, this table did not have flat coke and water sachets. It had cupcakes and not just any cupcakes, but smiling cupcakes. 170 delicious ones at that, all hand baked by Denise and Christie. If that’s not a reason to sign up to a Rogaining event then nothing is, any race that has a cupcake at the finish line scores a 20/10. (I may love cupcakes more than I love maps.)
Inside the scout hall there was a table with the answer sheets and teams were tasked with adding up their scores, score sheets were then handed in to more wonderful helpers, who stapled them onto a ‘washing line’ in order of highest to lowest in each category. The scouts also had hot dogs and drinks on sale inside and there was a wonderful vibe amongst all finishers as teams waited to hear the results.
In the end our 4.5km turned out to be 7.7km but the amazing part of it was that it felt much shorter. You get so caught up in the CP’s and strategizing that the distance disappears. Overall winners in the 20 CP category, Colin Thomas & Trad Cruikshank clocked up 17.8km in their 90 minutes and our club pride swelled, seeing him come in at the top.
We left Metrogaine Johannesburg in high spirits with eyes opened to different communities, events and people that have been right in our backyard. Most notable we left with eager anticipation for their next event.Despite the cool factor of winning and the competitive feeling I got when the race begun, (I vow to return when I’m not in rest mode and power through the CP’s!) this is not a cut throat competitive environment. It was friendly, family orientated and fun. Prize giving was not a spectacle but rather a really awesome acknowledgement of those who had done well
– Meeting Lisa was definitely a highlight, she is one of the most genuinely nice and full of life people you can ever hope to meet.
– Bumping into our B2R club mates made us feel at home.
– Route planning was fun, exciting and a different experience. Mapping is the reason you should be excited to tackle a metrogaine event and nothing to be scared of.
– Ticking CP answers off as we progressed along the course felt like mini achievements.
– Seeing cupcakes at the finish made us really metrogainers must be part of our extended family. Which other race does this?
– Seeing families split into teams and compete against each other. It showcased how family friendly Metrogaine is.
– Metrogaine Johannesburg felt like a mini amazing race and as two people who would love to tackle an adventure like that, it was a great ‘test run.’
Value for money
At the incredibly reasonable price of R70 per individual, Metrogaine Johannesburg is a must do.
It is insanely fun and tests your mental fitness through logic and calculation, while testing your physical fitness at the same time.
It also uniquely caters for any level of distance comfort while still feeling like the same event.