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.

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TrainInStation Photo: Saturday's Assembly. Credit: Lakeland Orienteers on Twitter

It was the Red Rose Classic* - the second weekend of the five that make up the main domestic open class series - the UK Elite Orienteering League. On Saturday there was a middle distance at Haverthwaite, and on Sunday a long distance at Hampsfell.

*A Red Rose is traditionally associated with the County of Lancashire, as the White Rose is with Yorkshire. Wikipedia - Wars of The Roses

On both days Megan Carter-Davies and Will Gardner won the races. Will cut the second day quite fine though, having an identical time to that of Ben Mitchell at the last control.

The leagues's remaining weekends are Scottish Spring, the JK and the British.

Scottish Spring includes a middle distance race on Tentsmuir planned by Kris Jones - the same area Kris filmed the Intricate Contours video.

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W21E Sprint Photo: Cecilie Andersen ahead of Megan Carter-Davies and Kirstin Maxwell, leading three in the Women's Sprint, towards the end of the course (credit: Steve Rush)

South Yorkshire Orienteers - terrific job, thanks - organised both events for the Northern Champs Weekend, 9th-10th March. The (Long) Championships were on Wharncliffe on Sunday. On Saturday, as the majority of orienteers attending the weekend ran an urban race, there was a sprint race to start the UK Elite League.

On The Red Line article about the League.

Saturday was wet and the terrain of Ponderosa, a mixture of parkland and estates with intricate alleys, was slippery. Sunday was wet and windy too, with snow on the moorland for earlier runners. The sprint races were longer than usual, and the championship races a bit shorter.

In the women's Megan Carter-Davies won both the sprint and the Northern Champs race. Megan, of Mid-Wales Orienteering Club, is not eligible for the Northern title, which was won by Charlotte Watson of West Cumberland O.C..

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chris Chris Smithard, last year's Senior Men's winner, pictured in the JK Sprint.

In the UK there are several “leagues” scoring over multiple races. The League that appeals to many runners in the open and top junior classes is concentrated in the main Spring season when most UK forests are at their best. Runners enjoy taking part in the top quality races where there are large fields and strong runners.

It is called the UK Elite Orienteering League. In 2019 the League will run for the fifth time. The races are within two months over five weekends, from a sprint race in early March to the British Champs in early May. The included weekends for 2019 are the Northern Championships Weekend, the Lakes Spring Weekend including the Red Rose Classic, the Scottish Spring, the JK Festival, and the British (Long) Championships. All but the last weekend include multiple scoring races. (The final league positions are best six scores from earlier rounds plus the final race.)

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