I knew from experience that there would be a lot of running around and through playing fields, that there were a couple of wooded streams in the middle of the park and that building detail would be few and far between. As a result I turned up in my orienteering shoes. I knew this was a good idea as soon as I got there and met Allan who had had an early start and was back with mud up to, and occasionally beyond, his knees. He, like everyone else had brought jogging shoes.
From the start we rounded a corner and headed up a grassy hill to the start triangle. Within seconds my choice of footwear proved worthwhile. I was slipping around on the slope but got just enough traction to keep going without slipping over. Not everyone would be so lucky. The route to the first control ran straight across a fairly churned up playing field. The muddy conditions felt like running through treacle - or what I imagine running through treacle would feel like if I ever found myself in such a situation - and I could feel the back of my legs begin to collect samples of the passing countryside. Control 1 was in sight on the far side of the field and it was good to get the first one out of the way and get a good feel of the map and scale.
Leaving the first control I contoured gingerly around the large re-entrant. Way back in the mid 1990s I had set the first ever course on what was then a new Craigavon map and the longest course had had a control in this very re-entrant. There must have been at least one other control in the park but I don't recall where it was - possibly somewhere near where Control 6 was today. From the re-entrant another playing field needed to be traversed before heading up a set of steps and running through a crowd of two rugby teams and their supporters who had just finished a game. They were cheerfully supportive as I ran past.
From Control 2 there was a route choice, do I go straight across the fields or take the longer but drier and firmer track option. I went straight. This area was actually two fields side by side; the first one, which the rugby players had just vacated, was extremely muddy and churned up and then under foot conditions improved as I reached the second field which didn't apper to have been played on for some time.
I punched at Control 3 and made my way gingerly down another slippery grass slope before powering across the car park to Control 4. I punched and . . . nothing. I punched again. Still nothing. No beep, no flash, so I manually punched on my map and headed back towards 5. I followed the concrete path most of the way before cutting the last corner (slippery grass again) and up the hill to 5. This control didn't react either. Two controls in a row not working. It had to be either my SportIdent card playing up or possibly all the controls had gone to sleep. I punched manually again.
The grass was too muddy, slippery and slow to consider the direct route choice to 6 so I returned to the track and used this all the way to the control circle. Quick Route would suggest that I ran the slope inside the track most of the way but this is just an artifact of the algorithm and is not correct. If you look closely at the area between the track and Control 6 you will see the symbol for marsh there. On the ground this was still a grassy area but the mud was deeper and stickier than the rest of the park. I ran straight through but a young competitor who approached this area just ahead of me came to a complete halt at the edge of the marsh and refused to go through despite the control sitting in plain sight just ahead of him. Also at this control, another runner asked me if there was a problem with SportIdent so I knew my dibber was not to blame for the multiple control failures. I would manually punch at every control from here on - you can just see the line of imprints at the bottom of the image above. I'm guessing that the controls were accidentally programmed to turn off at 4:30pm instead of 5:30pm.
The best route from 6 to 7 would have been straight through the bush but it didn't look too inviting and I found myself running around the patch of white on the map. This involved a reasonable amount of climb that I could have avoided but did give me a clear line of sight to the control from some distance away. I resisted the temptation to cross the stream on the pipe just below the control and returned up the hill to the driveway, running along to return to the pivot control.
A loop then followed around the western playing field. I went diagonally across the field; Jonty told me later that he went around because he hadn't spotted the gap in the fence under the red line. Controls 9 and 10 were down a dip beyond the playing field. As expected, the grass here was particularly muddy and I found that the best running from 9 to 10 was to be had by crossing back across the re-entrant to the playing field side and running about half way up the slope.
From Control 11 a long leg with an element of route choice took us back over to the other side of the map. I ran back to the car park by the pivot control and then ran around the large building past Control 15. I actually overshot a bit as I was too busy planning the rest of my run but it was still quicker to return and stick to my planned route than to re-plan a route to the east of the building. From the track junction to the north of the building I could see Control 12 on the opposite slope. I was tempted to try and find a route across the stream direct to the control but as soon as the stream bed became visible it was obvious that it was too wide to jump and that it was likely waist deep. I elected to stay dry and turned left to cross the bridge instead.
The leg from 12 to 13 was another long one with various routes possible. I stayed high on the playing field and ran back past Control 5 although a number of people went straight through the light green and reported fairly good running. From the vicinity of 5 I ran into the clearing to the south west and then cut through the narrow band of green to a gap in the fence by the upper playing field. I knew from the leg from 2 to 3 that the western playing field here was firm underfoot and it was a quick dash across and then a bit of a struggle up the steep embankment to Control 13. Jonty had missed this route choice completely and had gone back around past controls 1 and 2.
Another traverse of the rugby crowd ensued, back down the steps and over to 14. From here there was another muddy descent of the large re-entrant heading towards 5 and then the choice of left or right around the building to 15. I went left, the guy 30m in front of me went right and I was gratified to catch him at the control, proving I had made the right call. Back to the track to make the most of the firm underfoot conditions, over the bridge across the stream again and then a very wet muddy climb to the last control on the hillside below the finish. From here the finish was in sight but so were a number of marks on the ground that suggested that not everyone had made it to the finish without spending some time horizontal. I took my time, stayed upright and reached the finish a minute and a half down on Jonty but over two minutes up on Allan.