BirsemoreMapBirsemore Map extract, from MAR Orienteering Club Routegadget

The first races of the UK Elite League for 2020 were hosted in North-east Scotland by MAR Orienteering Club last weekend, the 7th and 8th March. Noticeable was the strong showing by so many Under-23 runners with the Edinburgh University club there in large numbers.

Johnshaven, a coastal village that grew up round a harbour and the fishing industry, a new ISSprOM map by Chris Smithard, was the venue for Saturday's sprint races.

On Sunday the league moved to the forest of Birsemore, a 300m hill next to Aboyne, for longer forest races. Most runners have uploaded their GPS tracks to MAROC's Routegadget, so you can study the routes chosen. And if you like you can replay the races as if from a mass start. This is a particularly good way to appreciate the complex terrain. We think planner Drew Tivendale should be pleased with the first long leg on the black 4-5, with the field, close together up to that point, going for a variety of routes with "varying degrees of success" as they say.

Thanks to MAROC for the weekend. On Saturday Bob Sheridan was organiser, Nick Hale planner, and the controller was George Esson of Grampian. On Sunday Andy Tivendale was organiser, Drew Tivendale planner and Ian Hamiliton of Grampian controlled.

Saturday's women's course winner was Helen Bridle, now W40, who represented GB 28 times at senior level in her international career. Laura King and Niamh Hunter were second and third.

That the Saturday sprint men's course was won by Kris Jones is not a surprise: it has been noted he has not been beaten by a British runner in this sort of race for four years (Kris says not doing many races is a good way to get an impressive sounding record.) But that Duncan Birtwistle was second is something of a surprise. Duncan is well-known for his organisation, as he has been co-ordinating and promoting the league for the last few years. He's always been a keen orienteer, home and overseas, particularly for forest racing e.g. Jukola last leg. He's also an experienced and fast fellrunner. But second in a sprint race with a strong field is a very good and unexpected result. We note he ran at the Euromeeting International in Estonia last year, being the first British finisher (31st on a 6km forest course.) And he did the second fastest time on the longest course at the recent big race at Burnham Beeches and Egypt Woods near London which was hosting the Interland international (Duncan ran in the regular event, after the international runners.) Third at Johnshaven was Sasha Chepelin.

At Birsemore, Alastair Thomas, Thomas Wilson and Sasha Chepelin were the first three on the men's course, with Alastair taking 55 minutes. On the women's course the first three were Niamh Hunter, Helen Ockenden and Laura King, with Niamh taking 67 minutes.

Results - Johnshaven Sprint Races

Results - Birsemore Forest Races

The UK Elite League website has league scores, and links to Instagram photos (which are viewable with an Instagram or Facebook account.)

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