On a warm day after camping I set off proudly to race for Manchester District Orienteering Club (MDOC). We had come second two years previously and hadn’t done as well last year, so my two friends and I set off with one goal in mind: the podium.
The area was in the South of England with complex terrain, which offered hard navigation. The fast and furious nature of the relay made us all nervous as we gathered in the club area to talk tactics and review the area.
My two other team mates had run a gruelling 11-kilometre course the day before in the long-distance, which I sadly couldn’t attend. However, this did not phase them and I was our ‘secret weapon’. I saw my first leg run off with the next of the 20-odd teams running in the Men’s 18. The five-kilometre course took around 25 minutes and my first leg runner came storming by in third place. He tagged the second leg runner, who stormed on in pursuit of the other two teams ahead. It was my turn to head into the waiting pen and collect my map.
After a quick warm-up and talking to fellow orienteers about their runs and what the area was like, I saw my team mates run past the spectator control, which meant he had nearly finished. He was third. Before I could shout with excitement, fellow club members, including my father, screamed to “hurry up and keep going”. I soon saw him run up the last hill and ‘punch’ the last control. I stayed calm and as he ran down the ‘run-in’ and ‘tagged’ me. I set off. “I must keep third,” I thought to myself.
I returned to the spectator control as my team mates had, to be welcomed with shouts of encouragement (I presume!). Eventually, after nearly collapsing from exhaustion, I was met by a roar from the MDOC crowd and finished. After a quick debrief about my run to my team, I realised I had kept third place even though I made some mistakes and had an interesting race with another competitor along the course.
I was more than happy to receive the bronze medal and I went back home to rest, after a longed-for podium place.